Why Camera Lens Hoods Are Essential & When Not to Use One (VIDEO)

Most experienced photographers rarely shoot without a lens hood for several important reasons, whether they’re photographing indoors or out. These affordable accessories not only protect the front element of a lens from damage, but they also improve image quality in a number of ways.

This 10-minute tutorial  from landscape pro Vlad Manea reveals everything you need to know, including the rare instances in which you should remove the hood. As you’ll see, lens hoods are available in different shapes and styles because each is designed for lenses of a special focal length or range. And as simple as they are, there’s a right and a wrong way to use them.

When it come to image quality a proper hood is extremely helpful for blocking stray light from falling on the lens, either from above or from one side or the other depending upon the position of the sun. By doing so the hood prevents unwanted lens flare, adds contrast to a shot, and prevents a dull wash-out appearance.

They also act as “a bumper for your lens” to protect your precious glass from scratches, damage or destruction, and a hood is far more effective in this regard that a simple UV filter. Instructor Vlad Manea also explains why you should use a hood even when shooting indoors or at night.

According to Manea there are a couple reasons it makes sense to remove the hood from your lens. One is when you want to intentionally add flare to a photograph to create an artistic effect. Another practical example is when using a pop-up flash and the hood casts a shadow by blocking part of the light output from falling on the subject.

So what can you do if you left your hood at home and there’s light hitting the front of your lens that’s certain to degrade the image? One simple trick is to strategically position a free hand to block any stray light coming from above or the side. Just make sure your five-fingered hood doesn’t intrude into the frame. You can also use a hat in the same way.

Manea has a few other helpful suggestions for using a hood—whether yours is of the thread-on variety or it bayonets onto the front of a lens. Some hoods are designed to be reversible and this is really convenient because the lens/hood combination occupies far lens space when stored in your bag.

We encourage you to visit Manea’s instructional YouTube channel when you have time to explore, because there are many more straightforward videos that will definitely help improve your skills

And on a related note, don’t miss the earlier tutorial we featured in which another experienced shooter demonstrates four foolproof methods for removing a lens filter that refuses to come off—even if it’s bent or broken.