Wondering what that hood is that comes with your camera lens? Read on for more on your lens hood!

A lens hood is a very common photography accessory that is often misunderstood. They can be extremely helpful in protecting the front of your lens, as well as controlling lens flare. This article covers the main functions of lens hoods and how they can help you improve the quality of your images. Let’s get started!

What is a lens hood?

A lens hood is a cone shaped piece of plastic, metal or rubber that attaches to the end of a lens – shielding the lens from bright light.

What do lens hoods do?

  • Reduce Flare

The primary function of a lens hood is to shade the front of your lens to reduce the amount of light falling on your lens – preventing lens flare from appearing in an image. If you have ever taken a photograph on a very sunny day, chances are you have seen a lens flare. Blocking this light can reduce or prevent that flare from showing up.

Here are two example images.

Lens flare

   The left image was taken without a lens hood, and the right image was taken with one. You can see a noticeable difference. There is a reddish flare running through the middle of the first image. The second image is free of glare thanks to the lens hood.

  • Increase Contrast

Aside from reducing flare, lens hoods also improve the color and contrast of images. If you have ever taken a photograph on a bright day, it may have appeared washed out with low contrast. This is a result of the sun falling on the front of your lens. Attaching the lens hood blocks the stray light, improving the saturation and deepening the blacks, which will create a sharper image.

Here are two more example images side by side.

Lens flare

The left image was taken without a lens hood, and the right image was taken with one. The picture on the right made with the lens hood has more contrast and deeper blacks.

  • Protecting your lens from damage.

A lens hood also provides a physical protector to the front of your lens and acts as a “bumper” if you happen to hit your glass against a hard surface. If you have ever dropped or broken your lens, the lens hood likely could have prevented such damage. Replacing a lens hood is a significantly cheaper alternative to purchasing another lens. Furthermore, the hood helps to keep fingerprints and debris off the front of your lens.

What are the different types of lens hoods?

There are two main types of lens hoods – tulip and round.

  • Tulip hoods

lens hood

Tulip hoods, also known as petal or flower hoods have a curvy design that works best for wide angle lenses. This shape provides the most amount of shade to the lens without capturing a piece of the hood in your image, sometimes referred to as “vignetting.” If you notice parts of the hood in your frame, it is likely due to it being out of its proper position. If this occurs, rotating and attaching the hood correctly will resolve this. Below is an example of vignetting due to the lens hood being connected incorrectly.

Lens flare

  • Round hoods 

lens hood 

Round hoods have a simple tube-shaped design completely enclosing the lens. These are often used on longer focal length and fixed lenses – these lenses do not get wide enough to require cutouts. Also, fixed lenses do not zoom out, therefore, you are less likely to see the hood in your frame.

Ultimately the shape of your lens hood is determined by the type and purpose of your lens.

When to use a lens hood.

Below are a few sample scenarios where using a lens hood would prove advantageous:

  • You are using off-camera flash. Flash photography is bright and can create unwanted flare in your images.
  • Your subject is backlit, or you are shooting into strong sunlight.
  • You are shooting at night. Often there can be a stray light that can cause flares.

When Not to use a lens hood.

There are times when you may not want to use a lens hood for your photography. There may also be occasions where you are not able to do so. These situations can include:

  • You desire a lens flare effect in your image.
  • You are using on-camera flash. The lens hood could block the light of the flash from reaching your subject.
  • You are using filters or other accessories, such as a ring light on your lens. In this situation, you will not have the ability to attach a lens hood.
  • You are using a lens meant for a smaller-sensor camera and cannot avoid capturing the hood in your image. 

How to store and travel with a lens hood.

When you pack your camera bag, you will want to be as efficient as possible. Unfortunately, lens hoods can take up a surprising amount of space.  An easy solution is to flip the hood upside down and reattach the lens. This will give you more room to work within your camera bag.

Another option is to remove all your lens hoods and stack them together.

You can either store them in your camera bag in this manner or thread them through your camera strap.

Below is an image depicting how to attach your lens hood for storage purposes.

lens hood

Do lenses come with a lens hood?

Not all lenses come with a hood. For those lenses, you will need to purchase one separately if you desire one. Depending on the brand and size of your lens, the prices range from as low as ten dollars upwards to one thousand dollars.  You have the option to buy an off-brand hood or even make one yourself out of paper or cardboard.

Pro-tip:

If you do not own or have access to a lens hood, you can shield the lens with your hand. It works in a pinch!

lens hood

Wrap-up

Hopefully, this article helped to clarify the topic of lens hoods. There are many benefits to using them. The most noteworthy advantages are improving the quality of your images and protecting the integrity of your lenses. Ultimately it is your personal preference.