Watch the video: landscape masterclass – filters
In our previous landscape projects, we’ve shown you how to improve your shots without spending any money, whether that’s working on composition or experimenting with different camera settings. Now we take a look at the best filters for photography, which come at an additional cost but are well worth the investment.
Filters are a landscape photographer’s best friend because they help you achieve effects that are not possible in post-production. They also help you get the shot as perfect as possible in camera, which is always the best practice.
There are so many filters to look at, so we’re going to go over the most useful and what they do, including Neutral Density (ND), Graduated NDs, Polarizers, Sunset Filters, and more. . Putting any type of glass in front of your lens will degrade image clarity, so it’s best to invest in a quality filter set to minimize this.
• Landscape photography masterclass: Familiarize yourself with composition
• Landscape photography masterclass: get creative with depth of field
• Landscape photography masterclass: slowing down time with shutter speed
01 Screw-type or square varieties
Filters are of two main types. Screw-ons can be cheaper and smaller because they screw directly into the front filter thread of your lens, but riser rings can be used to mount them on other lenses. Square filters tend to be more expensive, as you also have to purchase a filter holder system to go with them.
02 Keep your filters in perfect condition
Make sure to regularly clean the filters of any dust, dirt or fingerprints, as this will deteriorate the image quality, causing smoothness, dust spots or glare. It’s also worth investing in the best glass possible to minimize any degradation in image quality.
03 Protect your lens with a UV filter
Modern digital camera sensors usually already have a UV filter, so a screw-on UV filter is unlikely to have a strong effect. We find screw-on UV filters handy to protect the front element of your lens because a scratched filter is cheaper to replace than a front element!
• The best UV filters
04 Block the eyepiece on digital SLR cameras
When shooting long exposures, sunlight can seep through the optical viewfinder of digital SLR cameras, causing reflections to appear in your images. Canon’s digital SLR cameras come with an eyepiece cover on the camera strap that you can insert to prevent this.
05 Use a long exposure calculator
Calculate exposure times more easily with neutral density filters with an exposure calculator, like the Lee Stopper Exposure Guide app. It tells you the exposure to compose with a Lee Little, Big or Super Stopper in place (6, 10 or 15 stops respectively).
06 Quickly find the thread size of your filter
The fastest way to find your lens filter thread is to look at the writing on the front of the lens or on the back of the lens cap – ours says 58mm here. Beware of some wide-angle and fisheye lenses with a bulbous front element, as that means they probably don’t have a front filter thread – meaning you’ll likely need an expensive and specialized filter holder. larger filters, but check the specs to be sure.
How to use your filters
Slow down time with ND filters
Neutral Density (ND) filters act much like sunglasses for your camera and lens, reducing the amount of light entering and hitting the sensor. This is useful for many reasons, the most important of which is that it allows you to take pictures at slower shutter speeds, so you can give the sensor time to record the movement of moving items in your device. frame – such as people, clouds or water as in our example here.
With a bright sun and no filter, we had a shutter speed fast enough to freeze the waterfall, but with an ND filter we were able to slow the shutter speed down to 30 seconds to smooth out the flowing water in one. silky blur.
• The best neutral density filters
Balance the sky with a graduated ND filter
How do you capture very bright skies and a dark foreground in one image without losing detail? Graduated ND filters are the answer! Much like standard ND filters, they have a dark glass portion to block light at the top of the frame, often used to dim bright skies.
The rest of the filter is light to help capture detail in the darker foreground area. These filters are available in different strengths, such as 1, 3 or 6 stops, and are available in hard and soft varieties, for a harder or smoother transition between dark and light parts of the filter.
• Best ND grade filters
Use polarizing filters
Polarizing filters reduce the amount of unpolarized “scattered” light passing through the lens, making blue skies brighter and cutting out glare on reflective surfaces, such as glass and water. As some of the light is filtered out, your shutter speeds will be reduced to 1 and 2/3 stop at maximum effect. You will get best results when shooting 90º in the sun, so point your left index finger at the sun and your thumb will point in the best direction to shoot.
Polarizers only affect a small part of the sky, so it’s best to avoid wide-angle lenses to prevent your sky from looking uneven. Polarizers are linear and circular types. Linear can interfere with metering and autofocus systems, so circular polarizers are best.
• The best polarizing filters
• What is a circular polarizer?
Inject heat with Sunset filters
Sunset filters are colored pieces of glass that sometimes have a gradient across the top to enhance sunset or sunrise tones. They come in different shades, such as the typical sepia and darker tobacco, and even mahogany, which can be used to create a ‘red sky at night’ feel. These work best when shooting towards the sun at sunrise or sunset.
It’s also worth noting that you can hold square filters in front of the lens like we did here with a Sunset filter. This is useful if you are in a hurry and left your portafilter at home or need to take the picture quickly before the light changes. Just make sure you don’t put your fingers in the frame, as they will appear as dark spots!
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