What Does a Lens Hood Do? What it is and How to Use it

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Let’s say you’re new to the world of photography and looking to learn. Maybe you’ve picked yourself up a shiny new camera and a lens or two. You notice that some lenses have a kind of hood on their rim, while others don’t. So, what does a lens hood do anyway?

How do you know when to use one and when is it best to go without? One thing that can overwhelm newbie photographers is how daunting all the equipment can seem. That’s where we come in. We’re huge photography nerds and love writing articles to help people get to the bottom of it all.

On this page, we’ll be exploring lens hoods. We’ll discuss what they do, when they’re useful, and how to make the most of them when shooting. Read on to boost your photography knowledge!

What is a Lens Hood For?

So, what is the purpose of a lens hood? In photography, your lighting environment is probably the most important aspect of any shoot. The light you have available and the way that it interacts with your equipment determines the quality of your final images.

In certain contacts, stray beams of light can enter your lens from a side angle. This can cause something called lens flare. In very specific circumstances, this can be a desirable effect. Most of the time, though, it will ruin your hard work.

A lens hood shields your lens from unwanted rays of light and helps maintain clarity and focus for your photos.

When to Use a Lens Hood

Scratching your head pondering the lens hood vs no lens hood question? Don’t worry – help is at hand. In this section, we’ll run through some of the most common use cases for a lens hood when shooting with your camera.

The more you know about when a lens hood is useful, the easier it will be to know when it’s useless! After all, knowing how to use a lens hood is an important skill for new photographers to master.

When It’s Very Bright and Sunny

Bright outdoor shoots, especially things like sunsets or sunrises, can be full of stray beams of light. If these enter your lens while you work, you’ll almost certainly have to deal with lens flare and other image noise.

Using a good lens hood will eliminate all or most of this light and help you keep your images crystal clear! Use the hood that came with your lens or pick one up from a site light Amazon.

When Your Shooting Environment is Very Reflective

If you’re taking photos in an environment with lots of blank, white surfaces or reflective materials, you may find that a lot of light is bouncing into your lens. Even with a lot of clever positioning, you’ll struggle to get the image you’re looking for if you’re not using the proper hood for your equipment.

In cases like this, it’s best to be prepared. There’s nothing more frustrating than showing up for a shoot only to realize that you can’t get the image you were hoping for. The good news is that lens hoods are usually fairly inexpensive if you know where to look.

When You Need Extra Protection

The extra inch or two that most hoods add to your lens can prove very useful. This is especially true if you’re a clumsier photographer. When capturing moving subjects, for example, it’s not uncommon for photographers to move their camera very quickly from one position to another.

When an accidental collision happens, this can spell disaster if you’re not prepared. The lip of a lens hood can help protect your equipment from damage and unwanted scuffs.

To be Honest – Most of the Time!

The focused, streak-free results that come from using a lens hood mean that you should probably be using one every time you shoot. Unless you have a very specific reason for taking photos without one, you don’t really have much to gain from taking it off your lens.

If in doubt, keep your lens hood on!

Why It’s Worth Buying a Lens Hood

If you’re brand new to all this, you may be wondering why on earth you’d need a hood in the first place. After all, your lens seems perfectly capable without one, right? You might want to check out some of our suggestions below.

They’re not always 100% necessary, but we think a lens hood is a no-brainer most of the time.

They’re Very Cheap

Most lens hoods can be picked up for less than $10. With this in mind, why wouldn’t you get one if it could improve your shots? The ubiquity of this kind of accessory means they’re usually very easy to find at budget-friendly prices.

A lens hood is unlikely to break the bank!

They Boost Your Image Results

Most of the time, the only thing you’re likely to notice when using a lens hood is that it improves the quality of your photographs. This is especially apparent when shooting in bright outdoor environments.

Streaky sunlight and reflections can quickly undermine an otherwise good photograph. A lens hood is how you mitigate this.

They Protect From Flaring

In rare cases, photographers will want to use lens flares to enhance the results of their photos. Most of the time, however, they’re an unwanted distraction that is best avoided. The good news is that using a hood can immediately get rid of this type of distortion.

For less than $10 your photos can be given a welcome boost of clarity.

They Improve Contrast

Ever taken a backlit or sunset photo and noticed it seemed super ‘washed out’. A big part of this effect is caused by the sunlight throwing your contrast levels out of whack. Using the right lens hood can give you back control and help you take the photos you’re aiming for.

When Shouldn’t You Use a Lens Hood?

Most of the time, we think it’s a good idea to keep your lens hood on. You usually don’t gain much from removing it when shooting. That said, there are a few exceptions to this rule that are worth exploring.

Once you gain a little more confidence in your skills as a photographer, it can be worth it to experiment with shooting without a hood. Read on to learn more.

When You’re Capturing a Sunset

You know those iconic sunset photos where the sun’s rays are streaking out across the scene? Chances are the photographer wasn’t using a lens hood. If you want to achieve similar results, this is one instance where removing the hood can be a good idea.

Just be sure to shoot carefully and avoid letting any unwanted dust or debris touch the glass of your lens.

When You Want a ‘Washed Out’ Flare Look

When used creatively, lens flare can add a certain, well, flair to your final image. If you’ve got some practice under your belt and want to experiment a little, this can be a great opportunity to take a photo that makes a lasting impression.

Experiment with how your available light enters your lens and practice taking awesome lens flare photos.

If Your Camera’s Flash Gets Blocked

This all comes down to the specific equipment you’re using. Some camera bodies use a built-in flash module that can get blocked by certain lens hoods. If you need to use your flash and are using one of these cameras, you may have to remove your hood for this.

It’s possible that you may be able to find a different lens hood that will fit more conveniently onto your lens. It’s always worth shopping around for options if you have the time.

If You Can See Your Lens Hood in Your Photos

Depending on the FOV of your lens, it’s possible that you’ll be able to see your hood in the photos that you take with it. If this is the case, you may want to either remove the hood entirely or look for a new one.

For wide-angle lenses, a tulip-style hood is usually the right way to go. The indentations built into these hoods are designed to tackle this issue.

How to Put on a Lens Hood

Wondering how to put on a lens hood? You’re in the right place. This section contains our guide to properly installing a new hood on your equipment. Remember that every lens and brand is a little different. Your specific hood should come with installation instructions when it arrives.

Our steps below are designed to be as universal as possible. Let’s get into it!

  1. Check the rim of your lens for unwanted dust or debris. Clean with a microfiber cloth if necessary.
  2. Position your lens hood in line with your lens and make sure that everything is aligned correctly
  3. Firmly turn the hood counterclockwise until you here a clear click

Keep the following in mind when installing your lens hood:

  • Make sure the hood is aligned properly before twisting
  • Make sure you’re using the right lens hood for your model of lens
  • Always handle your camera equipment with great care

How to Take Care of a Lens Hood

While most lens hoods are fairly simple pieces of equipment, they can still break and cost you significant amounts of money in damages if you’re not careful. In this section, we’ll outline a few top tips that should help you keep your equipment safe for years to come.

Store Backwards When Not in Use

This won’t work for literally every lens hood out there, but most models can be installed the ‘wrong way’ round. When you’re not using your camera, this can help protect the more fragile tips of your hood from unplanned knocks and drops.

A broken lens hood can be a frustrating piece of damage to deal with so it’s best avoided if at all possible.

Store in a Padded, Safe Environment

All electrical equipment needs to be stored in a safe environment to avoid damage from things like humidity, extreme temperatures, and sudden bumps. Using a dry cabinet for your gear can go a long way in keeping your gear safe.

Wondering how to safely store your lenses and other equipment? Check out our guide here. [LINK RECENT ARTICLE HERE].

Make Sure You’ve Got the Right Model

Some lens hoods will appear to fit just fine, even though they’re actually the wrong model for your lens. In some cases, this won’t be much of a problem at all. In others, this can put undue tension on the rim of your lens.

It’s worth double-checking the compatibility of any lens hood you consider. Just a little bit of research can save you hundreds of dollars in damages later on!

What Types of Lens Hood are There?

As if things weren’t confusing enough already, there isn’t just one type of lens hood to think about! For better or worse, you’ll have to get familiar with two kinds of hood – tulip hoods and round hoods.

Round Hoods

Round, or cylinder, hoods are the type we’ve been talking about thus far. They’re a standard shape and size and are the most common hood you’re likely to encounter when shooting. As mentioned earlier, their purpose is to shield your lens from unwanted rays of light that can cause flaring and distortion.

Tulip Hoods – What Does a Tulip Hood do?

These are sometimes referred to as petal hoods. These have small sections ‘cut’ out of them in the shape of a flower. They’re used mostly with ultra-wide and fisheye lenses. If these cuts weren’t present, you’d actually be able to see the edges of your hood when shooting!

To test this for yourself, try putting a round hood on your ultra-wide lens. It just doesn’t work most of the time!

Where Can I Find a Good Lens Hood?

Your specific camera brand should have a ton of options out there. The good news is that picking up a new one is usually pretty inexpensive. We list a few options below. We’ve tried to feature hoods that work with a broad spectrum of different lenses.

Canon Tulip

This option from Canon is designed to work with a broad range of their most popular lenses. Check it out here.

Sony E-Mount Hood

This Sony hood is built to work with a handful of the brand’s E-mount lenses. Take a look here.

Nikon Hood

If you’re using a Nikon lens, there’s a reasonable chance that this hood will work with it. Always double-check to be sure. It can be found here.

Tulip Lens Hood vs Round – Which Should I Use?

If you’re scratching your head wondering which type of lens hood you should use, don’t worry. You’re far from the first person to ask this question. The good news is that the answer is pretty straightforward.

If you’re using a wide-angle lens with a very open FOV, a tulip lens is probably the right option for you.

If you’re using a more standard lens, a round hood will work just fine. There’s a good chance that your lens came with a hood in the box. If this is the case, the hood type that you got will be the correct configuration for your gear.

Final Thoughts

We hope this page has helped to clear up any confusion. A lens hood is the type of accessory that is often forgotten until it’s needed most. In sunny or bright shooting environments, you’ll be glad you’ve got one.

Happy clicking!