Alighthouse is more than just a towering structure amid a majestic landscape. In the old days, it served as a beacon for weary sailors, signaling the promise of land (and seeing their families again) after a long voyage at sea. Lighthouses symbolize hope and perseverance, and they make for interesting and emotionally engaging photographic subjects not only because of the dramatic scene they create but also because of what they represent.
If you’ve ever come across a particularly beautiful lighthouse scene and wanted to capture it in your photos, we’ve compiled a few useful tips for you. But first, here are the things that you’ll need.
What Equipment Do You Need for Lighthouse Photography?
Wide-Angle or Telephoto Lens
The kind of lens you need will depend on what you plan to capture. If you want to take a lighthouse photo that captures the entire skyline or seascape surrounding it, use a wide-angle lens. Make sure that it’s wide enough to capture more of the scene, but not too wide wherein you end up with fisheye distortion. On the other hand, if you want to capture a closer view of the lighthouse, a medium telephoto lens is your best bet. It allows you to capture the interesting architectural details of the structure that you wouldn’t normally be able to highlight in a landscape scene.
Lighthouse scenes fall under either landscape or architecture photography, and a tripod is an essential piece of gear for both of those niches. You’ll most likely be shooting at dawn, dusk, or night, which usually involves using slow shutter speeds. In such cases, a sturdy tripod will be extremely helpful for capturing well-exposed images without maxing out the ISO, which can ruin your image with excessive image noise, and for decreasing the chances of getting shaky shots during long exposures.
Scenes with expansive blue skies and large bodies of water can be particularly tricky to photograph in natural light due to the prevalent amount of glare and reflections. For lighthouse photography, it’s always a good idea to have a few filters on hand. There are three recommended types of filters for lighthouse photography: polarizing, split neutral density, and neutral density.
Polarizing filters are useful in getting rid of unwanted glare from reflective surfaces like bodies of water. You can also use it to naturally increase color saturation while deepening the blue tones of the surrounding skies. Meanwhile, you can also use neutral density (ND) filters to help filter some of the light entering your lens, which would allow you to use certain aperture, ISO, or shutter speed settings without risking overexposure.
Then there’s the split neutral density filter, which allows you to set specific exposure settings to brighten only half of your image. This is useful when you want to increase the exposure of the water or the ground without overexposing the sky, and vice versa.