Lens Hoods: Do You Actually Need Them?

When you buy new (or used) lenses, they almost always come with a lens hood that you can attach to the end of the lens. They serve various purposes but do you really need to use them?

Lens hoods take up an interesting part of my photography gear collection. I use the term interesting rather loosely, as the truth is that almost all of my lens hoods are scattered around the floor of my home studio or tucked away in various boxes. I almost never use lens hoods, regardless of the conditions. To be very clear, that's a personal preference of mine based on the effects I noticed very early on in my photography evolution when I used lenses without the hoods. I loved the flare and the glare and the interesting splashes of light I could get depending on the lens I used and how I positioned it in relation to the sunlight. I'm not suggesting you all do that, nor that it's right. It's just my preference.

Thus, I was curious to hear Marc Newton, from The School of Photography, say that you absolutely must use lens hoods. In the artistic world I don't believe there are any musts really but this video breaks down the reasons he thinks lens hoods are essential pieces of equipment. He's absolute right in some of the things he says and this is a great introduction to beginner photographers, especially, who might be wondering whether to use lens hoods or not. Funnily enough, in some of the example images he provides, I prefer those without the use of a lens hood.

What do you think? Do you always use lens hoods? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below.

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Iain Stanley is an Associate Professor teaching photography and composition in Japan. Fstoppers is where he writes about photography, but he's also a 5x Top Writer on Medium, where he writes about his expat (mis)adventures in Japan and other things not related to photography. To view his writing, click the link above.

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Artistry aside, they are a great line of defense in case your tripod takes an accidental spill

True, and you don't have to use a uv filter, which some people hate.

Precisely the reasons I use them. They provide great lens protection and reduce flare. I understand that if one shoots a 35, 50, or pancake lens it might not be necessary, but for those of us whose subjects are sports or wildlife, it is a necessity.

C Fisher. Can you elaborate on why people hate UV filters?

Lots of people argue that they degrade image quality which is true, but it's hardly noticeable unless you have a pretty cheap filter. The bigger potential problem would probably be the fact that UV filters increase flaring issues.

Many have a $2500 lens and place a $49 UV filter over it. The lens is the most important part of the camera system. Now you're shooting in on a windy beach or something, I say yes, put a high-quality filter on.

You also see people put on a $300 filter when a front element is only $200 to replace.

To be honest, UV filters are not good for protecting the front element for impact damage anyway as it will break easily whatever hits it and probably damage the front element more. Also it's a pain in the ass when it's time to remove a damaged fiter ring.

I think it all started from camera stores trying to upsell.

I myself use a clear filter whenever I'm shooting near the sea or in the desert to make sure tiny dust particles or sea spray don't damage the front element.

Yes that is undoubtedly true. Arguably, they offer the best first line of protection

Depending on lighting, they do a great job of reducing lens flare, which you can add in post with more control and refraction which I don't think anyone would want.

I love post-production but if I can get what ai want when I’m shooting, that’s always preferable to me. It’s one of the reasons I don’t use hoods too often - I love getting flare of all kinds in camera

Flare manifests itself in two ways: as visible artifacts and as glare across the image. The flare may please your artistic inclinations, but the glare will effect the image in ways you may not find as appealing.

I always use lens hoods except in specific cases when I am looking for that natural flare (not often). I don't really see any reason not to use one otherwise.

Say yes to lens hoods. Say no to UV filters if using a modern lens. They're pretty pointless.

Lens hoods provide the best protection under most circumstances. But, as pointed out in the video, sometimes you may want that awesome lens flair.

I use them quite a bit, but especially when it's raining or snowing.

fwiw... Canon, lens hoods always. Fuji, never.

With Fuji I want to keep it as small and inconspicuous as possible. I tend to use the Fuji like an amateur tourist. LCD at arms length. Doesn't attract much attention and I'm not really concerned about flare.

I have Heliopan or B+W UV filters on all my lenses. I can't tell the difference with or without them. I'm a clumsy idiot. Constantly running into branches and my dog has a thing for sticking his nose on the front element. No problem wiping a filter with a shirt sleeve.

I guess the main reason I use UVs is a) Canon's recommendation for weather sealing and b) resale value.The front element as never been touched. Makes it more attractive to a buyer?

Yup, I'd never buy a used lens with even small scratches on the lens.

I'm not big on lens hoods... not to say I don't use them but mostly I try to be aware of where the light is and shade the front of the lens with whatever is available, shadow of a tree, car, my hand, etc. Also, though they do offer protection they won't protect against all hazards. I once photographed a Med-a-vac helicopter landing with two cameras set up on tripods at the edge of the pad. Afterwards I threw away two UV filters that had multiple pock marks from the sand blasting they took from blade wash.

Pretty much how I feel too

Yea I learned that one the hard way. MedeVac Heli take off destroyed a lens. Now I have UV on all my glass when outside.

Thankfully, I had learned the UV lesson before this experience. UV filters live on all my lenses full time. I take them off only occasionally when I'm in a very controlled situation. This was not the only time a UV filter saved a lens where a hood would not have. Sometimes it's painful to pay for a good filter for a lens with a big front element but having to throw one away occasionally is still the better deal financially!

I seem to always have my hood with me, but never actually use. It mostly gets in the way and I’m pretty adept at using my hand to shield my lens from the sun when needed. I also rarely shoot in sunny conditions, so take that with requisite dose of salt.

On a separate note, I am extremely wary of professionals these days who tell me I MUST do something, or that some piece of kit is REQUIRED to do photography. Absolute ‘rules’ in photography are usually very specific and can almost always be mitigated these days in some other way.

I’ve got a box of lens hoods in my home, and another box in my car. Some people swear by them, others don’t. Each position is equally valid.

Yeah, that's my point about absolutism in photography. It's rarely correct to be so rigid, and that can be really harmful to new photographer who don't yet have enough experience to be critical of what some professionals are telling them.

Thanks for starting a good discussion. I use lens hoods for protection. When I can find them (usually new old stock on eBay), I opt for rubber instead of metal, because I want a bumper out front. Few of my hodge-podge of lens hoods are proper proportion -- a short, stubby, slightly flared hood works on anything from 50mm and up.

I prefer lens hoods for decreasing lens flare and increased contrast.

If I had a penny for every time FS ran an article about the pros and cons of lens hoods, I'd be a very happy man.

Most of the time I do not use lens hoods. They take too much space away in my bags. I use my hand or a small card board to cover the lens from flares. If the light source is close to or in the frame, a lens hood wouldn't protect well against flares anyway.
I got some of Nikon's old manual AI(-S) lenses with built-in lens hoods (like the AI-S 135mm or 180mm f/2.8). I like this concept very much. The lens hood is always on the lens and takes up virtually no space in the bag.

I'm not sure why you say they take up space in you bags since you can put them on "in reverse."

Two reasons why putting them in a bag with reversed hood does not really work: They always come off and stay on the bottom of the bag along with the lens cap and they need much more space than a lens w/o hood. It might be o.k. with smaller lenses, but some hoods of pro f/2.8 zooms are huge and wouldn't fit into a bag mounted reversed on the lens. Most of the time I take the 17-35mm, 24-70mm and 70-200mm f/2.8 along with a fast prime and two bodies with me. That already eats up most of the storage room. So I only take lens hoods with me, if I really need them.

Gotcha. I live a simpler camera life than you do!

I use my lens hood as it is my first-line defense as I'm pretty rough with my gear. Also when I photograph dogs at animal services, the dogs can get pretty rough with my camera if they are running at me thinking it's a toy so the hood will absorb the impact just in case.

I keep the lens hoods on mainly for protection. The stay on 24/7. Two bodies with attached lens and their hoods are stored in my backpack always ready to go go go.

Almost any lens made after 1940 has a minimum of four individual lens elements (usually many more). Off-axis light bounces around inside the surfaces of these elements. A lens hood is essential to avoid flare and loss of contrast from this extraneous light--light the lens designers assume is being block by a hood or other means by the responsible photographer. The premise of this article is "flare looks cool". What a waste of space

Not true for wide angle lenses e.g. Today's lens coatings are that good that flares are basically gone.

Some do help reduce flaring and ghosting, but I don't think any completely eliminate it. If they did, the amount of light they'd allow in would cause other issues.
From Canon's website: On Canon lenses, look out for coatings such as Air Sphere Coating (ASC) and Subwavelength Structure Coating (SWC). Note that even with these coatings, it is difficult to completely eliminate ghosting and flaring.

Unfortunately the manufacturers of camera backpacks and bags don’t know that...

I'd say, it depends on the backpack/bag layout and gear you bring. I have a pretty small backpack and works fine for me. If I had to, I can have more space by reversing the lens hoods; or detaching them and placing the smaller ones inside the bigger ones. Detach the lens and position vertical, etc, etc.