I may be in the minority but I never take my gear out without a lens hood mounted to my lens. Some of you hate them or think they are unnecessary. I disagree. I find them very valuable and here’s why.
1. The lens hood shades the front of your lens to prevent unwanted flare or a washed out image. It stops the stray light from bouncing around the lens barrel. (Even indoors or at night there can be stray light that causes flare. Even when you can’t see it, flare can impact your photos – making them slightly less sharp and/or less color accurate.)
2. It offers damage protection in case you bump the front of your lens into something that could damage it. I like to think of it as a bumper. People will put a cheap filter in front of their lens to protect it, when a lens hood is usually much better at doing that job.
3. If you need to shoot fast, you can often rely on the lens hood to protect your lens while the lens cap is off. My friends who are photojournalists never use lens caps. They think it slows down having the camera at the ready. But they all use lens hoods.
I always try to use the manufacturer’s lens hoods because they are designed to reduce shade or shadow without vignetting. I will make exceptions and go with old-fashioned collapsible rubber lens hoods if I don’t like the manufacturer’s hood. There are more choices than ever before at your local camera store or at B&H.
*If you’re an Olympus user here’s a heads up. Some of the Olympus lenses have a cosmetic cover that installs over the bayonet mount on the front of the lens. This needs to be rotated off the lens for some Olympus lens hoods to attach to the lens.
**I am old school in every way, so I like metal lens hoods, but they are hard to find.