Benefits of Using Filters for Landscape Photography

Salford Quays Floating World (K&F Concept Natural Night Filter)
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Neutral density graduated filters (ND Grads) can make a really dramatic difference to your landscape photography. Images captured on film or digitally cannot record the same range of brightness as the human eye, leading to disappointing results. By using ND Grads, you can control the contrast between a light sky and dark foreground, allowing the camera’s sensor to record the detail in both these areas. They can rescue a landscape image which would otherwise be spoilt by washed out skies or dark foregrounds.

Use the Depth of Field Preview

The first step is to choose the right filter (1 stop, 2 stop, 3 stop; hard- or soft-edged ND Grad). The second and most important step is in correctly placing the filter. If the filter is placed too high, the transition will be seen in the sky, too low, and the foreground will have an unnatural “shadow” across it.

The best way to accurately place a graduated filter is to press your depth-of-field preview button while looking through the viewfinder, which makes it easier to see the transition.

Creating Movement

Solid ND filters are great for long exposure photography and for creating shallow depth of field. They allow you to really get creative with your landscape photography by creating motion blur effects, such as the silky and dreamy effect that you often see with waterfalls and other moving bodies of water. They are also used for streaking clouds across the sky, which can alter the atmosphere of your shots.

My process behind this image was taking a before image exposing correctly using the right strength ND Graduated Filter, then working out the exposure time with adding a 10 stop ND filter. These concrete sea defences are great subjects to photograph with the tide either coming in or out, depending on the tide height you can practice different shutter speeds to suit your favoured water movement.

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K&F Concept Filter Kit revised

Soft (ND) Graduated Filters

A soft edge GND filter features a very smooth transition from dark to clear. The top of the filter will be the darkest, gradually changing so that the middle of the filter is light while the bottom half is generally

The transition itself will be barely noticeable in your images, though the GND filter will still do its job of blocking light where the darker parts are situated.

Soft edge GND filters are best used when shooting landscape photos with an ultra wide lens or a wide angle zoom lens. They are also a good choice when there are obstacles in the landscape that rise above or obstruct the horizon line, such as mountains and trees. The softness of the gradual transition should allow for these objects to be exposed correctly when the GND filter is aligned on or near the horizon line.

Image above showing a before image using a soft ND graduated filter and a 3 stop ND filter to create a very subtle water movement 0.8 second exposure to be exact, depending on the light you may have to alter the aperture size to achieve the shutter speed required. The after image was with the 3 stop ND filter removed and a 10 stop ND added, note the aperture may need to be altered to get the correct exposure and the resulting image has the desired effect required.

Reverse (ND) Graduated Filters

Reverse GND filters are similar to normal GND filters, though the effect is turned around. Rather than being darker at the top of the filter and graduating to clear in the bottom half, a reverse GND filter has a gradient extending outwards from the middle of the filter, gradually reducing in darkness as it nears the top of the filter.

As with regular GND filters, reverse GND filters feature a bottom half which is clear, so that light in the foreground will not be restricted from reaching the sensor. This is meant to help you achieve a well-balanced exposure across the entire frame of your image.

Image above was taken on one of my K&F Concept Workshops in 2021, a few people who attended were impressed with what they could see on the camera screen when this filter was slotted into the
holder, as seen on the before image no filter was used compared to the after image with the filter.

Circular Polariser

A circular polariser is a filter that you can use in a variety of different situations. This type of filter only allows light travelling within a single direction to enter the lens, whilst blocking light of other polarisations. The result is that it will reduce glare and reflections in the landscape, such as water or on rocks. In doing so, the vividness of colours and contrasts in your frame increase. As such, you can use a circular polariser to darken skies, enhance autumn colours and green foliage, as well as to increase the details of clouds.

Catgill Falls

Image above included a circular polariser to enhance the colours and remove some glare from the water.

Above is another example this time combining 3 filters (ND Grad, ND, and a Circular Polariser)


I think you can see that, for what is a modest outlay, a set of Filters is a ‘must have’ part of your photography kit. You would see a big improvement in your landscape images immediately, and the days when you thought that the sky was too flat for photography will be a thing of the past.