Do I Need A Filter For Sunset Photography?

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Although sunset photography is more of a side gig rather than a main income source for photographers, more and more people are starting to get involved in capturing photographs of the sunset in their local area. These pictures usually do great on social media and if you are trying to grow your own photography business, they can often gain a ton of likes and shares to help you get your work out there on your social profiles.

We have noticed a constant, month on month increase of people reaching out and asking a number of similar questions based on “Do I need a filter for sunset photography?“. Due to this, we have decided to publish this article to try and help as many of our readers as possible. Although a decent lens filter can be an excellent addition to your collection of camera accessories, there is often a lot of misinformation out there on how best to use them, especially when it comes to sunset photography.

That said though, just like many other tasks when it comes to photography, the correct answer is going to come down to you, your kit, your situation, and the type of sunset photograph that you are trying to capture. Due to this, the actual answer to the question is both yes and no as some people do not need a filter for sunset photography where as others will.

In addition to this, there are multiple types of lens filters available for your sunset photography complicating matters further. Due to this, we have decided to go into the various types of the more popular lens filters below and do an individual breakdown of when you may or may not need each type of lens filter for your sunset photography sessions.

Neutral Density (ND) Filter

First up, we have the trusty Neutral Density (ND) Filter, if possible, we usually recommend that our readers go with a variable ND filter when possible as it really does open up the possibilities of how you are able to incorporate the filter into your work. Additionally, we always recommend that our readers go with the Gobe ND Filter range as they offer just as good, if not better performance than the more established filter brands such as Tiffin while being cheaper and having great reputation amongst photographers.

When it comes to specifically focus on sunset photography, you are able to incorporate the use of an Neutral Density (ND) Filter in a number of different ways. In our opinion, the most common use of an ND filter when photographing sunsets is going to be to allow you to take advantage of some longer exposure opportunities that would otherwise be missed if you were not using using an ND filter.

For example, say you are specifically trying to capture a photograph of the sun setting behind a local landmark in your area. Sometimes, the angle of the sun behind the landmark will be perfect for the photograph but the sun may be too bright to capture the photograph you actually want. Putting an ND filter on your lens allows you to reduce the amount of light hitting your camera sensor and allow you to adjust your shutter speed to capture the photograph that you want.

Circular Polarizer (CPL) Filter

Next up, we have the Circular Polarizer (CPL) Filter that is actually one of our favorite types of lens filters when it comes to general photography. Again, we usually recommend that our readers try out Gobe CPL filter range if they are looking to add a CPL filter to their camera accessories. They tend to be cheaper than what the compeating lens filter brands offer while the Gobe filter will usually match or outperform the filter from the competition and they also have an excellent reputation amongst photographers too.

As we mentioned back at the very start of the article, integrating a lens filter into your sunset photography sessions are going to depend on what you are actually trying to do. The CPL lens filter is usually the filter that you can do without unless you will be working near a body of water with the sunset behind it and then it can become almost essential.

The photograph above is an excellent example of how you would go about using a CPL lens filter when capturing a photograph of a bridge and a body of water at sunset. Without the use of a CPL filter controlling the glare reflected from the sun off the water, the photo would be ruined. As you can see though, the CPL filter helps to control the amount of glare being reflected from the water ensuring that you get the best photograph possible.

Ultraviolet (UV) Filter

Although the original purpose of the UV filters on the market was to prevent ultraviolet rays of light from getting to your camera sensor and then being able to cause problems with your camera filter, their use has evolved to be more of a protective measure these days. Due to this, you can use them during your sunset photography sessions to protect the forward lens element on your camera lens but they offer little to no benefit to your image quality.

As you can probably guess by now, we would recommend that you go with the Gobe UV Filter range as they are dirt cheap but offer excellent protection to your lens. Again, the have one of the best reputations going amongst the photography community.

Now, you may be thinking that using a UV lens filter is a total waste of time and that there is no point in using one. Try and look at it from this point of view, accidents are common and what would you rather break if you accidentally dropped or bumped your lens? A $20-$50 lens filter or the forward lens element on your camera lens that cost you hundreds or potentially thousands of dollars.

The case for using a UV lens filter with your camera is even stronger if you are using a bridge camera like the Nikon p1000 where the camera lens is permanently mounted to your camera body. Repairs for your forward lens element can quickly become costly where as a UV lens filter may have been able to take the damage and sacrifice itself and leave your camera lens undamaged.

Solar Filters

We see many people asking if they need to use a solar filter on their camera lens for sunset photography and in all fairness, we can see why so many people new to photography ask this. Solar filters are speciallist lens filters that are geared more towards capturing photographs of an eclipse or some other type of photograph where you will be pointing your camera at the sun.

As the sun tends to be lower in the sky for sunset photograph, its light is actually spread out over a wider range of the earths surface dissipating its energy. This means that the sun is usually not as bright as when it is directly above us during normal daylight hours so there is usually no need to use a solar filter for your sunset photography sessions.