Why Use a Camera Lens Hood in 2022 (Before & After Shots)

A lens hood is a plastic accessory that comes with everything from the cheapest kit lens to the most expensive professional lenses.

It’s a simple device that’s cylindrical and attaches to the front of your lens – usually via a screw thread.

Despite their basic form, they serve an essential part of the photography process.

What’s more, there’s a range of third-party and aftermarket lens hoods that come in all shapes and sizes.

Some photographers can’t leave home without their lens hoods, and others turn their noses up at these simple camera accessories – let’s discover why.

What Does a Camera Lens Hood Do?

The main reason for using a camera lens hood is to reduce the amount of light coming into your camera’s lens. This allows you to control lens flare and maintain clarity and contrast in your images, even on bright days.

Lens hoods can also help to protect your lenses from damage.

Here are 5 reasons for using a lens hood with almost every lens you own:

1. Block sunlight and avoid lens flare

Guide on when to use a lens hood: blocking strong light is one of the main reasons for using a lens hood as it stops lens flare.

Too much sunlight – especially direct sunlight, such as in the image above – can have a detrimental impact on your pictures.

Imagine being out on a sunny day, and the sun’s angle makes your eyes squint. Instinctively, you hold your hand up to shield against the harshness of that light. A lens hood works in precisely the same way.

Inside the lens, there are up to twenty glass elements all grouped and aligned to achieve focus, zoom and image clarity, and to reduce aberrations and distortions.

Lenses also control the direction of light travelling to the image sensor.

Sunlight hitting the lens directly or at an angle impacts your image with lens flare – bright spots and streaks on your image.

The light coming in at sharp angles from the side of the lens is a big problem as those waves will bounce around inside it, much like the effect of light leaks.

Obviously, sunlight isn’t the only light source that a camera lens hood can help block – perhaps you’re shooting under bright street lamps, or maybe it’s the strobes in a studio setting – whatever the case, a hood can be the answer to unwanted glare.

2. Prevent damage to the lens glass

Most types of camera lenses are expensive – some of the best ones can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Despite being a pro and knowing what you’re doing, there’s always a risk of accidental damage to the lens element or lens face.

I’ve bumped the front of my lens several times when out on a shoot. It’s especially easy to do when the camera is slung over your shoulder on a camera strap or hanging in front of you.

If you damage that front glass element of your lens, you might as well replace the whole lens or send it off for repair.

Fitting a camera lens hood provides an additional layer of protection and insurance. Think of it as a bumper bar on a car – the bumper will take a knock in a car park, but the rest of the car will be fine.

You can live with a few marks on your lens hood, but you can’t live with a damaged lens.

3. Shield lens from the elements

A lenses hood can have the purpose of protecting it from averse weather conditions. This is another reason for using a lens hood.

Some lenses have weather sealing allowing you to use them when it’s raining, snowing or in dusty conditions.

Being out on a wildlife excursion with a weather-sealed camera and telephoto lens all but guarantees a stunning shot of a snow leopard. But all that pricey gear is worthless when the front of your lens is caked in snow and ice.

The simplest way to manage this is with camera lens hoods. They provide a natural overhang that’s usually deep enough to shield your lens from the elements.

4. Avoid smudges on your lenses

We’ve all had the issue of finding fingerprints on the front glass of our lenses.

Most of the time they’ll be our own, as we often reach for a lens only to discover the lens cap is missing and we’ve just smudged our fingers across it.

While lenses are being treated with all sorts of smart coatings to keep the front element clean, you can’t defeat the sticky finger.

A simple way to manage this is with a lens hood. Much like the previous two points, the hood grants a layer of protection from fingerprints and any other surface that will leave an oily smudge.

5. Increase contrast and clarity

assorted lens hoods

While some may say that a camera lens hood does little for image quality, the reality is it can make all the difference.

In an image, a flare hitting the lens at the right angle can seriously wash out all the detail and contrast available. Colours can become severely faded and muted, turning what would be a punchy image into one that’s unusable.

It’s like driving your car on a sunny day, and the light is shining in your eyes. You see a small amount of detail, enough to drive safely, but the clarity is gone, and the glare is intense.

With a lens hood, the stray light that attacks the front element of the lens and causes the flare disappears.

What’s more, your images will benefit considerably as the light is held at bay to allow for contrast and clarity to be evident, such as in the image above.

  • Is a Lens Hood necessary for 50mm?

It depends on the type of 50mm lens, and what you are trying to prevent by using a hood. Some 50mm lenses have a front lens element that’s recessed so there’s no need to protect it with a hood.

However, if you’re using a hood to prevent unwanted light from affecting your picture, then yes, lens hoods are necessary for 50mm and other focal length lenses too.

Do Lens Hoods Really Work? 6 Photos With and Without a Camera Lens Hood

Here are some lens hood before and after shots so you can see exactly what they do to a photo.