Lessons from the Shot: “There’s Clear, Then There’s Claritin Clear!” by Stanley Leary


 by Stanley Leary

Figure 1figure 2
That’s an ad campaign tagline for a popular allergy drug. They use photography to show what it does for you. The outside scene is pretty, but then they peel back to show richer colors and greater contrast.
Figure 3People often say to me, “Your photos are so clear.” I believe they’re referring to the deep, vibrant colors, and sharp contrast in my photos. They notice because they don’t see the same clarity in their own photographs.
The cure for photographers suffering from the “unclear picture syndrome” is not some magic pill; it’s the lens shade.
For years, we’re told to photograph people with the sun behind our backs. That was a good idea because the films available in those days couldn’t handle the tonal range of a backlit subject. If the sun was behind the subject, the resulting photo could in a silhouette or be covered with lens flare.
Even today with digital photography and modern film, photos may still be blemished by lens flare. Not only could stray light creep into photos from the sun in front of the lens, but also from reflections off objects in or near the frame.  
Eyeglass wearers spend extra money to have non-glare coating applies to their glasses. Today, all camera lenses have similar coatings that improve the color and contrast of photos.
Figure 4Non-glare glasses reduce flare but do not eliminate it.  Coated camera lenses will not eliminate all stray light completely. But wearing a baseball cap that shades your glasses will reduce flare even more. A “baseball cap” for your camera lens is called a lens hood. 
A lens hood provides an opaque shield beyond the front of the lens with an opening just far enough not to create a vignette at the edges of the image. This protects the lens’ front element from stray light. The inside surfaces of the lens shade are nonreflecting matte black to prevent the redirection and any light striking the lens.
The length and width of the shade for a particular lens can be determined by the lens’ angle of view. A shade too narrow or long can vignette the image. A shade too wide or shallow is as good as no hood at all.
Lens shades are plastic, metal or rubber. The rubber lens hood has an added advantage of serving as a bumper or cushion for the front of your lens. Most lens manufacturers make specific lens shades for their lens. Generic shades usually work just as well and are less expensive.
One of the new rubber lens hood designs allow for use on zoom lenses from 35mm to 200mm. If the shade were collapse all the way down, it would accommodate wide-angle lenses. At the medium collapsed setting, the mid-zoom range is covered. If the shade were all the way extended, the lens hood works well with the telephoto setting.
During allergy season I find taking a pill does keep my sinuses clear. When I am photographing I use a lens hood to keep my photos “clear.”