One of the most valuable pieces of equipment you can own, to take magnificent landscape photos.

Learn how this works in this article:

All great photographers know the value of a polarizing filter. It magically makes the scenery photos come alive with their natural color. When seeing the differences of before and after photos, you will know right away how important this one accessory can be.


Trying to find an easy way to describe polarized light has been challenging to say the least. But, I like this definition of polarized light, that maybe we can all understand why we need this filter:

The light tends to move more uniformly rather than scattering all over the place, and it comes at you horizontally or vertically. This is polarized light, which we experience as glare, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.



The standard polarizer filter will just screw in to the front of your lens. It is mounted on a ring that you can rotate the filter to get the best optimization of the polarized light.


Winter photos will be so much better with a polarizer filter


Note: as you look at the above photo, how much bluer the skies are, but the snow is also more detailed because the reflections that are on the snow are gone. Polarizing filters eliminate anything that reflects light, except for metal. There is dust floating in the sky, and the polarizing filter cuts out all the reflections off the dust particles, and that’s why the skies are more vivid in color.

Want to get better detail under the water, then use a polarizing filter


The above example shows how well the polarizing filter will work shooting through water. Reflections are cut off the surface, and thus you get better detail through the water.

Using polarizing filters for portraits? YES, it’s an amazing how well they turn out.


Most faces have a certain amount of oil on the skin, and the polarizing filter cuts through those reflections and give you amazing skin tones.

Like the above winter photo, look what a polarizing filter will do to your scenery photo


In a regular sunny day, the landscape will have reflections on all green things, the sky, the clouds, the roads, etc. Use a polarizing filter for all your scenery photos.

Closeup of how the polarizing filter acts on plants. This would include trees, grass, shrubs, flowers, etc.


I love this photo because it shows in great detail the reflections on leaves. Now eliminate the reflections with your polarizing filter, and you have beautiful green foliage. And this includes all foliage and grass.


The above diagram shows exactly how it works. Keep in mind these 2 things:

1- The filter has a dark grey color to it, and cuts the light coming down to your sensor by half. You should buy a “circular polarizer” and then your light meter reading should still be accurate.

2- If you are trying to keep a certain Fstop to create the right depth of field in your photo, you may need to adjust your ISO on your camera to compensate for the drop in light coming through your lens.

You can pick up a polarizing filter from your favorite camera store. Some are made of better glass that the others, so don’t buy the cheapest filter. The better the glass, the better your photo. I am not going to endorse any filter brands on this blog, but, just let it be known, that you shouldn’t spend the least amount on this filter.

For more detailed information about a polarizing filter and other accessories, go to: https://123photogo.com/complete-photo-courses/

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52mm Tiffen polarizing filter

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55mm Polarizing filter by Tiffen

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62mm polarizing filter by Tiffen

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67mm Tiffen Polarizing filter

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Wow! Look how nice a polarizing filter works on faces.


Circular Polarizer Comparison
A polarizer reduces reflected light before it enters your lens.

Now we have the definition and ideas of what a great job a Polarizing filter will do, we find out that there are times when you don’t want to use a polarizing filter:


When NOT to use a Polarizer for landscape photography sunset image

Looking at this beautiful photo, you can see the beautiful reflections on the rocks, and the water. A polarizing filter would have eliminated those reflections. So, before you use a polarizing filter, make sure you really want to eliminate something that could be worth keeping.


When not to use circular polarizers waterfalls on rock

In this photo, if the photographer would have used a polarizing filter, he would have eliminated the glare on the rocks, which actually in this case, makes it look wet. Just an added plus to have it in there.


Waterfall in the rainforest

This photo was actually taken after the sun went down, very slow shutter speed, and there is no reflections. You might as well remove the lens then.

The same would be for night photography. If there was a full moon, and you were taking pictures, there might be some reflection from the moon.


Waterfall at Silver Falls State Park

Here’s where you want the best of both worlds.

Let’s say you like the look of your image with the polarizer on. Your colors are nicely saturated and all of the glare has been reduced from the surfaces, but you’re annoyed to see that the lovely reflections in the water have either vanished or diminished.

What do you do?

The simple answer is to take two shots – one with the polarizer engaged and another without the polarizer.

Then you can blend the two exposures in Photoshop and take the best elements from each.


landscape photography of field with wind mill with rainbow
Photo by Paweł Fijałkowski on Pexels.com

I’m sure I’ll be corrected by our more well-educated readers, but from a polarizer’s standpoint, a rainbow is reflected light.

So if your polarizer is engaged, the rainbow will perform a disappearing act in your photo.

Disengage or remove the polarizer and – presto! – the rainbow will be back in your photograph.


Yesterday we did the blog on the pros of using a polarizing filter, and then today, we talked about situations where it would be good not to use the polarizer.

This just shows me that when you look at a scene, look at it carefully and see if you need to make necessary changes to make it look it’s best. Always study it out before you press the button.

NOTE: for obvious reasons, a polarizing filter is something you can use on lenses that are interchangeable. They do not make polarizing filters for cell phones.



The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it!

Ansel Adams


Polarizing filter: without, and with.

Today’s subject is “why you should use a polarizing filter for all your scenery shots”, and part 2 tomorrow is: “When you shouldn’t use a polarizing filter”.

I have checked with a lot of professional photographers who take pictures of landscapes and scenery pictures. And I think almost all of them use a “circular polarizing filter”. And here is a list of the reasons why you should use a “circular polarizing filter”:

  1. The filter eliminates reflections off anything that reflects.
  2. The dust in the air reflects light, and causes a washed out look. Using the polarizing filter eliminates all the reflections of dust in the air, giving you bluer skies.
  3. Removes reflection even on glass
  4. All plants and mountains and grass all do a certain amount of reflections. Using a polarizing filter will make all growing things have a richer natural color.
  5. They also increase contrast in the sky by removing the reflections from dust and unknown particles in the sky.
Notice how reflections are cut off dramatically when using a polarizing filter.
Our own eyes see the photo on the left, with the reflections. Many fisherman buy Polarizing sunglasses so they can see the fish in the water. But, look at the photo on the right and see how the colors are enhanced, especially the sky.

The polarizing filter is a screw on filter that would just use the threads on the front of your lens. Once you have the right size circular polarizing filter on your lens, you will notice, that it can rotate. This is the part where you actually “Polarize the light” coming through your lens. And because you can see it through the camera, you just turn the filter until it gives you the perfect colors, and contrast that is really there for you to enjoy.

Imagine what a polarizing filter will do for your flower photos too!

Are there differences in polarizing filters? Yes, between brands, there is a difference and you should get a good name brand filter. If you don’t know what is a good brand, then contact me on my email at: contact.123photogo@gmail.com.

I have one photo, that I have taken with a polarizing filter. Hope you can see how beautiful a photo will turn out using this filter in your landscape photos:

Photo by Lanny Cottrell —- using a polarizing filter.

Learn how to take beautiful Landscapes

time lapse photography of waterfalls during sunset
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Learning how to take beautiful landscapes takes practice, and patience, and learning how to “see” the landscape as a great piece of art. When I look at the photo above, I see a few things I have to think about when taking this photo and getting a beautiful photo like this:

  • I have a waterfall. I will need to use a slow shutter speed, maybe one second to get the blur of the water.
  • The sun is setting so my timing has to be perfect to add that color in the background.
  • Because I am using a slow shutter speed to get the water to blur, I will need to use my good tripod
  • The landscape is very green. I need to find a way to enhance that beauty
  • There are people in this photo, but, they are far away. Are they important to create this photo?
  • What lens should I use to get the area that I want in my photo?
  • What is the most important part of this photo: the sky or the land?
  • I need to be aware of subject or ground in the foreground of my photo.
  • Use depth of field to the best that I can…. F16 or F32 if possible
  • Is there any lines or shapes that will help the composition?
  • Plan on taking several photos, one under expose (-), and one over expose (+) to see if one photo looks better
  • Would there be another angle that might improve this landscape photo?
  • Can I do anything with camera filters that will help me from needing to do “post processing”?

Now, you are probably thinking that there is no way I would think about all those things. After you take enough landscape photos, the answers and tips will come automatically. In fact they will come second nature to you as you get used to finding what works the best for you. Let’s just take a look at some of these things that should be done, and I want to emphasize even more.

water falls in the middle of the forest
Photo by Diego Madrigal on Pexels.com

Here are several points we can take care of right here: You need to use a slow shutter speed to get the water to blur. In the first photo, I am just guessing that maybe 1 full second would be a beautiful way to make the water blur. Now, using your manual mode, to get the perfect exposure with 1 second, what is your F number? Is it F16 or F32, F22? If you still can’t get it to match, make sure your ISO setting is as low as it can go. 100 ISO is usually the lowest these new digital cameras will go. If you still can’t get it to match up, you will need a Neutral Density Filter for your lens. I don’t know any serious landscape photographer who doesn’t have a set of Neutral Density Filters. They are nothing more than a glass filter that cuts down the light through your lens, without changing any color.

Just a note: Any words that are in red, are linked to a website, where you can order these items. Or, just to check out the details of this product more.

To get real good at taking landscapes, the best photos are usually done by shooting in manual mode, where you can control the overall effect of the picture.

Photo by Blair Fraser on Unsplash

Another point made in the list above is the importance of a tripod. If you are going to take photos of landscapes where you need to use slow shutter speed, then you must have a Photo tripod. Just do it. Don’t say you can take a picture with the shutter speed at 1/4 second. It will show up badly if you enlarge it. You want sharp pictures, use a Photo tripod.

Photo by Vladimir Kudinov on Unsplash

Is it a bad thing to add people in your landscape photos? It is not a bad thing if you want to portray perspective in your photo. How big is the valley? How can I let someone know that I am on a cliff? Adding people gives you a great perspective on your landscape photo. But, I would only use them if you want to create perspective.

brown dock
Photo by Pok Rie on Pexels.com

One of the good rules in composition is to use “leading lines” or lines that direct your attention to a certain part of the photo. If you can find them in your landscape, then please try to use them. It will create more of a feeling of motion with your eyes, to see everything in the picture. If you have lines, then use them.

Exposure Bracketing.

Exposure bracketing is also a good thing to do to get good at getting the perfect shot. It is one way to tell, by the contrast in the photo, which photo would be best. It involves you shooting one photo right on to what the light meter says, one photo overexposed, and one photo underexposed. Some people will shoot more.

Exposure Bracketing For Perfect Details - Grey Chow Photography
5 frame photo bracketing exposure

You know you can delete any photos you don’t want to keep in digital photography, so take a lot of exposures, and when you find the one you like, then discard the rest.

Photo by Paul Rysz on Unsplash

I think every photographer would like to take their photo during the “Golden Hour”. Just when is the Golden Hour? That is 1 hour before the sun sets, and 1 hour after sunrise. The sky, the whole picture just looks warmer and more pleasing. And it is a time that every photographer loves. That is why they get up so early, is to get the perfect timing on the light of day.

Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh on Pexels.com

When you go out to take your great landscape photos, a Wide Angle lens would be a lens you would usually use. Or a wide angle zoom lens would also be ideal, because you can vary the amount you want in your photo. These lenses get the “wide vistas” of a great landscape photo. You just can’t go wrong with this lens.

One more item to attach to your lens is a circular polarizing filter. I have done some “post processing” and find that one thing that works similar to a circular polarizing filter is the “dehazing” adjustment on Lightroom. I like to use that on some of my old photos, but, I can accomplish the same thing as I take the picture, using a circular polarizing filter. It cuts reflections off all non-metallic surfaces, such as trees, grass, and even the little dust particles in the sky. It brings out the colors of your landscape photo by a lot. It is worth the investment.

Photo by Ouael Ben Salah on Unsplash


This whole exercise today was to get you to think about all the different things that go in to making an amazing landscape photo. Go through the list a few times, take the pointers we talked about, and practice, practice, practice. Once you go through this exercise asking all these questions before you push the button, you will be in demand for the amazing photos you take.


woman taking picture near lake with view of mount fuji
Photo by Casia Charlie on Pexels.com

Photography has certainly changed a lot from the days when I first got involved in photography. The film era created real professionals, because they had to do it right the first time, because there was no Photoshop to help fix their mistakes. It kind of bothers me that almost every photographer relies on “Post Production” work to get their photo the way they want it.

So, what is the big difference between the “film” photographer and the “Digital Photographer” really? I think the difference is that film photographers had to use “filters” or “lens filters” to do some of the work that we do now with Photoshop (or equivalent). I think of the countless hours photographers spend now working their magic on Photoshop. The “film” photographer would have to know how to fix a photo by adding a filter on the camera lens, in order to get the photo to turn out the way they want.

I know now there are a lot of “film” photographers who still use filters when they take photos on their digital camera. I asked one why? He said, “so I don’t have to spend so much time in “post Processing”. I want to get it right the first time.”

So, this blog today is to introduce you to filters that you can use to get great photos the first time. Once you understand what filters will do for you, you can get time back on your side. Now, I admit I do use Photoshop and Lightroom occasionally, but, I know what filters will get me what I want so I don’t have to go use that “post production” stuff so much.

Today and tomorrow, I will spend time going over certain filters so that you too, might be able to take the photo right the first time. Understanding filters is just one more thing to learn in the great photographic world.

As you go through this article, you will see words in red. Clicking on that word in red will take you to a link on Amazon.com that will give you the price, and sizes needed to purchase these filters. I want to make sure you have all the tools available.

Let’s start off with the most important filter you can own. The UV Filter or the Skylight 1A filter is, by far, the most important filter you can own. How much do you value your lens you have on your camera now? Did you spend $100, $400, or more? The Skylight 1A filter or the UV filter has no real help for your current digital camera lens other than to protect it. All digital camera sensors have a UV/IR filter in front of the sensor, so there is no more need to use UV filters on DSLRs. But, it’s value is incredible. If you have ever dropped your camera, or imagine that it happens to you, you can probably guarantee that it will land on the front of your lens. If you have clicked on the links (the words in red), you will notice that these are not very expensive. Good ones are around $7.95 depending on the size. With the Skylight 1A filter and the UV filter, you might break that filter. But, it’s only $7.95! How much would it cost to replace your lens if you didn’t have that filter on there? Or to even get it fixed. I have recently heard a photographer who sent their lens in for repair, and the repair facility said it could cost up to $800 to repair it. It only cost him $400. Really photographers. You have to invest in your equipment or you may lose it in one small accident.

One thing you have to make sure before you purchase a clear filter, is that you buy high-quality glass with the special multi-resistant coating (MRC). The worst thing you can do is mount a low-quality filter in front of an expensive lens. Not only will it hurt image quality, but it will also add nasty reflections, ghosts, and flares to your images.

The next most important filter is:

The next most important filter to have on your lens is the polarizing filter.

There are two types of polarizing filters – linear and circular. Linear polarizers should not be used on DSLR cameras, because they can result in metering errors. Circular polarizers, on the other hand, are perfect for DSLRs and do not cause any metering issues due to their construction. Circular polarizing filters are essentially linear polarizers, with a second glass element attached to their back that circularly polarizes the light, giving accurate exposure results when the light hits the light meter. When the two elements are aligned at the right handle and orientation from the sun, the captured image could have more saturated colors, bluer skies, fewer reflections, and higher overall contrast. Polarizing filters can also reduce haze, which is very useful for landscape photographers. It reminds me that this piece of glass works a lot like the “dehazer” setting in Lightroom, and Photoshop. This filter eliminates the haze in the sky. Our eyes don’t really see the haze so much out there, but it’s there. Every little piece of dust floating out there in the air, actually reflects light, and thus causing a haze. The circular polarizing filter will take off the reflection from all those little dust particles, and give you a beautiful landscape photo. This is how they used to do it with film, and you can still do it with a digital camera.

You will find once you use this circular polarizing filter, you won’t leave home without it.

There are a couple of potential issues that you need to understand when using a polarizing filter:

  1. There is a minimum and a maximum effect of polarization, depending on the filter alignment. You should rotate the filter every time you compose for best results. Take a look at this example of minimum and maximum effect of polarization:
NIKON D700 + 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 26mm, ISO 200, 1/640, f/8.0

2- The effect of polarization changes relative to the sun. The maximum effect of polarization is achieved when the lens is pointed 90 degrees from the sun (in any direction). A simple trick is to form a pistol with your index and thumb fingers, then point your index finger at the sun. Keep pointing at the sun and rotate your hand clockwise and counter-clockwise. The maximum effect of polarization will be where your thumb points in any direction.

3- Avoid using a polarizing filter on ultra wide-angle lenses. You might end up with a partially dark sky that will be tough to fix in post-processing. Here is an example of what happens when using a polarizer on a wide-angle lens:

Wide-angle lens polarization

4- In some cases the maximum effect of polarization can result in an unnatural-looking dark blue sky as shown below:

Extreme case of polarization

I have seen photos enlarged, and hanging on the wall of this unnatural dark blue sky. So, some people really like it.

5- There is a loss of approximately 2 stops of light when using polarizing filters, so you should watch your shutter speed when shooting with a polarizer hand-held.

6- circular polarizing filters are typically thicker than regular filters and therefore can result in unwanted vignetting.

To avoid vignetting,circular polarizing filter should not be stacked with other filters. Due to light loss, you should also use a polarizing filter only when needed. In some high-contrast situations, it might be necessary to stack a circular polarizing filter with a neutral density filter (see below).

As you go through this article, you will see words in red. Clicking on that word in red will take you to a link on Amazon.com that will give you the price, and sizes needed to purchase these filters. I want to make sure you have all the tools available.

One more filter that is very valuable to have:

Neutral Density (ND) Filter

The purpose of neutral density filters is to reduce the amount of light that gets to the camera and thus decrease the shutter speed and increase exposure time. These types of filters are particularly useful in daytime, because of the abundance of light that cannot be significantly reduced by stopping down the lens aperture and decreasing ISO. For example, if you are photographing a waterfall and your starting point is ISO 100, f/2.8, 1/2000 that results in good exposure, stopping down the lens to f/22 will only slow down the shutter speed to 1/30 of a second. This would be too fast to create a “foggy” look for the falling water. By using an 8 stop Neutral Density Filter, you could slow down the shutter speed all the way to 2 seconds while keeping lens aperture at f/11 instead of f/22 (using apertures beyond f/11-f/16 in normal lenses decreases image quality due to diffraction).

A Neutral Density Filter does not have any color to it. It looks gray in color, but, it is a light reducing filter, not a change in color.

NIKON D3S + 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 32mm, ISO 200, 6 sec, f/9.0

That is all the filters that I want to explain today. There are 3 different types of filter categories. The protective filters that include the Polarizing filter as well as the Neutral Density Filter. The second group of filters would be the “Color Correction” filters (and we will discuss that on Thursday. And the third group of filters is the “special effects” filters. And we will discuss that on Friday this week.

Just a note: some of this blog or article was also written by Nasim Mansurov. The bulk of this article written by Lanny Cottrell of 123PhotoGo

Special items of interest: