Lens Hood Basics: What You Need to Know

If you’re new to photography, you may be wondering what’s the big deal with lens hoods. Here’s a quick two-minute breakdown of why exactly you’ll find them attached to lenses everywhere.

In the video above, David Bergman for Adorama has some basic knowledge to share about how lens hoods can, at times, actually help to create higher quality images. Their main purpose is for blocking light sweeping in from an angle which can create a lens flare effect and reduce the contrast in images. Certainly there are times when this kind of look is actually the goal, but a lot of the time the effect can be too distracting in an image or overpowers the subject.

So does this mean you should be taking it on and off, carrying around this extra piece of gear everywhere you go? Not necessarily. Bergman also has good reason to keep his lens hood on at all times: protection. Check the full video for solid information about an essential piece of kit.

By the way, can we all appreciate this $1,000 lens hood from Nikon? So dreamy.

Cover photo by slon_dot_pics via Pexels.

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Deleted Account's picture

Unless constrained by filters, I *always* have a lens hood attached!

Casey ATKINS's picture

I remember watching some YouTuber unbox and review a lens I was interested in and while going over the contents of the box he was like "and it comes with a lens hood. We don't need that!" and he tossed the lens hood aside. I was like WTF? Lens hoods are useful. Do you like unintentional lens flare? Do you like bumping and scratching your lens on stuff? What the hell dude.

Fritz Asuro's picture

Because some (or a lot) think that a lens hood is for aesthetics.

Deleted Account's picture

For some (or a lot) they are. ;-)

Johnny Rico's picture

Lens hoods are cool and all, until they are just wasting room in a 1510. They are a pain in the ass to pack.

davidlovephotog's picture

Not really. I put mine on backwards over the lens and they add nothing to the space.

Fritz Asuro's picture

With you blocking the rays with your hand is the reason why we have lens hood.
Because you probably want to support the camera+lens with both hands.

Fritz Asuro's picture

Well, good for you if you can it. But not all photographers would be happy doing that. It doesn't hurt to put the hood on the lens.

Marcin Świostek's picture

I can't imagine blocking the light with my hand in concert photography all the time. ;)

Johnny Rico's picture

Doesn't work in a Trekpak system. I have 3 lens hoods and a mini roll of gaffers all like russian dolls taking up a slot.

Marc Vidal's picture

Same for me. In my backpack I can put 2 lenses + the camera mounted with a lens. Adding the 3 corresponding lens hoods is really a pain. Finally, I let the lens hood at home.
And for the protection purpose, I don't care. after 9 years of carrying my camera everywhere, I never dropped or bumped my gear a single time.

Robert Nurse's picture

A $1000 lens hood? That's like Profoto's $500+ fabric grid for it's 5' Octa. The grid costs more than the modifier!

Richard Barcelo's picture

That hood is made for the 16 000$ nikon 800mm. If you can afford that lense, you can afford the hood! :D

Ryan Mense's picture

I know that's their logic for setting the price, but still the markup must be ridiculous on it.

Robert Nurse's picture

Profoto should take note. At least this hood doesn't cost $17000! :D

Kirk Darling's picture

There is another and more frequent way the hood functions to save contrast in the image. Remember that the lens projects a circular image--but the sensor is a rectangle cut from that circle. Those round edges of light--actually more total excess photons than actually strike the sensor--splash randomly around the mirror box.

If the light is dim enough, the black mirror box sides can absorb it. If the light is very bright (if much of the image is bright skylight or a white studio background), the mirror box sides cannot absorb it, and a lot of that random light bounces back to the sensor as a general contrast-reducing fog. This happens whether there is a bright light in or near the image or not--it's a factor of large bright areas within the picture.

A well-designed lens hood reduces this fog by intruding into the round area seen by the lens, but it still outside the rectangular area seen by the sensor. Instead of the lens "seeing" bright skylight or white background, it sees the dark interior of the lens hood. Much less non-imaging light enters the lens, and this much dimmer light is more easily absorbed by the mirror box.

This is not new information. Back in the day when shooting with a bright background, we used "compendium" bellows hoods that we extended until the edges of the hood were just barely out of view, cutting out everything but the bare imaging light that would strike the film.

Grant Schwingle's picture

I have a personal, rage-filled anxiety associated with photographers that shoot with the lens hood on in reverse. It just screams newbie to me even though I think I've seen Annie Leibovitz shoot that way. Just don't do it! The only time I would normally use the hood and don't is if I have a CPL on and need to be adjusting it on the fly which can be difficult with the lens hood on.

Vincent Alongi's picture

I can't think of any time I wouldn't want that little insurance policy attached to the front of my lens. There's always going to be the first time you may bump (or get bumped). But to each his own...

Edit: I take that back. I have to admit, I'll walk around with my 50mm and no hood attached. Why? Well, now I will ;)

stir photos's picture

Ugh, i'm the worst with lens caps and lens hoods. the caps i'm constantly losing and the hoods i'm losing or forgetting. my goal is to not lose a single one this whole calendar year. you'd think i'd learn my lesson with all the shots i get with accidental lens flare artifacts, but nope...