How to Add Drama to Your Landscape Photos

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Tell me if this sounds familiar…

You see epic photos of landscapes online and in magazines and wish that your photos had the same kind of impact.

The problem is, you don’t know where to begin regarding how to add drama to your landscape photos.

Granted, creating an image that has tons of visual impact requires a lot of moving parts, but there’s one thing in particular that can really help improve your images.

That thing is a polarizer.

What is a Polarizer?

Firecrest Circular Polarizer 

Quite simply, a polarizer like the one shown above by Formatt-Hitech minimizes how much reflected light reaches your camera’s sensor.

In other words, it works to help your camera capture images that have more crispness and clarity because the polarizer reduces glaring light as well as atmospheric haze.

Think of a polarizer like a pair of sunglasses for your camera – just like polarizing sunglasses minimize glare off of water and other non-metallic surfaces, so too does a polarizer for your camera’s lens.

Likewise, a polarizer deepens the blue color of the sky while also making the clouds pop. This gives much more life and dimension to the sky that adds that dramatic effect you often see in professional landscape photos.

Learn More:

  • Get the Specs and Pricing on Polarizing Filters by Formatt-Hitech
  • The Number One Reason Why Your Landscape Images are Off

Using a Polarizer

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There’s really not much to using a polarizer to get improved landscape photos.

Simply attach the polarizer to the end of your lens and then rotate the polarizer in its housing to achieve the desired effect.

As you rotate the polarizer, look into the camera’s viewfinder and you will see it do its work.

For example, if when you begin there is glare from the sun off of a body of water, watch as you turn the polarizer and that glare disappears.

There is one caveat, though…

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A polarizing filter works best when the sun is at a 90-degree angle. If the sun is directly behind you, the filter will not have any effect at all. At points between those two extremes, the filter’s power will vary.

That means that you need to strive to find a shooting position that puts the sun at or near a 90-degree angle, otherwise you won’t be able to get the full power of polarization out of your filter.

Naturally, you won’t always be able to position yourself in such a way, but try to get as close to a right angle as you can. In the image above, you’ll notice how the sun isn’t at a 90-degree angle, yet the filter is still able to increase the contrast in the sky for a punchy look.

The key to mastering the art of using a polarizer, is, of course, practice.

Head to your favorite landscape spot and take a shot without a polarizer. Then mount your polarizer to your lens and take several shots as you increase the power of the filter between each frame.

You will see a dramatic difference between the shot without a filter and the shot with the polarizer working at its strongest filtering power, with noticeable differences between the two as well.

This exercise will also help you identify how much polarization you might need in a particular situation because you won’t always want to use the polarizer at its highest power.

Get more details on how to use a circular polarizer in the video above by Joshua Cripps.

Learn More:

  • Landscape Photography Tip: One Thing That Will Improve Your Images in Three Important Ways
  • Required Gear for a Landscape Photographer

Problems With Polarizers

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Adding a polarizer to your lens isn’t without a couple of issues that you need to think about.

First, though a polarizer isn’t especially dark, it will still reduce how much light enters the lens and reaches the camera’s sensor.

In fact, some polarizers will reduce the amount of light by up to two or three stops.

That means you’ll need to compensate for less light by adjusting your camera’s exposure settings.

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For example, if you’re shooting with your camera mounted on a tripod, you can use a slower shutter speed by a couple of stops to brighten the image up.

Similarly, you can open the aperture to allow more light to enter the lens. You can also boost the ISO setting to make the camera’s sensor more sensitive to light.

Of course, you can also use a combination thereof to increase the brightness of the shot while minimizing the visual effects of a slower shutter, a wider aperture or a higher ISO.

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Another key point to remember is that you should focus the shot before you rotate the polarizer.

That will help your camera’s autofocus system to find its focus point, or, if you’re focusing manually, you’ll have an easier time seeing with the polarizer at its minimum strength.

Naturally, since polarizers reduce the amount of light entering the lens, they are not ideally suited for shooting in low-light situations.

However, if you’re shooting at dusk and there’s glare or haze in the shot, you can use a polarizer – the process just becomes a little more difficult.

That’s because you have to work a little harder to find the combination of exposure settings to get a well-exposed image.

Learn More:

  • The Exposure Triangle Explained in Plain English
  • When to Use (and Not to Use) a Polarizer

Final Thoughts

Firecrest Circular Polarizer 2

As I noted earlier, if you want to add drama to your landscape photos, a polarizer is the way to go.

They’re easy to use, have tons of impact, and if you buy a high-quality polarizer, it will only enhance your ability to create drama-filled landscape photos.

But beware – not all polarizers are made equal.

It pays to opt for a polarizer that’s well-built, has quality glass, and is made by a company like Formatt-Hitech that has a longstanding reputation of putting out high-quality products.

In fact, their polarizers are among some of the best in the business because they come with an exclusive Firecrest anti-reflective multi-coating that give your images the highest color fidelity and contrast. What’s more, the housing these filters are set in are precision milled for smooth, precise rotating action.

Visit Formatt-Hitech today to learn more about their polarizing filter. And when you order, just be sure to check the size of filter your lens needs so you order the right size. From there, it’s a matter of practicing with your new filter, and soon enough, you’ll have the drama-filled landscape photos you’ve been seeking.

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