Lens hoods are probably one of the most overlooked and important pieces of gear that we have for our lenses. They help with a number of things — with everything from reducing lens flares to getting rid of haze caused by the sun.
What Does a Lens Hood Do?
“Shade” Your Photographs
Lens hoods are made to redirect the sunlight that reaches your lens, and in turn, help to “shade” your photographs. When shooting with a lens hood on, you protect your photographs and end up getting a more realistic contrast than you would without a lens hood.
Shown in the unedited photos above, the one on the left looks slightly washed out. The photo on the right, however, has deeper black levels and contrast.
Get Rid of Lens Flares
Lens hoods also help to reduce lens flares that would otherwise get rid of detail in your images. While lens flares are more likely to happen outdoors as you’re shooting in the sun, they can also happen in-studio with studio lighting.
If for nothing else, a lens hood will also help to protect your lens from accidental bumps and drops. In a way, it serves the same purpose as a UV filter, but without the degredation in image quality.
Types of Hoods and Storage
There are two styles of lens hoods — round hoods and petal hoods. Round hoods are circular in nature, and are typically used on prime lenses. Petal hoods look like a four-petal flower, and are often attached to zoom lenses. For petal hoods, be sure that it’s screwed on completely, otherwise you’ll see the edges of it in your photographs.
Regardless of the style, simply flip the lens hood around and attach it to your lens for storage.
Some lens hoods are built-in to the lens — primarily wide angle lenses, where instead of flipping and storing it, you’ll use a larger lens cap that covers the entirety of the hood and front of lens. Other lens hoods — like the one that comes with the Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 lens, attach and then slide down with a turn for storage.
Simply put, lens hoods should be used by photographers in pretty much all cases. It’ll help to ensure your photograph has a necessary contrast to it, and will also help cut down on flaring issues caused by direct sunlight. If for nothing else, keep the lens hood on for protection.