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I’ve seen so many people using their cameras without using lens hoods, even when they have the lens hood that came with the lens. I don’t understand why they’re not using it.

So, I thought I’d lay out why a lens hood is an essential item to have in your camera bag.

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Why you need a lens hood

There are just two reasons why you need a lens hood:

  1. To prevent light hitting your lens
  2. To protect your lens

1. To prevent light hitting your lens

When you put a lens hood on a lens it’s the same as when you raise your hand to shield your eyes from the sun. Because the sun is no longer hitting your eyes, you can see better.

Well, because the sun is no longer hitting the front of your lens, your colors will be more saturated, you’ll have more contrast and you won’t have lens flare. I know lens flare is really popular at the moment, but not all lens flare works. Trying to fix a cloudy photo with the wrong kind of lens flare is just time consuming and best avoided.

Woman in early morning with lens flare from light hitting the lens
In this instance the lens flare works to highlight the early morning light and feeling of dawn. You can see the two small circles of light to the left of the image. This was taken with a lens hood attached and just a touch of light hitting the front of the lens. Without one the excessive light on the lens would have ruined the shot.

2. To protect your lens

This is the less obvious reason for why you need a lens hood, but it is the reason that I always always always use a lens hood. In fact, it is such a habit that I would not consider lifting my camera to my eye without it. In my more dappy moments I’ve been known to fit my lens hood, but forget to take the lens cap off!

I can’t count the number of times my lens hoods have saved me from little sticky fingers that suddenly reach out for my lens during a family shoot when little ones have run up to me, not stopped as I’d expected them to and then reached for my lens. Finger prints are not a big deal, but it would mean that I’d have to stop shooting and clean my lens before continuing, which would break the moment.

The big deal is the times that I’ve not been concentrating on what I’m doing and have accidentally bumped my lens into something. Even worse is when I’ve let my camera hang from my neck, because I needed to use both hands for something, have leaned forward and the camera has swung forward and hit something. With the lens hood attached, the lens is protected from any potential scratches.

This makes me sound quite careless, but I’m actually ridiculously careful with my stuff. When shoots get busy these things do sometimes happen, so it is better to be protected.

When not to use a lens hood

With all that said you’d think there would never be a time when the lens hood should come off, but there is one.

The only time a lens hood is not a good idea is when you’re using a flash on your camera, especially with a long lens. The lens gets in the way of the light and you end up with a shadow at the bottom of your image.

Types of lens hoods

You’ll see that some lens hoods look like tubes and others have wavy sides. There’s a really good reason for this that has nothing to do with looking fancy.

1. Cylindrical lens hoods

These are suited to the longer focal length lenses. Because the lens is not wide angled, the lens hood won’t be visible in the shot.

2. Petal lens hoods

These lens hoods are for the wider angled lenses. My 24 – 70mm lens has a petal lens hood. The reason is that when you use the wider angles, because the sides of the lens hood have been cut away, they don’t appear in shot. If you were to use a cylindrical lens hood at a wide angle you’d have black corners on your shots as the lens hood would be in shot.

Nikon 70-200mm lens with lens hood
Above is my 70-200mm Nikon lens and below my 24-70mm Nikon lens. You can see that the lens hoods differ slightly between lenses. They are both, however, examples of petal lens hoods.

Nikon 24-70mm lens with lens hood

What lens hood should I buy?

I don’t know why, but not every manufacturer supplies a lens hood with every lens they sell. They’re essential in my book, so should be supplied with every lens, just like a lens cap is supplied with every lens.

If you don’t have lens hoods for each of your lenses, I strongly recommend you buy some. It’s not complicated though as there’s only one style of lens hood for each lens. Also, they don’t cost much, but can save you a fortune in damage. There are, however, more expensive and cheaper versions. You don’t have to buy the more expensive branded lens hoods. I prefer them as they are guaranteed to fit smoothly, but the cheaper versions are also okay.

Just have a look for lens hoods for your specific lens and then choose either a branded or non branded version. As you can see below, there are many options for each type of lens hood. These are some options for a 24-70mm Nikon lens. Just enter your type of lens and then of course “hood” to see your options.

Storing a lens hood

It won’t take up much space in your camera bag, because to pack it, just reverse fit it onto your lens. When you take your camera out of your bag, you just take the lens hood off, turn it around, fit it back on and you’re good to go. Nice and easy.

Nikon 70-200mm lens with lens hood stored
Both lenses with lens hoods stored for packing in my camera bag without taking up much extra space.

Nikon 24-70mm lens with lens hood stored

Leave us a comment

If you have any questions about how or when to use a lens hood, let us know in the comments.

Also, we love good news, so if our camera and lens care tips have helped you to understand how to better protect your lens, share that too.

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