What does a lens hood do and why should you always have it on your camera? This is a question I am often asked – and it can seem so trivial a question, but it can make the difference between your lens acting like a cheap kit lens, or an expensive prime!
Okay let’s start with the basics – The lens hood is a piece of equipment that attaches onto the front of the camera. It is a large piece of plastic that extends beyond the front. What does it do? The lens hood blocks out light and reduces flare. You might tell yourself that you don’t need a lens hood because you are excellent at controlling the light when you’re snapping pictures, and you might be right. However, the lens hood does provide protection from the lens flares that you can’t see. It saves you the disappointment of developing ruined pictures.
The hood also protects the lens which is always a good thing. Most photographers have probably managed to scratch or break their camera lens at some point, so the protection provided by the lens hood is very beneficial. Even if you’re super careful with your camera the elements can still do quite a work on you lens. Snow, rain, or wind can all damage your camera, and the protection of a lens hood is quite nice in those situations.
Lens hoods can look kind of funny since they come in multiple shapes. The reason for these odd shapes is to allow the hood to extend out as far as possible without actually getting in the way. Certainly everyone has taken a picture that would’ve been just perfect if only your dumb friend hadn’t covered part of the lens. It would be awfully lame if the lens hood got in the way of your photos, so that’s why the shapes can be kind of strange looking.
So should I use a lens hood?
That depends a lot on what you’re doing to be honest. In most cases the answer would be yes. The lens hood almost always brings more benefits to the table than problems. The only times you may want to consider running without one is if you have a super fancy camera with a very special lens. Some lenses have built in mechanisms that reduce the flare that the lens hood would normally take care of, like plastic that extends outwards beyond the actual lens. Then again, the protection provided by the lens hood is still an added plus to consider.
Some might feel like the lens hood gets in the way when shooting macro. This is a rare occurrence though, but the lens hood might make it difficult to zoom in and get really close to small subjects. Most exceptions that would require you to remove the lens hood can be worked around though.
So to sum it all up: It is almost always better to have a lens hood for a couple of reasons. It blocks the lens flare and protects your camera lens. They are not very expensive and you could probably pick one up online for less than $50 dollars. That is if you are unlucky and your camera doesn’t come with a hood already. The lens hood is definitely a must have for any photographer.