Your creativity is the most powerful and important tool you have as a landscape photographer. What would you be without it? What pleasure would photography give you? However, there are certain pieces of equipment that are essential, whether they’re to help you capture better images or to organize and store them.
For gear-junkies, there are a lot more to add and many things that might, or might not, serve a purpose. The equipment mentioned here are things I wouldn’t be without and those I consider essential for my photography.
#1 Camera Cleaning Equipment
Let’s start with the most boring first and get it out of the way; cleaning equipment is something you should have purchase already from day one. You don’t need anything fancy and it’s not going to cost you much but it’s essential to have.
It’s not only essential in order to lengthen the lifetime of your camera but it will also make sure your lens and sensor aren’t covered with dirt and that you don’t have to spend hours in post-processing removing dust spots.
My go-to equipment for cleaning my camera is a Zeiss Lens Cleaner Spray, Zeiss Pre-Moisturized Wipes, MagicFiber Microfiber Cloths and a sensor cleaning kit. Cleaning the sensor of your camera might sound scary but it’s not nearly as hard as you think.
If you’re not comfortable using a sensor swab and cleaning it yourself, I highly recommend sending it to a lab or your local photo store to be cleaned at least once a year.
#2 L-Plate Bracket
I honestly don’t remember how I ever was able to photograph without an L-Plate. Yes, I’m being overdramatic… But my point is that it’s an accessory that has become important to me. In fact, I’ve had an L-Plate connected to my cameras ever since purchasing my first one several years ago.
An L-Plate makes it easy to switch between horizontal and vertical orientation without it affecting the composition. It also centers the weight above the tripod when shooting vertically so you don’t have to worry about imbalance or movement in the ballhead due to the side weight.
You don’t need to get the most expensive version but I strongly recommend avoiding plastic versions. There are many good options on Amazon that might be a good fit for you. I currently use an RRS L-Plate; it’s quite expensive but I’ve had it for the last 4 years.
#3 A Sturdy Tripod
That brings us to the third must-have equipment for landscape photography: a sturdy tripod. You might not always use one but there’s no doubt that you should have one available. Using a tripod opens a lot of doors and allows you to get more creative with the shutter speed and explore new techniques such as long exposure photography.
When choosing a tripod it’s important that you make sure it’s sturdy enough to carry your camera and lens with filters attached. It’s easy to make the mistake of purchasing the cheapest version but this is going to cost you more in the long run as they need to be regularly replaced.
A sturdy tripod is a better option. Choose something that will stand still even in the roughest weather you photograph in. Our guide How to Choose Your Next Tripod might be useful if you’re not sure what’s the best option for you.
#4 Neutral Density Filters
A benefit of using a tripod is that you can take advantage of Neutral Density Filters and explore new shutter speeds. These darkened filters make it possible to achieve shutter speeds of several seconds, minutes or even hours, i.e long exposure photography.
My world changed when I discovered ND Filters. I was still new to photography but seeing how the shutter speed affected the image made fired off a light bulb in my head and I started getting a better understanding of how the fundamental settings work together.
While I don’t always use filters, I always have them with me. There are so many scenarios where using them will make a positive impact on the image.
#5 Circular Polarizer
Another must-have equipment for landscape photographers is a Circular Polarizer. This filter is especially useful for daytime photography as it effectively reduces unwanted glare or shine from wet surfaces and increases the contrast in the sky.
It’s important to know that it darkens the image by approximately 1.5-2 stops (this varies from filter to filter) so you’ll need to make adjustments to the ISO and/or Aperture to maintain the ideal shutter speed.
#6 External Hard Drive / Backup System
Not all photographers are the most tech-savvy but it’s important to find a backup system that works effectively for you. We spend hours upon hours out in the field capturing beautiful images, then more hours at home processing them. Wouldn’t it be a pity to lose all those images you’ve put countless hours into creating due to a hard drive failure?
Recommended Reading: Step-by-Step Guide to How I Back Up My Photography
There are many ways of backing up images and I suggest searching for what seems most efficient for you. Some photographers use RAID systems, some use cloud services and some save the memory cards. There’s no right or wrong as long as you figure out a way to safely store your images and back them up in case something happens to your main drive.
#7 Spare Batteries
I’ve talked about the importance of having spare batteries on several occasions but it’s something worth repeating. I see photographers run out of battery way too often when photographing a beautiful scene, without having any spare batteries with them.
Make sure that you always have a couple extra fully charged batteries in your backpack and perhaps even a few extra in the suitcase (as well as the charger) at the hotel if you’re traveling. Batteries tend to drain quicker during night photography and in winter, so make sure you’ve always got enough to last the entire session or duration of your stay.
#8 A Properly Calibrated Monitor
Last but certainly not least, your monitor is one of the most important tools you need as a landscape photographer and in order for the colors to look correct through various platforms, it must be properly calibrated! Otherwise, what looks good on your screen may not look good on other screens and definitely might not when you print and/or sell an image. You may be forced to re-process it and blindly attempt to make the colors look correct.
I use a Spyder4Elite from Datacolor to calibrate my monitors on a monthly basis (I calibrate my monitor, the laptop and my iPad when I had one).
The items listed above are those I find essential for my own photography and those I wouldn’t be without.
Still, there are many more camera tools and accessories out there and I’m sure some of them are extremely useful as well. I would love to hear what sort of equipment you consider essential for your own photography, so if there’s something you feel is missing from this list, please share with us in a comment!