Best Filters for Landscape Photography 

filters landscape photography

If you’re struggling to choose the best filters for landscape photography, that’s not much of a surprise. There are many systems to choose from, including several different manufacturers and various types of filters.

best filters landscape photography

From traditional round screw-in filters, magnetic round filters, and square or rectangular filters which slot into a filter holder attached to the front of the lens via a dedicated adapter, it can be tricky to know when to start.

In this article, we’ll look at some of the main makers on the market and explore what the best filters for landscape photography are.

How to choose a filter for landscape photography

The first decision to make is whether to choose ‘round’ filters or square ‘slot-in’ filters.

I would recommend going for a slot-in system. There are several advantages. First, you can use the same filters with all your lenses, even if they all have different filter threads. You just need to get an adapter ring for each lens, rather than double up on the filters themselves.

Secondly, if you want to use more than one filter at a time, stacking round filters will often result in vignetting if you combine more than two filters.

Slot-in systems, on the other hand, are designed so that you can stack multiple filters without getting vignetting, even when using extremely wide-angle lenses.

In my experience, there are plenty of times when you might find yourself wanting to combine a series of lenses., say, a polariser, a neutral density filter, and a graduated filter.

Having made that decision, which different types of filters will you need? I recommend you have each of these:

Read more: What are the Best Filters for Landscape Photography?


Polarisers are an essential filter, which cut through surface glare and reflections, thus increasing colour saturation. They are best known for intensifying blue skies, but are also handy when shooting water or foliage.

landscape photography filters
Polarisers are excellent for bringing out the colours in woodland scenes.

Their effects are extremely difficult or even impossible to replicate in post-production.

Neutral density (ND) filters

These are basically dark filters which reduce the amount of light reaching the camera’s sensor, thus allowing you to artificially extend the shutter speed for creative effect, for example, when shooting moving water.

filters landscape photography
ND filters allow you to extend shutter speeds for creative effect.

They come in various densities, but as it’s easy to change ISO to manipulate shutter speeds, you’ll really only need two or three filters. I usually carry a 4-stop, a 6-stop, and a 10-stop ND. Their effects are extremely difficult to replicate in post-production.

Graduated filters

Graduated filters (‘grads’) feature a dark top half and clear bottom half, with a transition zone from dark to light in the middle. They are used to prevent bright skies from overexposing, enabling you to capture the full range of tones of a scene in a single frame.

They are perhaps the least necessary of the filters, and some photographers prefer to bracket their shots and blend them when processing.

There are good reasons why you might want to deal with excessive contrast in-camera rather than in post-production, though it’s beyond the scope of this article to go into detail.

Grads come in different strengths and with different transition zones ranging from hard (a very sudden change from the dark to light area) to soft (a much more gradual change).

Ultimately, you’ll probably want grads with different transition zones to suit different situations, but if you’re starting out, this can be a lot of money to spend all at once, so I’d recommend starting with just two grads: a two-stop medium and a three-stop medium.

These will cover nearly all the situations you’re likely to encounter. You can add others over time.

Landscape filters – what brand should I use?

So now we get to the nitty-gritty: which brands should you look at?

The following three brands are the main players on the market and are well worth considering: LEE, Kase, and NiSi. Let’s look at each brand in turn.

LEE Filters

LEE is a well-established UK company that, for a long time, pretty much had the pro and high-end enthusiast market to themselves, though these days, they have some serious competition.

What differentiates the LEE system from the other two brands is that the polariser is attached to the front of the filter holder as opposed to sitting behind it, and the majority of their grads are resin rather than glass.

lee filters landscape photography
LEE 100 holder and polariser.

Let’s clear up one point straight away: resin filters are not inherently a bad thing. Many photographers have it in their heads that resin filters must be inferior to glass. This is simply not true.

LEE uses optical resin, which has high transmission and a very low refractive index; independent tests have shown them to have image quality that matches the best glass filters.

Resin filters have some advantages:

  • They are lighter.
  • They won’t shatter if dropped.
  • It is easier to control the transition zone during the manufacturing process, which is why LEE has continued to produce resin grads. Compared to the other brands, LEE is the only one that produces a genuinely hard transition zone on its hard grads. Strict quality control also ensures that they are genuinely neutral and the light transition is even across the coated section.

The disadvantages of resin grads are that they scratch more easily and they are more difficult to keep clean. Whereas some glass grads can be cleaned with a quick wipe (even when coated in sea spray) LEE’s resin grads require more effort to get clean.

Bowing to popular demand, LEE has now started producing glass grads, though at the time of writing the range is limited to two and three-stop hard grads and two and four-stop medium grads.

More in the range would be welcome, especially a three-stop medium, though as yet there is no news on when or if they intend to add to the collection.

The majority of the company’s other filters, such as their NDs, are glass, though they lack a hydrophobic nano-coating and so can be tricky to keep clean and smear-free, especially if you shoot a lot of coastal scenes.

On the plus side, the ‘Proglass’ IRND range is extremely color-accurate.

best filter landscape photography
Slot-in systems allow you to combine filters easily. For this shot, I used a polariser, a neutral density filter and a graduated filter.

The polariser clips easily onto the front of the holder and detaches easily, provided you follow LEE’s instructions. It’s crenellated and very easy to rotate. Having the polariser on the front of the holder means that it’s a little more prone to flare from stray light.

However, it does have the advantage that you can set the correct level of polarisation before attaching it to the holder while looking directly through it—which can be easier than trying to get the polarisation right while looking through an electronic viewfinder.

The holder itself is made of injection-moulded plastic, meaning it is both lightweight and robust, and it attaches and detaches from the adapter ring easily. It can be locked into place very quickly and easily and has the flexibility of a variable number of slots: either 1, 2, or 3.

Recommended Lee filters

To start you off, I recommend looking at adding these filters to your collection:

Kase filters

Kase filters have really grown in popularity in the last few years, and it’s easy to see why.

They have a full range of high-quality glass filters that consistently score highly in independent testing and include some genuine innovations, such as their ‘double’ graduated filters, which give you two different grads on one piece of glass.

There are two main systems on offer: the magnetic ‘Armour’ system, and the more traditional ‘K’ system.

landscape photography filters

With the Armour system, the polariser and ND filters, both magnetic, sit behind the grads, which also attach magnetically, but can also be locked into place securely with a locking knob.

Setting up the system is extremely straightforward and can be done easily in cold weather when wearing gloves. The disadvantage comes, though, when you need to change filters.

For example, if you decide you no longer need to use a polariser, you’ll have to remove the filter holder and if you want to swap out the ND for a different strength, you’ll need to remove the grad first if you’re using one, rather than just slide out the ND and replace it with a different one.

The K system (the current holder is the K9) is more traditional, although the polariser attaches magnetically at the back of the holder.

The grads and NDs, however, slot into rails in a similar way to the LEE system. The holder has to be screwed into place with a locking knob, which then has to be loosened if you want to adjust the angle of your graduated filters.

This is an inconvenience, albeit a minor one; personally, I prefer filter holders that clip onto the holder and rotate freely, with the option to lock them in place if desired, as with the LEE and NiSi designs.

best filters landscape photography

The filters themselves are optically excellent and deliver very accurate color. Although they are glass, they are very robust.

Where they really score, though, is in how easy they are to clean. Any rain droplets can be wiped off quickly with a microfibre cloth, and even sea spray is relatively easy to clean off – certainly much easier than with LEE Filters.

There is a full range of grads, including hard, soft, medium, and reverse, and several different ND filters. The ‘double’ grad is a brilliantly simple idea and one which other makers should have a long look at.

My main criticism of the system, based on a number of different filters that I’ve seen used by workshop participants, is the consistency of the transition zones on the graduated filters.

This can seem to vary from batch to batch, with some medium grads having a more gradual transition than LEE soft grads. One medium grad I saw had a transition zone so soft that it wasn’t visible in the viewfinder when trying to adjust it on a full-frame camera.

This really shouldn’t be the case and isn’t something I’ve ever experienced in many years of working with LEE Filters.

Recommended Kase filters

To start you off, I recommend looking at adding these filters to your collection:

NiSi filters

You see fewer NiSi filters around than the other two brands, but it is a very capable system nonetheless.

The filter holder (the current version is the V7) is made of metal, so it is durable and robust but is of a compact design. It clips onto the adapter ring in a similar way to the LEE holder and can then be locked into place if desired.

best filters landscape photography

To rotate the holder, simply loosen the locking screw.

There are three slots for filters, and the polariser is inserted in the rear of the holder (rotated using a wheel), so you can stack up to four filters if desired, as you can with the LEE holder. However, unlike the LEE holder, there is no option to change the number of slots.

There are advantages and disadvantages to how the polariser is mounted.

Being at the rear reduces the risk of both vignetting and flare and means the polariser isn’t bulky; however, if you want to remove the polariser while keeping the other filters in place, it is a bit more awkward than doing so with a front-mounted polariser.

All of the filters are glass, and there is a very full range: numerous grads, lots of options for NDs, as well as some specialty filters such as those for reducing the effects of light pollution in night photography.

nisi filter landscape photography

The filters are nano-coated to be water and oil-repellent and therefore easier to clean than resin or uncoated glass filters; they are also flare and scratch-resistant.

Optically, they perform extremely well and have minimal color casts. Interestingly, NiSi also makes a range of hardened glass filters, which it calls its Explorer range, which are much less prone to accidental damage.

NiSi differentiates the ranges by saying that the optical glass filters provide the ultimate in-image quality, whereas the hardened filters prioritise durability.

I suspect that in real life use, you’d be hard-pressed to see much difference, so you may prefer the peace of mind of using the most robust filters.

Recommended NiSi filters

To start you off, I recommend looking at adding these filters to your collection:

In conclusion

You can’t go wrong with any of the three systems described above, and which you choose depends on your priorities.

If having a polariser at the back of the holder rather than the front is important, go with NiSi or Kase. If glass filters, especially those which are easy to clean, are a priority, go with NiSi or Kase.

best filters for landscape photography

If a magnetic system which is easy to set up is important (though remember swapping filters may not be so easy), get the Kase Armour system.

If it’s important to have accurate and consistent transition zones, and especially if you need a set of genuinely hard transition grads, then LEE is your system.

If you think you might want to combine as many as four filters, then choose LEE or NiSi. If you want to be able to change the number of slots in your holder, then LEE is the system to choose.

Visit Mark's website

Mark Bauer has been a professional landscape photographer for over 10 years. He is the author of 4 books, his most recent being ‘The Art of Landscape Photography’ (co-authored with Ross Hoddinott), and has won a number of awards in various competitions, including the Take a View Landscape Photographer of the Year, International Garden Photographer of the Year, Outdoor Photographer of the Year and International Landscape Photographer of the Year.

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