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Is it ok to use a lens hood in low light?

I have read some of the other questions about lens hoods (for example, this one) and I hope that this is specific enough to not be considered a duplicate.

My understanding is that lens hoods block out “stray light”. I had my lens hood on when I was shooting indoors in relatively low light, and someone said to me that I shouldn’t do that because it blocks out light.

Based on my understanding, I would think it’s fine to keep the lens hood on since it only blocks out light outside the frame. What do you say?

3 Answers 3

It should be fine, but watch out for shadows if you are using flash. Wide angles lenses, particularly with APS-C / DX, tend to throw a shadow, especially with on camera flash. Having the lens hood on makes this shadow bigger since it’s adding a few inches to the end of the lens.

See Len Abrams answer below for the benefits of a hood in long exposure shots.

If anything using a lens hood is more important in low light than in normal circumstances. I do a lot of low / available light photography with long exposures (20 – 30 secs) where glare and flare are often a big problem which you cannot easily anticipate as you do not ‘see’ these effects with the naked eye under low light conditions. I always use a lens hood and sometimes have to go further and improvise with hand held shields to block stray light. Referring to the second sentence of your question – “blocking out light” from outside the field of view is precisely what you are trying to do. If you are deliberately using available / low light to avoid some of the often intrusive and unwanted effects of flash, the shadow effects of the lens hood would not be a problem anyway.

Certainly it’s okay to use a lens hood in low light — it doesn’t block anything that would be involved in making the picture unless it’s the wrong size or shape for the lens you’re using. (In fact, it makes a better lens protector than the oft-suggested UV filter since it usually has a bit of give and doesn’t degrade the image at all.)

Is it ok to use a lens hood in low light? I have read some of the other questions about lens hoods (for example, this one) and I hope that this is specific enough to not be considered a

should I be shooting with a lens hood or no lens hood indoors?

Should I be shooting with a lens hood or no lens hood indoors? How about if I’m using a hot shoe flash or off camera flash?

I have read that using a lens hood may improve contrast.

Should I be shooting with a lens hood or no lens hood indoors?

i would use a lens hood at all times and at all locations.

How about if I’m using a hot shoe flash or off camera flash?

i would use a lens hood with all on-/off-camera flash unless the light is blocked by the hood of a longer lens.

I have read that using a lens hood may improve contrast.

yes, a lens hood improves contrast.

thank you, I thought that was the case, but I read a review by someone whose first name starts with a “K” that said (and I quote) “lens hoods are for wimps”- that the lens coatings were sufficient- I thought that was crazy.

It would be nice if you can post some pictures (if possible) taken indoors, with and without hood. That will make the point more clear.

I personally use hood all the time now (someone on DPR advised to use it) but previously I did not used it all the time. Now, when I see pictures with and without hood taken indoors at different time, I really cannot make big difference between them. Well that may be possible because I have just started into photography.

thank you, I thought that was the case, but I read a review by someone whose first name starts with a “K” that said (and I quote) “lens hoods are for wimps”- that the lens coatings were sufficient- I thought that was crazy.

You could try both approaches and see how it works for you in the conditions you shoot in.

I don’t know for sure, but I think a lot of these “thou shalt..”/”thou must. ” type rules are averages across lots of scenarios.

If you’re shooting in reasonably similar conditions most of the time, then just try out both approaches and see if either approach yields better results in your target viewing media.

Then you can choose – for those conditions – on actual first hand experience and knowledge.

Personally I take a lot of K’s opinion as questionable and it appears inconsistent to me.
I find his site occasionally useful for finding specs and if I’m really bored, light entertainment.

It would be nice if you can post some pictures (if possible) taken indoors, with and without hood. That will make the point more clear.

I personally use hood all the time now (someone on DPR advised to use it) but previously I did not used it all the time. Now, when I see pictures with and without hood taken indoors at different time, I really cannot make big difference between them. Well that may be possible because I have just started into photography.

A lens hood will stop stray light from entering the lense and washing out the picture. If you are indoors and don’t have strong light source shining stray light into the lens it won’t really make a differnce. However it will still protect the lens and shooting with the lens hood on all the time is a good habit to have.

For reference while outside, this video show the difference a lens hood can make.

If using flash, especially the on camera flash, the lens and lens hood, can intrude into the light path from the flash. This will cause a pretty distinctive shadowing in the lower portion of an image. Not as likely to prove a problem at longer focal lengths or higher shoe mounted flashes. Still, worth checking, especially at wider focal lengths or big, fat, fast lenses.

Lens hoods were mainly used outdoors for preventing stray side lights from going into the lens and causing flares. With new improved lens coatings the lens hood became less useful except for really bright lights hitting the edge of the lens. Now the lens hood is used mainly to protect the lens specially if you’re not going to put a lens cap during a shoot. Using the lens hood indoors is overkill for regular shooting with flash but might be different with off hot shoe shooting and multiple flash use. On shoe/in camera flash use you will see the lens hoods ruining the pictures.

A lens hoods protects the front of a lens, that’s a fact. My own experience is that there have been so many time I swung the camera and the lens hood hit something hard enough that it caused serious scratches on the hood. Just last week, my camera hit the corner of a desk with the lens hood in reversed position. That hit broke a UV filter, but luckily the lens survived. Had the hood in the right position, I wouldn’t lose an expensive filter. I say have the lens hood on at all times, it may cause you some inconveniences, but it would save your expensive lens and UV filter.

I don’t have the expertise nor the scientific equipment to test and prove that a lens hood would do you shots better. In my opinion, stray light is stray light, it can well be both indoor or outdoor. And since you want to put your hood on for protection, why not keep it on for both indoor or outdoor shots?

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