- Polarizing filters help reduce glare off of surfaces like water while also making the sky pop, with deeper blues and bright whites that give clouds added definition. Polarizers also help cut the effect of haze, helping you create images that have more clarity and definition.
- Neutral density filters have a darkened coating that makes long exposure photography a possibility during the daytime. If you want to create images of water like the one shown above, a neutral density filter is a must have.
- Graduated neutral density filters give you greater control over the exposure of your landscape photos. Often, you'll find that the sky is very bright but the landscape itself is much darker - which poses a problem for your camera which often can't accommodate such a wide dynamic range. A graduated neutral density filter helps reduce that dynamic range by darkening the sky and leaving the landscape as-is for a better-exposed photo.
When it comes to landscape photography, I'd have to say it's the most popular of the bunch.
Sure, portraits are fun. Street photography is a rush. Abstracts challenge your creativity in ways other genres can't.
But for me, there's just something about being out in the fresh air, capturing photos of the gorgeous scenery nearby.
When I started taking landscape photos, I did it with a hand-me-down camera, an old lens, and a tripod I picked up from a big box store for about $20.
Needless to say, I didn't have the best gear (or even a complete set of gear, for that matter...), but I had fun, and more importantly, I honed my skills as a photographer.
However, to take the next step and become a better photographer with improved results, I had to upgrade my kit.
And I know what you're thinking...it's not the gear that creates beautiful landscapes, it's the photographer.
That's definitely true, but each of us will find a time when our talents as a photographer and our desires for the types of photos we wish to create outstrip the capabilities of the equipment we use.
In that spirit, I've put together a quick list of what I think is the most essential gear for landscape photography.
I'm not about to poo-poo the use of smartphones and point-and-shoot cameras for landscapes.
In fact, I've used my phone to take plenty of photos, and in some cases, I prefer them over the ones I've taken with my DSLR or mirrorless camera.
That being said, having a DSLR or mirrorless body is advantageous simply because of the greater level of control you have over the situation.
You can more easily make adjustments to the exposure settings, manipulate the depth of field, freeze or blur movement, change the white balance, and so on.
Plus, working with a full-featured camera gives you the opportunity to learn the technical aspects of photography in a way that's just not as easy to do with a smartphone or a point-and-shoot.
If you need some recommendations, check out our camera reviews for in-depth details about some of the best cameras on the market today.
From a practical standpoint, the lenses you use for landscape photography are the single most important piece of equipment you have in your kit.
You can have an old, beat up camera, and still take phenomenal photos.
Conversely, it's much harder to take good photos with an old, beat up lens.
Though it's often tempting to buy a high-end camera first, the reverse should actually happen.
If you have a DSLR or mirrorless camera, keep using it but upgrade your lens. That will have the single largest impact on the quality of your photos.
When looking for a lens for landscape photography, a good place to start is with a wide-angle.
These lenses have a wide-angle of view (thus the name) that allows you to capture more of the scene before you.
That means that you can use the shorter focal length to give you more flexibility in terms of framing and composition.
Though lenses can run into the thousands of dollars, you don't need to spend a bunch of money to get a good lens.
Wide-angle lenses can be found for a few hundred dollars that are compatible with various makes and models of cameras.
There are other options too, including standard and telephoto lenses.
Check out this in-depth guide to landscape photography lenses for more details.
Adding a top-notch lens to your kit isn't the only optic you need to maximize the quality of your photos.
To really pull as much detail and visual punch out of the scene as you can, you need to add a set of filters to your kit as well.
There are various types of filters that are useful for landscape photography:
The great thing about filters is that you can get them in packaged bundles so you have multiple filters at your disposal.
One such bundle is the ND + ND Grad Combo Kit by Formatt-Hitech.
As the name states, this kit gives you the power of neutral density and graduated neutral density filters in one package.
That means you can dive into long-exposure photography with your neutral density filters and create stunning landscapes with a much-improved level of exposure with your graduated neutral density filters. Get a closer look at Formatt-Hitech's graduated ND filters in the video below:
The Formatt-Hitech neutral density filters come in 1, 2, and 3-top variations, as do the graduated neutral density filters, giving you six filters in one kit.
Use the 1-stop ND filter to extend your shutter speed at dawn or dusk, or add the 3-stop graduated ND filter to darken the sky without darkening the landscape below.
Some photographers argue that filters aren't necessary because many of the effects you can get with an ND, graduated ND, or polarizer can be achieved in post-processing.
But if you ask me, the more that's done in post-processing, the more the image looks like it was processed.
For my money, adding filters to your kit so you can make adjustments in the field is the better way to capture a landscape photo.
I know that in years past when I was out taking landscape photos, I was often in such a rush to get images of everything I saw that I left my tripod in the car, that way I could work more quickly.
Then I realized that even though I could take more photos the faster I worked, the quality of those photos was degraded.
By not taking my time to think about the interplay between my lens and the landscape, the landscape and light, and how I was framing the shot, I was creating a whole bunch of photos that weren't at all worthy of showing off.
So, though a tripod has the obvious benefits of giving your camera the stable base it needs to get the clearest, sharpest results, a tripod is also a tool you can use to slow things down and get the best shot you're capable of getting.
Besides, once you start using your neutral density filters for long exposures, you'll have to mount your camera to a tripod to avoid camera shake.
Actually, using a tripod for a regular exposure helps avoid camera shake as well, so adding a solid tripod to your kit is a must-have in my book.
As an experiment, take a few landscape photos by holding your camera, and then take a few more of the same scene with your camera on a tripod. The chances are that you will see a difference in the sharpness and quality of the photo.
Learn more about good tripods for landscape photography.
Wrapping It Up
This isn't an exhaustive list of all the gear you need as a landscape photographer, but it will certainly serve you well to get improved photos.
Remember that, yes, ultimately it's your creative eye that will have the most influence on the quality of the shot, but having the appropriate gear will help you get your creativity out of your mind and onto your camera's sensor with much greater ease.
Don't worry about filling out your landscape photography kit all in one fell swoop, either.
Worry about your lens and camera first, then fill in with filters and a tripod.
I think you'll find that even with these basic essentials, your landscape photos will have much more visual impact that leaves you and your viewers breathless.