When shooting photography, you want to take advantage of your light source but not let it take advantage of you.
Too much light, whether it be artificial or natural, can cause “lens flare”, which will show up on your photos as little orbs of light.
While some photographers use this natural effect to their advantage, others would rather remove it entirely from their photography.
However, sometimes you don’t want to move or reduce your light even if it’s causing artifacts to appear in your photos.
Luckily, there are a couple of ways to minimize the effect that intense, direct light has on your camera lens.
Two great options are by using either a lens hood or a matte box.
You may be asking what the differences are between a lens hood vs. matte box—let’s start from the beginning.
What is a Lens Hood?
A lens hood is a piece of plastic or rubber that is affixed to your camera lens and extends beyond the lens as a means to shield it from intense light.
Lens hoods typically come in two varieties: cylindrical or “petal” shaped.
Both shapes perform in the same manner—the difference is purely aesthetic.
While a lens hood’s primary purpose is to shield your camera lens from lighting artifacts, it serves a secondary purpose as well.
If you’ve ever shot photography, even in a studio setting, then you know that clumsiness can occur at any time without notice.
A dropped camera can be catastrophic, as camera lenses can cost an arm and a leg.
However, a lens with a lens hood attached faces much better odds of avoiding damage in the event of physical trauma.
More than likely your lens hood, even a cheap one, will take the brunt of the impact.
A broken lens hood is a much better outcome than a broken lens.
What is a Matte Box?
On the other hand, a matte box is a camera accessory that serves a very similar purpose but goes about its solution in its own unique way.
Rather than cover the lens, a matte box typically attaches itself to a portion of the camera body, where it completely envelops the camera lens in a large, rectangular extension.
Within that extension are slots, which can hold various filters to manipulate the color tone and various other components of your photography.
A matte box is oftentimes more expensive than a lens hood.
It would technically still offer your camera lens protection from damage as well.
However, one thing it does that a lens hood does not support is the addition of camera filters.
When answering the lens hood vs. matte box question, it’s best to ask yourself how you plan to use your camera.
When to Use a Lens Hood?
A lens hood is great for both indoor and outdoor photography.
Lens hoods vary in price, but they all function in much the same way.
To be blunt, you’re often paying a little more for a name brand in regards to lens hoods—a more expensive hood doesn’t always equate to increased performance.
It’s best to use a lens hood when you’re trying to reduce lens flare.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that a camera lens with a lens hood affixed could avoid physical damage if dropped, so they’re a great asset for that reason as well.
Furthermore, a nice lens hood makes your photography setup look that much more professional to clients.
If you’ve been in this industry long, then you know that looks are almost everything!
When to Use a Matte Box?
Matte Boxes are most commonly seen on video cameras—they’ve quickly become an aesthetic feature of the film industry.
To be honest, a nice film camera without a matte box doesn’t have the high-end “look” of a professional shoot.
However, matte boxes are still great for still photography as well.
While they’re a bulkier alternative to a lens hood, they typically completely enclose your camera and even some of the camera body.
Moreover, they certainly do their part to eliminate unwanted lens flare. Do matte boxes do it better? Not really.
Where matte boxes really shine are in their accommodation of filter lenses, which can be slid into the slots commonly found on a standard matte box.
However, with post-processing the way it is today, glass filters are quickly becoming a thing of the past.
What Sizes do Matte Boxes Come in?
Matte boxes come in two common sizes; 4×4 inches and 4×5.65 inches, which follow a typical 16:9 ratio.
While you may find some nonstandard sizes on the market, those two sizes are what makes up 99% of the market.
Matte boxes are measured by the size of the filter that can be slid into the box’s slotted area.
While there may be such a thing as a small matte box, they have to fit over a camera body, which makes them a little bulky no matter what.
Best Lens Hoods
Lens hoods are one of the most inexpensive and versatile camera accessories you can invest in.
They’re low cost enough that you should have no problem getting one of each of your cameras.
With that said, some are lower cost than others and you’re always going to pay more for a name brand.
58 MM Lens Hood Set
Why not get two for the price of one?
This set offers both popular lens hood styles.
Best of all, the cylindrical hood is made of durable but soft rubber, which is collapsible for efficient storage.
58MM Tulip Flower Lens Hood for Canon Rebel
The Canon Rebel is one of the most prolific “prosumer” cameras on the market, which makes this lens hood a good fit if you own any of the popular Canon DSLR brands out today.
Furthermore, the tulip shape of the hood will add a certain elegance to your setup.
You can’t beat a certified Canon lens hood.
Canon has always been known for their craftsmanship and their tulip-styled lens hood is no exception.
While you may end up spending more money on this hood than others, the name brand could be worth it for appearances.
Best Matte Boxes
Matte box lens mounts vary wildly in their price point.
However, since they are of a more complicated design than a lens hood, you’re better off spending a little extra money for a more reliable product.
Fotga DP500III 4×4 DSLR Swing-Away Matte Box
Using this matte box will make even the most “prosumer” DSLR camera look like something you paid thousands of dollars for.
The matte box body is CNC machined with a faux carbon-fiber pattern.
What truly makes this box stand out is the sheer size of its “wings”, which operate independently of each other to give you a complete range of motion and plenty of freedom to adjust them to perfectly block lens flare.
Foto4easy DP3000 Swing Away Matte Box
The Foto4easy DP3000 is a great mid-range matte box that offers plenty of bells and whistles under a sophisticated design that’ll make your clients truly think you’re a high-end photographer.
Each flap is designed specifically to offer a range of motion custom adjusted to the standard camera focal lengths so as not to get in the way of your shot.
The box also comes with 2 filter trays, so you can have fun experimenting with pre-Instagram camera filters—the way your grandparents did it.
CAMTREE Camshade Professional Wide Angle Matte Box
CAMTREE offers a unique design with its “camshade” model of matte box.
The back of the box features a canvas design that universally covers most camera bodies, no matter their shape.
The box features both French door and barn door flaps, to give you complete freedom to adjust each flap exactly how you see fit.
The box allows one 4×4 filter.
Now I want to hear from you!
Is there something I missed or is there a new lens hood or matte box you want to try out?
Let me know in the comments down below!
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Nate Joaquin Torres is a portrait photographer based in Southern California. As a photographer, Nate loves testing different photography styles and gear to expand his skill set. Outside of photography, Nate enjoys learning about new digital marketing strategy and new ways to think creatively. Nate is also the founder of Imaginated.com, DEEP IN THE MIX, and Blue Hour Candle. Connect with him on Instagram.