There are three essential kinds of filters we recommend for landscape photographers: the Graduated Neutral Density Filter, the Neutral Density Filter, and the Circular Polarizing Filter.
Some really useful things to note about a Circular Polarizing Filter:
- In most cases, you can't replicate what this filter does in Photoshop
- If you are shooting water and there is a glare on top of the water, this filter will cut through the glare
- A polarizer has two little rings on the front, and you have to spin it once it is on the lens to see where the effect maxes out
- It works great if you're shooting landscapes and there's a lot of vegetation because it takes the shine off the leaves
- You will get richer colors because you cut through the glare
- It works great when it's a little brighter during the day as it cuts down on that brightness
- You can get the sky bluer and the clouds whiter (this you can replicate in Photoshop)
- It's like putting a pair of sunglasses onto your lens
How do you know which brand of filter to buy? There are so many out there that it can really be hard to know what you should get. Really, all you care about is the filter thread size – it doesn't matter what brand you get. Any brand can work on any lens as long as the filter thread size is correct. To find the filter thread size, look at the front of your lens where it has the small white text and it will usually state the filter thread size. (If you don't find it on the lens itself, just google it.)
There are lots of good quality brands out there – Canon, Nikon, Sony, or B+W. If you're looking for a little bit less expensive filters, you can get LEE filters, though they aren't in stock much these days. Hoya and Tiffen are much cheaper (and will therefore be lower quality), but if you're just starting out it's better to get these $20 filters than have no filter at all.