Once you have acquired a core understanding of the importance of light and atmosphere in landscape photography (click here for our Top 3 Landscape Photography Tips), there are actually quite a few advanced landscape photography techniques to learn that can help you to progress from good landscape photography to great landscape photography.
In this article, I am going to share what I consider the top three landscape photography techniques to learn.
1. Polarizing Filters
For landscape photography, a polarizing filter isn’t just for cutting down the glare on water, a polarizing filter gets rid of reflections on everything – which tends to make everything look just a little better (here is a great tutorial on the benefits of using a polarizing filter).
This photo was taken with my mobile phone – but I still held a polarizing filter in front of the lens to create the highest quality image I could.
2. Neutral Density Filters
There are a lot of situations in landscape photography where it is desirable to use a neutral density filter as a way to take photographs with a longer shutter speed than would be possible with just the camera alone.
Photographing running water is the most obvious application, but there are many other landscape photography situations where just a little bit of motion blur can have a big visual impact.
My favorite application for neutral density filters is to lengthen out the exposure time when photographing shorelines – giving the water a perfectly smooth and calm look.
At the extreme end of the scale, 9 and 10 stop neutral density filters cut enough light to allow for exposures of several minutes – or long exposures even in relatively bright light.
3. Graduated Neutral Density Filters
Graduated neutral density filters are used to selectively darken a portion of your photograph. In terms of landscape photography, this usually means darkening the sky so that you can retain accurate colors and detail in the clouds.
One of my favorite graduated neutral density filters is a “soft reverse graduated filter”. This type of filter is made specifically for sunrise / sunset photography or other applications where the horizon is the brightest part of the image.
Can’t I Just Fake It In Photoshop?
Mostly no. There is no substitute for good camera technique – although in some cases you can get close in post production.
Sorry, you can’t duplicate the effect of a polarizing filter in post-production.
You can add vibrance and saturation, add contrast, reduce the highlights – but you can’t remove reflections.
Neutral density filter?
Nope. You can’t make frozen motion look like realistic motion blur in post-production.
You can use motion blur filters and layer masking to try to mimic the effect – but without a ton of time and effort its just going to look like fake motion blur.
Graduated neutral density filter?
Sometimes. I add graduated neutral density filters all the time in Lightroom – its one of my standard landscape photography post processing techniques that works quite well.
However, where it doesn’t work well is when the sky or the sun or something else in your photo is much brighter than your subject – to the degree that you’re overexposing so much that you’re clipping the highlights.
Once you have overexposed a portion of your photo to that level- you can’t recover it in post-production.
If you want a bit more of an in-depth explanation of these tips – I just released a full online class on Skillshare that covers everything in detail.
We arranged for 50 free enrollments only for DIYP readers – just click here (first come first serve, expires in one week from today).
Or, if you miss the free enrollment, don’t worry – you can also get a 14 day free trial that includes access to this class and other photography classes on Skillshare – just click here.