If you want to get serious with your landscape photography, one of the things you should endeavor to learn is how to use filters to enhance the quality and the look of your photos. Most times, even with the best camera, you may not get exactly what you need; post-processing of the image will help you to make certain adjustments in order to make the photo more attune with your needs. However, it is more important that you make the necessary adjustments at the time of capture to give you something more special to work with when it is time for post-processing your photos.
Fortunately, there are tons of filters you can use to get the job done. Some filters such as neutral density, polarizers, and graduated neutral density filters can be used to capture your scene in more interesting and creative ways.
If you want to produce more dynamic images, this short tutorial will help you learn a thing or two about how you can use filters during capture to enhance your work.
1. Improve Your Sky Scene with a Polarizer
Polarizers are great, it is one of most important tools every serious photographer must have. These filters work by helping the camera to filter out light that is reflected directly towards the camera at certain angles.
In most cases, when you want to photograph a landscape with a blue sky, haze can mar your work, it can make the sky to be less vibrant. You can solve this problem by using a polarizer filter to minimize the haze. This will also help you to reveal the true blue of the sky. In order to achieve, it is important that you aim your camera at a 90 degree angle from the sun or with the sun to your side.
2. Reveal The Element Underneath the Water with a Polarizer
One problem most photographers encounter when photographing a water body such as a stream or lake is that the light reflects off the water surface in such a way that makes it hard to see what is below the water surface. In most cases, you would want to make your image more interesting by incorporating some elements underneath the surface such as fish, rock, or even logs from fallen trees in your photograph. To achieve this, you can use polarizer to eliminate the reflecting light and reveal what's beneath the surface.
Note that you don't have to completely eliminate the reflecting light in order to see what is underneath, you can still retain some reflecting light by rotating the filter just a little bit, this will help you see what's underneath, retain some reflecting light, and make your photo more colorful.
3. Darken the Sky with a Graduated Neutral Density Filters
Graduated neutral density filter is another important filter you can use to enhance your photos. You can use this filter to correct a high amount of contrast in your landscape photo, especially when you are photographing at sunrise or sunset. This high amount of contrast is usually present between the sky and the foreground and forces you to make choices of what should be exposed properly.
As sophisticated as most modern digital cameras are, nature still pushes your camera to its limits in term of how much you can capture in just one image. With graduated neutral density filters, you can be able to decrease the dynamic range of an image by darkening the brighter sides such as the sky. The aim of doing this is to make it fall in range of what your camera can capture.
If you are using a hard-edged ND graduated filter, utilize the "Live View" feature on your camera to see the positioning of the filter over the lens. Pay attention to the way the foreground exposure changes in relation to the sky so that you won't overdo it. Use a less dense filter such as 2-stop ND filter if the sky is getting too dark in relation to the foreground.
4. Control the Motion of the Water with Neutral Density Filter
When you are photographing moving water, it is possible to create different moods by adjusting the way you capture water. You can get more calm and peaceful mood with longer exposures or the power of a river going over the falls with shorter exposures.
By using neutral density filters on the shutter, you can be able to evoke both moods discussed above by limiting the amount of light you allow to enter your camera lens. You can do this by adjusting the speed of the shutter to get the effect of motion you need. You can possibly use 3-stop ND filter to slow down waterfalls to get a peaceful look but this may not serve the purpose when you want to capture waves on the ocean. You may require 4 or 5-stop ND filter to get the right exposure you need to slow the motion down so you can capture water exactly the way you want it. You can eliminate waves completely and even slow down your shutter speed to a minute or more by using a 10-stop neutral density filter. This will indeed help you to create a calm scene that looks extremely peaceful.
5. Create Motion in Clouds with Neutral Density Filters
Clouds are very important in landscape photography. They add depth and drama to a quality landscape, thereby making your photo more interesting and dynamic. With neutral density filters, you can make your photos look more creative by capturing the movement of clouds and blurring them to create a sense of flight and speed in your scene. This can be achieved using ND filters such as Vü Filter’s 10-stop or Lee’s Big Stopper 10-stop ND filter.
With these filters mentioned above, you will be able to slow down the shutter speed and capture the motions of the cloud. Note that the longer the exposure, the more movement you will be able to capture.