Dji Mavic 2 Pro with set of ND filters

Best Drone Camera Filters for Landscape Photography Explained

Estimated reading time: 11 minutes

Drone camera filters are essential in all forms of photography, including drone photography. They help the photographers to get the best shot of the landscape regardless of UV light, reflection, excess direct sunlight, and many other factors that may limit the quality of a photograph.

The good news is that filters have now evolved to being used on drones. From ND filters, polarizers to UV filters, you can find one for your drone camera based on the type of shots you want to take.

What Is a Drone Camera, and What Are the Uses?

In this post, we discuss the various types of drone camera filters and when to use each.

Technically, these filters try to mimic “real” filters, but they may not always be accurate. So, to take professional landscape photographs, it’s essential to invest in a high-quality filter. Now let’s look at some of the most common types.

Types of Camera Filters:

We can categorize lens filters in two methods; how they get attached to the camera and how they alter the images.

In terms of attaching them to the camera, they can either be screw-on filters that you should screw onto the camera or slot-in filters that can work with an adapter and fit in a wide range of cameras.

Screw-on filters are lens-specific, and you would have to purchase a lens filter for every lens you own. But slot-in filters are cheaper, and you can even use several of them simultaneously.

Now let’s look at the various types of filters you can use for drone landscape photography based on their effect on the image.

UV Filters or Haze Filters:

UV light filters are essential, especially for drone photography, since drones fly to heights where the cameras are more exposed to UV light, thinner atmosphere, and other pollutants.

The images will then turn out to be hazy and not of the best quality.

What they do is block the UV light from getting to the lens or film. Most modern camera lenses are built to block UV light, but it doesn’t hurt to have an extra layer of protection. Other manufacturers will also offer a UV filter as part of the package.

However, it would be best to evaluate when to use and when not to use the UV filter. Sometimes, the filters may alter the quality of the image, especially when the filters are cheaply made. So, please do your due diligence when selecting the filter, or only use it when necessary.

Below are examples of how UV filters help improve images.

Shot of a beach and mountains
Here is the difference between a shot with and without UV Filters

Here is one more-

A man sitting on a cliff enjoying the view.

ND Filters:

ND stands for Neutral Density, and it’s one of the must-have filters for drone landscape photography. ND filters act as sunglasses, where they block excess sunlight from the lens.

They also help adjust the exposure, especially when there’s too much light.

Generally, the exposure of a camera is affected by the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. Fast shutter speeds minimize the blur, which is necessary when shooting videos.

But there are times when you need some blur, especially when shooting videos. ND filters ensure you can get the necessary blur in bright light without altering the image quality.

ND Filters also helps get more prolonged exposure, an effect that’s almost impossible where there’s too much light.

There are different types of ND filters based on their strength. The larger the number, the darker the filter is and the less light it will allow going through it. Let’s which type is suitable for various shots.

ND NumberF/Stop reductionApplication
ND42-stop1/250 sec shutter speed – mostly at dawn
ND83-Stop1/500 sec shutter speed – when it’s cloudy
ND164-stop1/1000 sec shutter speed
ND325-stop1/1250 shutter speed
ND646- stopWhen it’s too sunny and bright

Source: Polar Pro

While you could stack different types of ND filters or any other types of lens filters on a standard ground camera, it’s not the best idea to stack different filters on a drone. I’ll discuss why later in the article.

Below is how the ND Filter works

A wooden bridge over water.
You can see the difference ND Filter makes.

Neutral Density Grad (GND) Lens Filter:

The GND works similarly to the ND filters I mentioned, but they have a variable light transmission. One of the sections is a Neutral Density filter, and the other half is clear.

There are three main types of graduated neutral density filters based on how they change from the ND section to the clear section.

Those that change abruptly are known as Hard-edge grad ND filters, and those that change gradually are known as Soft-edge grad ND filters. The third type is a medium filter that combines both the hard edge and the soft edge.

A hard-edge grad ND filter is suitable when you need to increase the brightness of a horizon. On the other hand, the soft edge is best used when the dark and bright sections have merged, such as taking the photo of a mountain and the sky. You can also use a soft-edge to darken the sky or make it more intense.

One downside with both hard-edge and soft-edge is that they may differ with manufacturers. One manufacturer’s soft-edge may be a hard-edge when you compare it with filters from other manufacturers.

So, you have to test them to make sure you get the desired result.

Here are more videos showing how ND Grad filters work,

Credit: Landscape Photography IQ with Tom Mackie

Reverse Graduated Neutral Density Filter:

Another type of grad neutral density filters that’s often overlooked is the reverse grad neutral filter. Unlike the hard-edge, where the darker section is on one side, the darker area is in the middle in the reverse filter.

It helps darken images where the brightest section is in the middle without altering the upper sections and the sections appearing at the bottom of the frame.

It’s best for taking landscape shots during sunrise when the sun is on the horizon line or at sunset when the sun is on the horizon or below the horizon.

However, if the hills or buildings are above the horizon, they may be underexposed, but you can fix this in the processing stage.

Credit: Landscape Photography IQ with Tom Mackie

Polarizing Filters:

This is another filter you must have for landscape photography. What it does is eliminates reflections, glares, and any other aspects that may prevent you from achieving full-color depth and contrast.

A good example where you need a polarizing filter is when taking photos of water surfaces or on a glass.

Generally, light tends to bounce off these surfaces, preventing you from capturing deep into the water or what’s on the other side of the glass. A polarizing filter fixes this for you. They also help enhance a blue sky or make foliage clearer.

The most common polarizing filter is the circular Polarizer (C-POL). The linear polarizer is also widely used. They both produce the same result; it’s just that they use different mechanisms.

Linear polarizers are not ideal, especially when using DSLR cameras, since they may make the images even worse rather than fixing them.

When taking photographs on the ground, photographers adjust the polarizer by turning it clockwise and anticlockwise, which poses a problem for drone users since you can’t adjust the polarizer with the remote controller.

The best you can do is to preset the polarizer when the drone is on the ground and assume that it will work for all of your shots.

Below is how these filters work

Aerial shot of the sea and its surroundings
Drone shot taken using Polarizing filters

Warming/Cooling Lens Filters:

These filters work similarly to the white balance in most cameras. They add color or enhance the colors that exist. While you can achieve most of the color issues with the white balance, there are some situations where you need to fix color issues right from the lens.

Warming filters are best when you want to enhance the color of a sunset, fix cloudiness, fogginess, or when it’s rainy. They add colors such as red, orange, or yellow.

Let’s say you want to enhance a sunset shot; you would add the red color. Cooling filters help fix color cats by adding colors such as gray, blue, or green.

Close-Up Macro Filters:

These filters help magnify an object, making it easier to take shots of small objects, such as insects, from a distance. Some can magnify up to 10 times.

However, they are impractical for drone photography, but you can include them in the kit, especially when combining both ground and drone photography.

Hybrid Filters:

If you’d love to use more than one filter simultaneously, then this is the best filter to choose. For instance, you can find a hybrid filter that combines a polarizer and an ND filter.

You achieve better footage, and you don’t have to stack several filters at the same time.

Mavic2Pro drone
Mavic 2 Pro having a hybrid filter

Light Pollution Filter:

These filters block specific wavelengths of light to make your landscape photography clearer. They are the best if you’re taking photographs in areas with buildings and different sources of natural light.

The filter will cut out the natural light, enhancing natural color and improving contrast.

Other Types of Filters:

Another common type of filter that you can use with your drones is the colored lens filter. Like the warming filters, colored filters also add a certain color to the images.

You can add these colors during the editing process with Photoshop or any other software. But as I mentioned earlier, it would be better to get your ideal shot right from the camera.

Below are some of the most common types of colored lens filters.

  • Blue-Bending Camera Filter – If you want to add a blue tone to your landscape photograph, then this is the best filter to use. It’s also perfect for improving red and orange colors. It also does a better job than the polarizer filter.
  • Orange – This is the best filter when taking sunset shots.
  • Red Filters – They help enhance contrast in a black and white image.
  • Yellow – Both yellow and Yellow-green helps enhance contrast and foliage greenery in landscape shots.

Colored lens filters come in a wide range of colors, and there are also graduated colored lenses. These lenses work like graduated ND filters, where one side is the colored side, and the other side is the clear side.

Graduated colored lenses allow you to adjust the effect you want to have on the image.

Infographic about drone camera filters.
Infographic about camera filters

Tips for Taking Cool Photos with Filters:

Below are some valuable tips.

Use the drone in manual mode:

To get the most out of filters, always use the drone camera in manual mode. This allows you to adjust the ISO and aperture to make sure you get the best shots.

You can also experiment to find out which settings bring out the best photos. But if you use it in automatic mode, the drone may choose some settings that will override the lens filters.

Avoid Stacking:

Combining different types of filters may seem like a good idea since you’ll be killing two birds with one stone, but it’s not a good idea.

You’ll be placing too much weight on the gimbal, causing imbalance and poor footage. Some people attach weights to the gimbal to try and balance the extra weight caused by the filters, but this doesn’t solve the problem. All you’ll be doing is destroying your gimbals.

What Is the Issue with Drone Camera Lens Filters?

Most of the filters available are only made for specific drones. For instance, there are many filters designed to work with DJI drones, both from DJI and from other companies.

The same case applies to GoPro drones. But there are several models of drones out there. And if you try to fit one of these filters on these drones, it may not always work as expected.

Drone manufacturers can work on creating filters that can work with their drone cameras or partner with lens filter manufacturers.

Conclusion:

While you could edit your landscape photos to perfection with software, nothing beats the footage you could get from combining a lens and a “real” filter. And as I’ve explained, there are several types.

UV filters for blocking UV light, ND for controlling excess light, polarizers for reducing reflection, and warming/cooling filters to add tones of color to your photos

Drone Photography: A Complete Guide 2021

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Best Drone Camera Filters for Landscape Photography Explained
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Best Drone Camera Filters for Landscape Photography Explained
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This article is about various types of drone camera filters and when to use them.
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Remoteflyer
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