How To Use Filters To Enhance Your Nebula Photos

Astrophotography requires a lot of different techniques to ensure you get the best possible results. One popular way to do this is to add filters to your camera to ensure you get the best possible results.

How To Use Filters To Enhance Your Nebula Photos

However, it can be difficult to find the right filters. Most filters are not made the same, so we’ll be figuring out the best type to enhance your nebula photos (see also: How To Use Software To Enhance Your Planet Photos). 

In this article, you’ll learn about the different types of filters available and how to use them.

1. Broadband Light Pollution Filters

One of the biggest issues for anyone doing astrophotography is light pollution. If you live in the city, you’ll struggle to find a good spot to take your photo, as it’s impossible to see the stars in the night sky.

You must be incredibly lucky to see even the brightest of stars. That’s why you should get a light pollution filter.

Using a light pollution filter, you will find that it cancels out the light waves from street lights and other lights from Earth, allowing you to get a clearer view of the cosmos.

They are known as broadband light pollution filters due to the broad scope of wavelengths that it allows to pass through the wavelength.

Use a broadband light pollution filter. It will allow more natural light to pass through, offering more contrast and color to your photos.

However, even though it blocks light pollution, it will still allow nebulae emissions to pass through. Your nebula will appear clearly defined in your photos.

As an added bonus, it will allow you to explore further into the galaxy (see also “The Art Of Capturing Stunning Galaxies“). To use one, you either need a clip-in filter that you can clip onto your camera’s body. It will rest in front of the shutter and sensor, with the camera lens on top.

The second type of broadband light pollution filter is the lens-mounted filter. These go onto the end of your camera lens and are easy to place on your lens and remove them.

However, you need to ensure you have one that will fit on all your lenses if you have multiple sizes. 

2. Diffusion Filters

When shooting the sky at night, we recommend using a diffusion filter. These remove most noise from the atmosphere, allowing your stars to become more prominent in the night sky.

Using this filter, you can easily pinpoint different planets and constellations. However, these aren’t too suitable for deep-space photos.

These are easy to use, so you can thread it onto the end of your camera’s lens. However, you should ensure you have the right size for your lens.

You can also use a filter mount to attach to the end of your lens, but be warned, you will have to buy the mount and filter separately. 

3. Graduated Neutral Density Filters

While not often associated with astrophotography, like a diffusion filter, they’re not exactly suitable for deep-sky photos. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t know about them.

Graduated neutral density filters are great for any photos that incorporate the night sky and other landscape features. In fact, these are great when you want to brighten the terrestrial objects so they shine out as much as your nebulae.

You can easily get a graduated neutral density filter to thread or screw onto your lens. However, you won’t be able to adjust your filter. Other types include clip-on ones that you can attach to the end of the lens and those you can put on filter mounts. 

This filter is useful because you can block some amounts of light from specific sections of your photo. So, you can adjust it to cover the brighter section of your photo and focus on the darker aspects. 

4. Line Filters

If you want to exclude light emissions from artificial lighting and reduce the level of noise in the atmosphere, then a line filter could be best for you. Using a line filter, you can select one emission line and ensure no other light can pass through. 

There are several different types: 

  • Hydrogen Alpha
  • Hydrogen Beta
  • Oxygen III

Using these filters, you can focus on those light emissions. Hydrogen-alpha filters will sit at the end of the red end of the spectrum, while hydrogen beta is better for blue. Oxygen III, however, will emit a green light.

To use a line filter, you will need a camera suited for astronomy or one that has been adjusted for astrophotography. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have any clip-on options.

You’ll need a DSLR or mirrorless camera to use your line filter, but they will also work with CCD cameras. 

5. Narrowband Filters

On the opposite spectrum of your broadband filter is the narrowband filter. Instead of allowing a broad wave of light in, a narrowband will only allow a small selection of waves to pass through.

They select the main emissions from your nebulae, allowing them to pass through the sensor and nothing else. Every other light wavelength is blocked.

Emission nebulae are some of the most common shots in the night sky, composed of four glasses. These gasses have a light line, otherwise known as an emission line.

Most of these filters focus on Hydrogen Beta and Oxygen III emissions, allowing them to focus on blue and green images. So, if you want stars with a blue or green tint, this could be a great filter for you.

These filters are also known as Ultra High Contrast filters, as it contrasts the blocked light and the light from the selected light lines. These are best to shoot emissions, planetary nebulae, and the remnants of a supernova.

To use one, you’ll need a DSLR and mirrorless camera, or even a CCD camera, which is the most commonly used for astronomy.

You may also be able to find clip-on filters that fit Canon and Nikon DSLRs. Still, they usually need to be adjusted for astrophotography. 

6. Solar Filters

It should come as no surprise to anyone that you shouldn’t look directly at the sun, especially when you’re practicing astrophotography.

If you take a photo of the sun without a solar filter, your camera sensor will break, and you will blind yourself. That’s why you should use a solar filter, which is the filter you should use when taking a photo of a solar eclipse.

Using a solar filter will limit the amount of power and light the sun emits, which allows you to photograph it. While not ideal for nebulae unless you’re looking toward the sun, you should invest in one, especially if you want to catch an eclipse in the future.

To use a solar filter, you simply need to attach it to the end of your lens. Just remember that your solar filter shouldn’t sit between the lens and the sensor.

As sunlight is so powerful, you should use your solar filter to protect your sensor and the lens from getting damaged.

Why Should You Use Filters?

Now that we’ve discussed the filters you should use let’s talk about why you should use them. Filters are essential to ensuring you can take a great shot without worrying about the quality.

While not all filters are made equal, and not all of them are suitable for astrophotography, they all have their uses. Some of these filters will only be useful depending on the type of astrophotography you plan to take part in.

Not all of these filters will be needed to enhance your nebula, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t experiment with them.

All types of filters can be used to take amazing shots of the night sky and produce a wide array of colors that you wouldn’t get without them. They can also be used to protect your vision or allow you to see clearer into the night sky. 

Final Thoughts

Filters are vital to any astrophotographer, and they can make a difficult shot much easier. If you’re new to astrophotography, we recommend you check out these filters, even if you think you don’t need them.

They will allow you to experiment with new shots that you otherwise might not have considered. 

If you would like to know more about astrophotography and gain some tips and tricks on how to get a good shot, consider checking out our other posts. We have a wide range of photography advice that is perfect for astrophotography and all other types.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is The Best Filter For Photographing Nebula?

We recommend using narrowband filters to capture the emissions found in the night sky. You can take shots of different colors and isolate any colors you don’t want in the photos.

How Well Do Light Pollution Filters Work?

Light pollution filters will only take away light, dimming everything in the shot. However, they will brighten the background sky and any stars in the sky.

It contrasts the night sky with the landscape and makes celestial objects easier to find. However, some may find that you can’t see well without a small telescope with it.

Laura McNeill
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