What Does a Lens Hood Do?

A 300mm DSLR lens placed on a stump with a round lens hood attached.
What could be more exciting than a 300mm lens with a lens hood sitting on a stump?

Every time I see one of my photography students with the lens hood on backward, I know they don't know what the lens hood does.

The lens hood is designed to reduce flare and protect the lens, among other things.

What Is the Purpose of a Lens Hood?

The lens hood is a piece of plastic that clips onto the front of a camera lens and extends beyond it.

Lens hoods serve two primary purposes: (1) reducing lens flare, and (2) protecting the lens from damage. 

The intended purpose of the lens hood is simply to reduce lens flare, but the protection it provides to the glass elements of the lens is a beneficial side-effect.

Why Are Many Lens Hoods Shaped so Funny?

What you're probably referring to is the shape of what is called a “petal lens hood.”

The shape of a petal lens hood allows it to extend as far as possible beyond the lens without showing up in the frame.

Lenses are circular, but the pictures we take are rectangular.

If these petal lens hoods were perfectly round, the corners of the hood would be in the picture.

The only thing worse than getting a lens hood in the picture is when you hand your point and shoot to Uncle Harry, who puts his finger right over the lens when he takes a picture… Ugh!

But not all lens hoods are petal lens hoods.

Some lens hoods are completely enclosed without the weird cut-out shape.

This type of lens hood is called a “round lens hood.” 

Prime lenses have round lens hoods more often than zooms because they don't have the added difficulty of keeping out of the way as the camera zooms out.

Should I use a lens hood on my camera?

The short answer is yes. I almost always have a lens hood on my camera. 

While shooting without a lens hood can still produce great pictures most of the time, if any light happens to bounce into the lens from the sides, the contrast and color in the image are significantly reduced.

Also, it is nice to have a lens hood for protection of the lens.

However, there are some lenses on which a lens hood is simply unnecessary.

I recently saw one of my photography students with a lens hood on his 50mm f/1.8 prime lens.

It looked quite strange because most people don't use a hood on that lens.

The reason is that the plastic on the lens already extends behind the glass of the lens, so the glass is recessed.

Therefore, the lens itself acts as a lens hood.

There is nothing wrong with using a lens hood on such a lens, but it is hardly necessary for most situations.

Do Lenses Come With a Lens Hood or Do I Need to Buy One?

Some lenses come with the hood, and others do not.

Canon generally provides a lens hood for the L series (professional) lenses, but not for the consumer level lenses.

For those lenses, you'll need to head on over to Amazon and buy one for a really affordable price.

If you are either really cheap or just love doing things yourself, you can actually make a lens hood by going to this website and following the directions.

61 thoughts on “What Does a Lens Hood Do?”

  1. Hi Patti MC, dunno if your question has been answered apart from this thread, but I think a circular polarizer is what you need. I’m also new to this but I happened upon such talk about the need for a CPL when taking shots through glass.

  2. Richard Joe-Leonn

    I’m also starting in photography I got asked to take a bunch of pictures of a retreat we do every year and the response was WOW nice pics.I’m an artist so I tend to see outside the box.This make for interesting pictures.

    I really don’t know what I’m doing but some how it works out I try not to use auto very much manual setting is a science

    I also tend to take pictures of structured perspective. Objects round and curved things I don’t even know what to call that kind of shooting anyway thanks for being here I to didn’t know what a hood was for now I know I have lot’s lot’s questions.

  3. I’m finding an issue with my lens hood and I think I know the answer, but would like confirmation from someone on this.

    I have an 18-135mm zoom and when I shoot with the lens hood on i’m finding that the images sometimes get cut off in the corners and while i’m assuming its because of the hood. Is the real reason because I shouldn’t be shooting with the lens hood on while at the widest point ie: 18mm???

    1. I think you’re using the wrong lens hood. You have to use the petal lens hood for zoom lens. I believe depending on your zoom lens you many need a specific type of hood.

  4. Thanks for the info on the lens hood.
    I went to the site for downloading the templates for a cardboard one to try out before I order one. I didn’t find one for the Canon 55 – 250 so I downloaded one for the 55 – 200. Will that work ok? Needless to say I am not a professional photographer. I am a painter and take photos to use as references for my paintings and also for taking photos of my finished paintings.

  5. Thanks for the informative piece on lens hood. I haven’t thought much about using it when out photographing but now I got to use it for the safety of my lens.

  6. If I primarily shoot with Canon 85mm 1.8 and 50mm 1.4 lenses, do you think hoods would be useful or would they be sort of pointless like you mentioned above about your student’s?

  7. I have a Nikon D3100 with the standard 18-55 lense could the hood change anything while shooting?

  8. What about a lens hood for an ultra wide lens? Like fish eye or just some 10-20mm? I would think because of the greater angle of view it would be more likely to show up.

  9. @Max @Ivy with regards to a UV filter it is really only a piece of clear glass which is really only there to keep your fingerprints, dirt, sand, etc off the front glass of the lens. I think that the UV name given to UT was to make us think it had something to do with filtering some sort of ultra violet light out. UV light is not something that the camera sensor would pick up just like infrared light. The exception to that being a camera without a IR filter built into the sensor or lense. Here is an artless explaining what they surmise a UV filter really it. (An up-sell item,if you keep your paws off the lens and don’t put it down in dirty places you really don’t need any protection for it except the lens cap.): photographylife.com/lens-filters

    I hope this information is helpful. On a side note everyone should own a good polarized filter. Went on a trip without one and photos came out kinda bad.

    A good DPreview article about lens filters: dpreview.com/articles/7333331953/should-you-use-a-uv-filter-on-your-lens

    A Petapixel article on the strength of UV filters: petapixel.com/2015/08/31/photo-mythbusters-how-much-do-uv-filters-actually-protect-your-lenses/

  10. I always have my lens hoods on backwards so they are easily accessible and I’m not searching for the right one for my lens in my bag. Let’s not assume that people are dumb because they do that.

  11. What about in low light situations? I shoot at roller skating rinks (daughter skates competitively). No flash allowed.

  12. Reading this makes feel like becoming a self proclaimed photographer,just to brag with “a little bit of professionalism “with a hood lens.

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