There are all kinds of marvelous filters out there that can help you create photographs. In this case, I’m talking about the kind that you attach to the front of the lens.

I’ve got several polarizing filters, neutral density filters, variable neutral density filters, graduated filters, and even UV filters. If you don’t already have some of these, you probably will at some point in your photographic adventures, and these tips will help you get them on and off the camera with ease—which is often harder than you’d expect.


Back Spin

When you attach the filter to the front of the lens, you have to line up the threads so it can screw on, and you must be gentle because if you cross thread it, you can damage the filter threads so nothing will attach again. Machinists use a simple technique to line up threads perfectly every time: just back spin the filter and it will fall into place.

Back spinning is turning the filter backwards. Normally, you turn the filter clockwise to attach it. Start by turning it counterclockwise a few times and you’ll feel it fall into place and then turn clockwise and it will go on smoothly.

Spin On

Some filters, like polarizers and variable ND filters, require turning while they are on the lens. Make sure these filters stay securely attached by always spinning the filter clockwise during use. If you spin it counterclockwise, you may be loosening it and it may suddenly fall off the front of the lens.

Get It Off

There are few things as frustrating as standing on the coast at sunset struggling to get a filter off lens while the light fades away in a glorious display. The strongest curses and four letter words never seem to have any effect, and I’ve often had to wait until I get home to get the filter off. Well, here are three things that will help:

  • Buy filters with brass threads These are a little more expensive, but they almost never get stuck; cheaper filters are made of steel or aluminum
  • Attach another filter Sometimes putting another filter on top of the first will allow you to remove both easily
  • Use a hair dryer Seriously, take it home, point you hair dryer at the edge and see if the warm air doesn’t get it loosened up

Step It Up

Lastly, each of my lenses has a different front diameter, which means they each need different filter sizes. If I buy 52mm, 58mm, 67mm, 72mm, 77mm, and 82mm polarizers, however, it’ll cost me a whole lot of money and take up lots of space in my kit. Instead of buying one for each, you may simply buy a set of step-up rings. These rings attach to one another and let you mate a big filter with a small lens. In my case, I can attach my 82mm polarizer to a set of rings and use it with my 52mm diameter lens.

**Hint: You’ll find the filter diameter written somewhere on the lens; often on the front ring, or on the bottom side. It usually looks like the Greek letter Ø with a number. Nikon kit lenses are usually Ø52mm, and Canon are often Ø58mm, while most professional level lenses are Ø77mm.

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Join the conversation! 9 Comments

  1. What effect will step up rings with the use of wide-angle lense?. I bought a polarizer for a Canon FD 28mm f.28 (52mm filter size); it also fits my FD 50mm f1.8. I noticed vignetting on the 28mm lens. It looks like I’ll have to go to a slim mount filter for use on my 28mm; unfortunately, all of the slim mount polarizers are circular polarized and costs more than linear polarizers.

  2. Any suggestions on how to get rid of the green or pink strips across the frame when using a 10 stop ND filter? I of course cover up the eye piece too.

  3. Ralph, that’s a great question. Step up rings will help with the vignetting immensely. The trick is, you’ll want one that goes directly from 52mm to 77mm, or whatever larger size filter you want. thin filters often cost more, too, so consider the step up option.


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About Levi Sim

Passion drives Levi to make photographs, teach, and help new friends. He tells people he's a photographer, but he really does more than just make pictures. His professional photography is primarily commercial work for businesses, both small and large, and he really helps show how great it'd be to work with those companies. He excels at photographing people, from two-year-olds to oil field workers to couples married for 60 years, everyone has a good time making pictures with Levi. Besides people and businesses, Levi enjoys all other aspects of photography, and practices landscapes and still life, as well. Other people enjoy photographing everything, and Levi wants to be able to help, so he practices as much as he can to be ready to help. He also runs a local photography club, is a Rotarian, actively helps at church, is a husband, and poppa to a peppy four-year-old girl. Levi writes regularly for and is co-author of books on Adobe Lightroom.


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