The best light pollution filters are an excellent accessory to purchase whether you're a seasoned astrophotographer or just getting started. It will enhance your experience and help improve your images.
Roughly one hundred years ago, if you went outside at night, you could look up and spot several constellations in the sky. However, urbanization over the years has made this gadget essential. Nowadays, it is estimated that 80% of Americans can't even see the Milky Way from where they live.
This is primarily due to city light pollution, which prevents you from seeing stars unless you're far away from streetlights. In most towns and cities, only the 20 or so brightest stars are visible in downtown areas.
Although there are different kinds of light pollution, skyglow is the one most despised by astrophotographers. It causes the sky to brighten over inhabited areas and creates a horrible orangey-brown glow in your nightscapes. Skyglow also makes it harder to capture subjects in the night sky, even with one of the best cameras for astrophotography.
Enter light pollution filters. These nifty instruments block specific wavelengths in the visible spectrum of light associated with skyglow. There are two types of filters available. Broadband filters are the best choice for reducing light pollution in astrophotography shots (from galaxies and comets to Milky Way panoramas and all-sky images of meteor showers). Narrowband filters are more appropriate to allow the light from faint nebulas to shine through in your shots, creating more contrast and definition in your images.
The quick list
Best for urban skies
Best for urban skies
This is the best choice for photographers in urban areas who want more contrast in their images. It helps to eliminate skyglow found above urban areas.
Best for wider lenses
Best for wider lenses
With ten different filter sizes available, you have a pretty good chance of getting one that fits your favorite lens (except for 150mm). Hoya filters are relatively inexpensive but they are great at boosting contrast and clarity and reducing yellow skyglow.
Best choice of design
Best choice of design
There's a whole host of designs of the Kase Wolverine Neutral Night light pollution filter from screw on, to square plate as well as clip-in that fit over the sensors in mirrorless cameras. The glass is toughened and scratch resistant for peace of mind.
Best for drones
Best for drones
Uniquely, this filter fits on the DJI Phoantom 4 Pro and the DJI Mavic Pro drones. Its more suited for shooting night time cityscapes rather than starscapes. We'd recommend getting a hard-sided case to store it in.
Best for eco conscious
Best for eco conscious consumers
This filter strikes a good balance between affordability and quality. It comes from an environmentally conscious brand and cuts out yellow light to produce images truer to real color.
Best for removing orange glow
Best for removing orange glow
This reasonably priced filter blocks yellow and orange wavelengths to reduce the appearance of orangey skyglow. It is scratch and water-resistant.
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Best for Nightscapes
Best for Nightscapes
This filter is designed to reduce light pollution from artificial sources and enhance starlight. It makes nightscapes look more contrasty and more neutral. They also come in drone sizes.
Best light pollution filters we recommend 2023
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Best light pollution filters 2023
If you're into deep sky imaging of faint nebulas using CMOS or CCD cameras specifically designed to be used with telescopes then you may have heard of the Optolong L-Enhance light pollution filter. The follow-up is the L-eXtreme, an ultra-narrowband filter for urban astrophotographers who want more contrast in their deep-sky images of nebulas from their urban backyard.
This filter maximizes the faint light coming into a camera from nebulas while separating out and eliminating skyglow by isolating two wavelengths of light, H-alpha (Ha) and Oxygen III (OIII) at seven nanometers. The Optolong L-Enhance does, however, restrict the amount of light that reaches the camera sensor, which can also make focusing and framing more challenging. As a result, expect a slightly darker image.
The Hoya light pollution filter is very efficient in reducing the yellow, green, and brown color casts that sodium and mercury-vapor streetlights and other sources of general urban skyglow produce. The results are clear, contrasty nightscape images with more natural-looking colors than would be possible without the filter.
Don't let the name 'starscape' fool you; it can also be used to add more realistic color to your cityscape and landscape photographs.
Made in Japan, the high-quality Hoya Starcape comes in a myriad of sizes as a screw-on filter for camera lenses and has also now become available as a 100x100mm size for filter holders.
- Read our Sony E 11mm f/1.8 lens review
The Kase Wolverine Neutral Night light pollution filter is made for astrophotography and all other types of night photography, including cityscapes. To allow more of the reddish light from nebulas to appear in your photographs, it reduces the orangey glow from old-style (but still dominant) streetlights.
It comes in various designs, from screw-on filters for various lens sizes to a square plate (to fit Lee, Haida & Hitech, Cokin Z and NiSi 100mm filter holders) as well as clip-in style filters to fit over the sensor in mirrorless cameras from Canon, Nikon and Sony. Read our light pollution filter FAQ to discover which shape you need. For further durability, the Pro HD optical glass is toughened and scratch-resistant. It also comes with a filter pouch for travel and secure storage.
Natural Night was one of the first artificial light reduction filters sold and was created especially for night photographers. It is still a useful option for starscape shooters who want to reduce light pollution in their wide-angle photos. Available in a dizzying array of sizes, the Natural Night broadband filter effectively removes, or reduces, light pollution by blocking the yellow glow from sodium street lights.
Natural Night is unique in being available for the DJI Phantom 4 Pro and advanced DJI Mavic Pro drones, though that's typically for filming cityscapes at night rather than starscapes. The Natural Night filter is slightly more expensive than its competitors, but it does feature a water-repellent coating.
A word of caution: The glass is only 0.07-inches / 2mm thick and is therefore pretty fragile, so we'd recommend buying a hard-sided case to store it in.
- Read our DJI Mavic 2 Pro review
Urth (formerly GOBE) rebranded back in 2020 and launched some exciting new products, including their Neutral Night Plus+ light pollution filter.
It has a 20-layer Neodymium coating to cut light pollution’s warm color cast to capture truer colors and elevate your night photography, and they claim their glass is the best in the world (although we're pretty sure every one of these brands will want to say that). These nano-layers also provide a higher maximum light transmission and a more consistent transmission curve for sharper images, better colors and greater depth.
We love this brand's ethics and its attitude towards the environment and conservation. They believe that photography plays an important role in the global conservation movement and they are continuously improving their products to further minimize their impact. Not only is all their packaging sustainable, recycled and recyclable, but they also display their impact reports on their website and they plant 5 trees in areas affected by deforestation with every product sold (they've currently planted just under 7 million).
- An eco-conscious shopper? Check out the Silva Terra Scout XT headlamp
Available in limited sizes of circular filters and not at all for deep sky astrophotography, this filter is all about affordability. Don't expect it to eliminate the effects of broad-spectrum LED streetlighting (though that is true of many of the nightscape filters here), as it can only effectively block yellow and orange wavelengths of light from entering the lens. It does, however, reduce the appearance of orangey skyglow from sodium street lighting for night-sky photography.
Since it blocks out warmer light wavelengths, manufacturers advise photographers to use manual white balance and choose a color temperature between 700K and 1,500K to maintain accurate colors.
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Like many other broadband filters included here, the NanoPro Clear-Night Filter is designed to reduce light pollution from artificial sources and enhance starlight. It successfully eliminates the yellowish glow in (and from) cities and gives nightscape images a more contrasty appearance with a more neutral color cast. It doesn't reduce luminosity, so your images will still appear bright, and you'll likely have to darken the skies in one of the best photo editing apps.
The scratch-resistant NanoPro Clear-Night Filter is available in various sizes, both as circular filters and as filter inserts for filter holders. It is also available in tiny versions that can be put inside DJI drones to enhance their aerial footage at night.
- Take a look at some of the best beginner drones
Best filters for light pollution FAQ
Do I need one of the best light pollution filters?
Do you live in or near one of the best places for astrophotography and skywatching? Probably not. Whether or not you need a light pollution filter where you live — or where you intend to visit — will depend on where the location falls on a light pollution map. The measurements are done manually on the ground using a Sky Quality Meter (SQM), with results lower than 20 SQM meaning light polluted skies.
Another way of measuring the darkness of night skies is the Bortle scale, which rates skies from Class 1 (the darkest possible at 22 SQM) to Class 9 (inner-city skies at below 18 SQM). Read more in our How dark is your night sky? An observer's guide page. If you're in the latter, you're out of luck — no filter will get you great-looking astrophotography, but if you're in Class 5 or Class 6 suburban skies (about 19-20.5 SQM) then a light pollution filter can help night and astrophotographers enormously.
Do photography light pollution filters work?
Yes, light pollution filters for cameras work by reducing the effects of light pollution when taking astrophotographs. Before you choose a light pollution filter it's worth bearing in mind that they are most effective when used with astro-modified cameras, meaning cameras that are specifically designed to shoot astrophotography. This is because these cameras are made to be more sensitive to hydrogen-alpha wavelengths.
Do light pollution filters work on white LED streetlights?
The new generation of LED streetlights increasingly found in cities are more of a challenge to filter out because they emit light across a broader spectrum than traditional ones. This is important to keep in mind when choosing a filter to cut light pollution because most existing light pollution filters are designed to reduce the older, orange type that use sodium vapor to create the light.
What shape light pollution filter do I need?
Light pollution filters come in three distinct physical shapes and sizes: Circular filters that screw onto lenses, square filters that need to be used with a filter holder and finally tiny clip-in versions that can be placed over a camera's sensor. The former is best for wide-field starscapes and the latter for close-up astrophotography of celestial objects.
How much do light pollution filters cost?
Exact specifications, ideal uses and prices vary wildly between models, from under $20 to several hundred. We've made sure to include filters at a variety of price points so you can find the perfect accessory no matter what your budget is.
How we test the best light pollution filters
To guarantee you're getting honest, up-to-date recommendations on the best light pollution filters to buy here at Space.com we make sure to put every light pollution filter through a rigorous review to fully test each product. Each light pollution filter is reviewed based on many aspects, from its material, size, shape, compatibility and quality of filtration.
Each light pollution filter is carefully tested by expert staff or knowledgeable freelance contributors who thoroughly know their subject areas. This ensures fair reviewing is backed by personal, hands-on experience with each light pollution filter and is judged based on its price point, class, and destined use.
We look at how easy each light pollution filter is to insert, whether it has additional coatings, how fragile they are, and how it will improve your images. We want you to have the best photography experience possible.
With complete editorial independence, Space.com is here to ensure you get the best buying advice on light pollution filters, whether you should purchase one or not, making our buying guides and reviews reliable and transparent.