What Is Filter? Definition, Use, Popular Genres and How to Use Them

Summary: This is a comprehensive guide on what is filter. You'll learn its definition, use, types of popular lens filters and photo filters, and how to use them.

what is a photo filter

Filters are an essential tool in both the physical and digital realms of image manipulation. It can enhance or alter the image's appearance by adjusting the colors, light, contrast, and sharpness of the image. But what are they exactly and how to use them precisely to get the best result?

You can find solutions in this blog. We'll introduce the definition, and use of a filter, and list some trendy and practical lens and photo filters to help you process your images easily. Now, let's dive in!

What Is Filter?

According to the Oxford Dictionary, a filter is a device containing paper, sand, chemicals, etc. to remove any materials that are not wanted. However, in the context of photography and digital imaging, a filter is an optical device or a software algorithm designed to selectively adjust specific aspects of light before it reaches the image sensor or after the image has been captured.

The Use of Filters

Filters are indispensable tools for photographers and artists alike for several reasons:

  1. Technical Adjustments: Filters help compensate for lighting conditions or technical limitations of the camera. For instance, a UV filter can block ultraviolet light that may cause haziness, while a polarizing filter reduces glare and enhances colors in outdoor scenes.
  2. Creative Expression: By manipulating light and color, filters enable photographers to infuse their personal style into images. This could mean adding a warm glow for a nostalgic feel or using a split toning effect to create a unique mood.
  3. Post-Processing Efficiency: Photo filters in digital editing software greatly expedite the post-processing workflow. They provide an immediate visual representation of adjustments, allowing photographers to preview and apply complex changes with just a few clicks. This efficiency is particularly valuable when dealing with large batches of images or during tight deadlines.

What Are Photography Filters?

In traditional photography, filters are often physical attachments placed over a camera lens that affect the incoming light to achieve various visual effects. These can range from color correction to creative enhancements such as polarizing filters, neutral density filters for controlling exposure, or graduated filters for balancing landscapes.

person holding lens

The Classifications of Photography Filters

1. Neutral Density Filter

ND filters darken your lens to reduce the density of the light that enters your camera, while not changing the color of the resulting image. This allows you to adjust settings to use longer shutter speeds and show movement in the whole frame. ND filters are particularly useful during the daytime since we cannot use a slow shutter speed under bright light conditions.

ND filters can reduce light to a specific stop number, so you need to choose which kind of ND filter based on the lighting conditions and exposure goals.

2. Graduated Neutral Density Filters

Graduated neutral density filters are similar to ND filters except that half of the filters are transparent. Generally, it's placed on the bottom half of the lens over the dark foreground. They have a vertical transition between darkness and clarity to balance the exposure between the sunny sky and the darker foreground. GND filters are particularly useful for capturing a scene with a wide dynamic range from highlights to shadows, such as sunset or sunrise. They allow for balancing exposure, maintaining the details of highlights and shadows, meanwhile capturing the scene in a single image.

3. Polarizing Filters

Polarizing filters, just like sunglasses, add depth to an image by saturating its color and reducing reflections. They have a rotating mount and are easy to attach to a lens. Once a polarizing filter is placed on your lens and you've compositioned your target object, you can slowly rotate the filter, while observing the real-time changes in your camera's viewfinder or live view.

Polarizing filters can also reduce the haze of an image. They work best when your lens and sun form a 90 degree. So when you photograph the sun during the daytime, it's better to use a polarizing filter rather than shooting directly at the sun.

What Is a Photo Filter?

In digital photography and post-processing, filters serve a similar purpose but are implemented virtually through editing software. They allow users to refine images by altering attributes like hue, saturation, brightness, contrast, and sharpness, or applying specialized effects such as blurring, sharpening, or noise reduction. Photo filters can also be used to apply stylistic treatments like vintage looks, black-and-white conversions, or simulated lens effects.

add filter to an icecream photo and enhance a girl image

12 Popular Photo Filters to Beautify Your Photos Online

Continuing with the digital aspect of filters, let's explore some popular photo filters that can instantly transform your images and give them a distinct character. Fotor is an all-in-one photo editor that offers an array of trendy photo effects and filters, from stylish AI filters, and retro vintage filters, to aesthetic filmatic filters and sparking bokeh effect, etc. It's an indispensable helper during the image-processing stage.

Different photo filters

Turning your images into beautiful shots with online photo filters and effects in one click, Fotor is your magic wand.

Add Photo Filters Now

1. AI Filters

Play around AI filters to turn your photos into art masterpieces with just one click. Access to our photo to anime converter to turn your self-portraits or avatars into cute, stylish cartoon imageries. Or apply our photo to sketch filter to transform your daily photo into stunning pencil sketches. Besides, Fotor provides funky age filters to see what you would look like when you back to youth or get older. And you can also use our Christmas and Halloween-themed filters to add a festive vibe to your photos.

woman portrait dressing blue
add anime filter to a woman photo

Filter: AI Filters - Anime (Before v.s. After)

2. Vintage Filter

Prefer a retro look? Our vintage filter is your best choice! It recreates the grain, color casts, and light leaks of classic films, adding a nostalgic touch to your digital images. This "Nostalgic" filter fades out the darker areas and gives everything a vintage green tone.

a vintage lady leaning a blue car
add vintage filter to a vintage lady photo

Filter: Vintage - Nostalgic (Before v.s. After)

3. Fimatic Filter

Fimatic filters, inspired by the aesthetics of analog film photography, bring back the warmth and character often associated with classic films. This "KD Film2" photo filter darkens and blurs the areas surrounding the subject, while highlighting the main subject with vintage yellow light.

a vintage girl seeing directly at camera
add filmatic filter to a woman portrait

Filter: Filmatic - KD Film2 (Before v.s. After)

4. Spring Filter

Spring awakens all the creatures and brings vibrant colors to nature. This "Spring Lit" photo filter adjusts the saturation of the original image, and brings true colors to the image with the bright green.

bird nesting
add spring filter to a bird nesting photo

Filter: Spring - Spring Lit (Before v.s. After)

5. Landscape Filter

In addition to composition, color is also an essential factor for awesome landscape photography. You can add landscape filters to level up your photo in the later processing stage. This "Vibrant1" photo filter adjusts the light and brightness of the landscape image, making it more charming and beautiful.

add landscape filter to a rainbow photo

Filter: Landscape - Vibrant1 (Before v.s. After)

6. Vignette Filter

The vignette effect darkens the edges of corners of an image, drawing the viewer's attention to the center of the image. For portraits and product photos, you can apply a vignette effect to add depth and contrast to the image. This "Tribeca" photo filter shadows the edges and highlights the subject with a warm yellow light.

spring forest basking in sunlight
add vignette effect to a spring forest photo

Filter: Vignette - Tribeca (Before v.s. After)

7. Oil Painted Filter

The oil painted filter emulates the rich textures and brush strokes found in traditional oil paintings, transforming your photographs into captivating works of art. This "Souped" filter from Fotor analyzes color distribution, depth, and detail to create a lifelike painting effect.

a woman dressing in black and white
add oil painting filter to a woman portrait

Filter: Oil Painted - Souped (Before v.s. After)

8. B&W Photo Filter

Turn your photos into vintage looks using a black and white photo effect. This "Darkbloom" photo filter can bring you back to the old film times in the 1950s. This is great for retro enthusiasts to convert their landscape, and portrait photos into vintage black and white effects.

a vintage lady leaning a blue car
add black and white filter to a woman portrait

Filter: B&W - Darkbloom (Before v.s. After)

9. Bokeh Effect

Blur the photo background to create an out-of-focus effect. You can easily find the bokeh effect on Fotor. Click on "Effects" and then select "Hearts" or "Fairy Lights" to add a bokeh effect to your photos.

a rainy night
add bokeh effect to a rainy night photo

Filter: Effects - Festive - Fairy Lights (Before v.s. After)

10. 90s Photo Filter

Take a time machine to back to the 90s. You can use any filter in the "Cool" category. Range from bright vivid filters to warm-toned filters like "Early Bird".

a woman holding face
add an earlybird filter to a woman holding face photo

Filter: Cool - Early Bird (Before v.s. After)

11. Artistic Filter

If you think the original color of your image is too dark, you can one-tap brighten it with this "Crisp" filter. It adjusts the brightness and light of the image, and delivers a sharp and crisp result.

a witch
add a crisp filter to a witch photo

Filter: Artistic - Crisp (Before v.s. After)

12. Lomo Photo Effect

This Lomo effect imitates the features and characteristics of the Lomo LC-A camera in the early 1980s. You can even layer on some light leaks to bring more light to an image.

children group photo
add a lomo filter to a children group photo

Filter: Lomo - Lo-Fi (Before v.s. After)

How to Add Filters to Your Photo?

It's easy to add filters and effects to your photos. Here's a step-by-step guide:

  1. Go to the Fotor website and tap on "AI Photo Editor" to enter the editing interface.
  2. Click on "Open Image" to upload your image from your device.
  3. Select the "Effects" option on the left toolbar. In "Filters", you can scroll down to look through a list of photo filters.
  4. Choose a filter you like and click on it. Then adjust the intensity by moving the slider to maximize the effect.
  5. Once done, click on "Apply" and download the picture in HD JPG or PNG file format.
add a theatre filter to a vast view photo

Final Words

Filters can not only enhance and modify the color and light of an image in photography, but also add an artistic and aesthetic feel in your image-processing stage. Knowing its definition, use, popular classes, and how to use them are helpful when you have a single or large number of photos to deal with. Look no further, try this magical tool to turn your daily photos into stunning artworks with just one tap!