Lens Filters for Landscape Photography

While there are about a million and one different filter options you can use for your camera, there are plenty you simply don’t need when working in nature photography. A great example of this is the UV filter, which anymore is really only relevant if you want additional camera protection. But how do you pick and choose? To help reduce your accessories, increase your creativity power, and get the most for your money, professional landscape photographer Joshua Cripps recommends keeping these three filters in your camera arsenal:

1. Polarizing Filter

A polarizing filter is a must have for any photographer. This versatile filter removes harsh glare caused by bright sunlight and provides various effects you cannot replicate in Photoshop. Unlike other filter options, polarizing filters block scattered light. This helps to remove haze, improve color saturation, and deepens the blue within the sky. It can also be used to cut reflection, which provides better color, clarity, and depth to rocks, plants, and water within your images.

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Polarizing filters help to remove haze and improve color saturation.

2. Solid Neutral Density Filter

Solid neutral density filters are by far the most fun to work with, because unlike any other filter option out there, they let you manipulate time. Similar to other filters, solid neutral density filters cut the amount of light that enters your camera. While an ND filter can be used for a wide variety of applications, in landscape photography it is typically utilized to increase shutter speed. This allows the ability for longer exposure times to create effects such as smoothing out cloud movement or creating silky waterfalls. Plus, with a strong enough neutral density filter, you can even shoot long exposures during broad daylight.

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With long exposures, neutral density filters can be used to create surreal effects like silky waterfalls.

3. Graduated Neutral Density Filter

Graduated neutral density filters (also called neutrals) do not affect the colors of your photo. This filter’s only purpose is to reduce the amount of light that reaches your camera’s sensor. Generally, neutral filters have some sort of gradient that results in a fading effect from dark to clear within the frame. This filter option is perfect for scenes and landscapes where one area of your image is brighter than another (e.g. a sunset).

These filters are become less necessary, due to the ability to replicate the effect by combining exposures. However, Cripps still finds this filter an essential tool in a photographer’s arsenal, due to the graduated neutral density filter’s ability to capture scenes with movement or lots of dynamic range in a single exposure.

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You can capture a great sunset using a graduated neutral density filter or by using multiple exposures.

When working in landscape photography, there are only three filters you need in your camera arsenal: a polarizing filter, a solid neutral density filter, and a graduated neutral density filter. All the other filter options are either too gimmicky or you can replicate the effects using other means (such as Photoshop).

“There are lots of great things to do with a UV filter: use it as a coaster, play Frisbee with it, turn it into a monocle…” –Joshua Cripps’s thoughts on the many uses for UV filters

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