Using Filters And Why It's Worth Giving It A Go
A lot of people I speak to feel that there is no point in bothering to use filters because "You can do it aferwards in photoshop, can't you? " The short answer to that is NO! There are lots of times that having a neutral graduated filter can save a complete disaster, for example at sunrise the sky is so much brighter that the land that either you burn out the sky so badly that it can't be saved or have the foreground so dark that it takes ages trying to correct it.The filter works by darkening bright areas to balance land and sky as the sky is nearly always a few stops lighter.
I use Lee filters mainly because the the quality is excellent. Over the years I have tried four or five different brands some very cheap, some a little more expensive. The real issue for me is the colour cast which can be almost impossible to sort out. The other problem is the optical quality, there is no point having a decent lens with a poor filter in front, the image is only ever as good as the lowest spec element in your set-up.
The other reason I feel it pays to use filters is that if used properly they can lift an image from a holiday snap to a fine art print. My favorite filter is the Big Stopper, for those who have not tried this filter I can highly recommend giving it a try. The main advantage is being able to use really long exposure even during fairly strong light, this allows me to photograph running water on up to a 30 second shutterspeed. This changes water to a milky satin ribbon, and clouds to soft streaks across the sky.
It isn't a cure for poor lighting or days with harsh contrast, but it can make an ordinary shot look quite beautiful. It is worth mentioning that you still need to work on the basics like composition and exposure, it won't make a bad shot great, but with imagination can be a useful tool. Give it a try you might surprise youself.