Lens Hood: A Vital Piece of Camera Equipment

“What’s that weird thing on the front of your lens?” This is something I hear every time I teach a photo workshop. Well, you canʼt blame the students. They’re usually beginners, and since we were all beginners once, I try to cut them some slack.

lens hood

Various lens hoods

Lens hoods or lens shades are a vital piece of camera equipment that you must have on all lenses. Why? Because its main purpose is to prevent lens flare, which happens when you point your lens toward the sun at just the right angle. It looks like a series of translucent rings. Sometimes you’re able to see them through your eye piece and are able to change your angle, but most of the time they appear unexpectedly—and they arenʼt easy to Photoshop out.

A lens hood keeps the light from entering the lens from the sides and degrading the quality of your image. It helps improve the saturation, color, contrast, and density of the photograph.

Why do I have so many students come to class with “naked lenses”? The reason is simple—they arenʼt told that a lens hood is an essential piece of camera hardware for the production of quality images.

Lens hoods are also good protection for the front of the lens, keeping it safe from damage and fingerprints. The tulip shaped lens hoods are used on zoom lenses to accommodate the many focal lengths of the lens. Lens shades for fixed focal length lenses are not tulip shaped.

camera lens hoods

An example of lens flare

There are many different lens hoods produced by third party manufactures, which are less expensive than brand name equipment. They can be made out of plastic, metal, or rubber. Rubber lens hoods are ideal, because theyʼre best for shooting through glass; the rubber may adhere directly to the glass without slipping and thus reduce reflections. As an added bonus, rubber lens hoods can collapse to take up less room in a camera bag.

The most important thing to remember when buying a lens shade is to find one to correspond to your lens’ focal length. An incorrectly matched shade will produce “cut off” on the corners of your image, which is just as bad as lens flare, if not worse. The rim of the shade contains the necessary information for matching it to the lens. The shade will list the circumference of the corresponding lens in millimeters, and it will also show the focal length of the lens which the shade was designed to be used on.

Why manufactures donʼt include a lens shade with the purchase of a new lens is beyond me, but what I find even more startling is that camera stores that donʼt recommend lens shades to their customers. Itʼs no wonder so many people fail to realize the necessity of this equipment. I personally have lens hoods or shades for all of my lenses and use them whether Iʼm photographing indoors or outdoors.

how a lens hood works

How light slips through the sides of the lens without a lens hood.

If youʼd like to improve the quality of your images, I highly recommend that you buy a shade for all of your lenses.

About the Author:
Brian Leng (calphotoworkshops dot com) is a photography educator at Santa Monica College, Pasadena City College, and Glendale Community College. He leads photography workshops around the downtown Los Angeles area and hosts overnight workshops in many locations in the Southwest. He is a graduate of Brooks Institute of Photography and has worked as a freelance photographer in Los Angeles for over 30 years.

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7 responses to “Lens Hood: A Vital Piece of Camera Equipment”

  1. Francois says:

    Nice article. I agree that a lens hood should be used at all times, mostly because it protects the front element without sacrificing image quality (unlike flare-inducing UV filters).

    Just one correction though:
    “Lens shades for fixed focal length lenses are not tulip shaped”

    Almost all wide-angle lenses, zooms and primes, have flower shaped hoods.

  2. shane says:

    I have a Canon EOS 450D & I have 2 lenses = 1 x 18-55 + 55-250. I would like to know what sort of lens hood I should get. which is better for which lens… a flower/petal hood or a full hood? can someone please help me.

  3. Michael says:

    One other thing that should be mentioned: Sometimes a lens hood can get in the way by blocking light when using on-camera flash with a long lens & hood.

  4. Lens hoods are so key when taking great shots. Very informative post.

  5. I take alot of photos of kids and toddlers. More than once the lens hood has saved my camera rig from flying baby food! LOL! True story. And in a pinch they’re great for holding DIY Colored gells…

  6. Boricua says:

    Two of my lens came with a hood but I never used them because did not have an idea the purpose for it. Now, thank to this article, I will try to use them.

  7. Jeff Gauthier says:

    You made a few errors. You said that “Why manufactures donʼt include a lens shade with the purchase of a new lens is beyond me”. Well, every lens I ever bought or traded, new or used has come with a lens shade.
    You also said that “The tulip shaped lens hoods are used on zoom lenses to accommodate the many focal lengths of the lens. Lens shades for fixed focal length lenses are not tulip shaped.”. I don’t find this to be true. I have them both ways.

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