When Lens Hoods Just Aren't Enough

The rubber, plastic or metal hoods that come with most zoom lenses do a fine job of protecting the front of the lens from the dings and dents that accumulate with frequent use, but fail miserably at their primary function; preventing internal glare and optical flare from light sources outside of the frame.

As zoom focal lengths get ever wider, lens hoods--once known as sunshades--get ever shallower, lest they begin to appear in the corners of a wide shot. The proper solution to this problem is a matte box--an adjustable filter stage with movable barn doors mounted in place of the lens hood--or a flag--a non-reflective piece of opaque material--mounted on a movable arm attached either atop the camera or to a specially positioned stand.

The only problem with matte boxes and flags is that they generally aren't found in the grip and camera kits of most solo videographers, forcing them to shoot one handed while trying to block the offending rays with an open hand, empty cassette box, or the program of the event they are covering.

Here's an alternative. Attach a few strips of self-adhesive Velcro to the top of the lens hood and mating strips to a castoff barndoor or an 8x10-inch piece of black foam core. Position this lightweight flag atop the hood while standing in front of the camera so you can see when you've cast a shadow on the front element; it's easier than trying to do this with your eye to the finder. By the way, if you place the loop side of the Velcro on the lens hood, it won't snag every fuzzball and loose thread it comes in contact with.