Why I Always Use an L-Plate Bracket for Landscape Photography

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There’s no secret that there’s an abundance of accessories for landscape photographers. Some of them are considered absolutely essential while others might just be unnecessary extra weight in your backpack. With so many tools to choose between it can be hard to separate the useful from the unuseful, which is probably why we end up purchasing so many unnecessary products.

When talking about accessories that are useful for landscape photographers I find that there’s a handful of products that keep coming up: a tripod, a variety of filters, a remote shutter release and a cleaning kit. There’s no doubt that these are tools that can make a huge difference in your photography.

L-Bracket Plate in use shooting on tripod.

But there’s one that I feel goes under the radar quite often, which is fascinating as it’s one that the majority of professional landscape photographers use: an L-plate bracket.

What is an L-Plate Bracket?

If this is the first time you’ve heard about an L-plate bracket I urge you to keep reading this article and to consider if this is a tool you should be adding to your equipment list.

The L-Plate bracket is a piece of metal that is fastened to your camera body as a replacement for the regular quick release tripod plate. Unlike a regular quick release plate, an L-Plate is shaped as an L, bending 90 degrees up the side of the camera. This makes it easy to quickly switch between a horizontal or vertical orientation, which is a benefit I’ll come back to in a minute.

To connect the camera to the tripod you place a clamp on the tripod’s ball head. These clamps come in a few different options, including a quick-release lock and a twist lock.

Why I Always Use an L-Plate Bracket for Landscape Photography - camera mounted on a tripod with an l-plate bracket

Why I Always Use an L-Plate Bracket

Ever since I started with landscape photography and purchased my first L-Plate, this has been an accessory that I have recommended. During the last few years, I’ve noticed that more and more beginners are understanding the value of this tool and I’m often surprised to see that the majority of my workshop participants use one.

The main benefit of using an L-Plate is that you can easily switch between a horizontal and vertical orientation. Now, you might ask “how is it easier to remove and re-attach the camera than to just loosen the ball head and readjust it?”.

That is a good question and one that might not seem that obvious but the answer is actually quite simple. When shifting from horizontal to a vertical orientation with an L-plate you keep the same composition.

L-Plate Bracket for Landscape Photography - camera mounted vertically using an l-plate

It’s easy to change the orientation of your camera when using an L-Plate

When shifting from horizontal to vertical orientation without an L-Plate you need to move the tripod as you’ve also moved the camera a few centimeters to the side, meaning you’ve lost the composition you had previously. With an L-plate attached, you maintain the composition and don’t have to worry about moving the tripod back and forth each time you change the orientation.

Another big benefit for those who shoot panoramas is that the camera perfectly pivots around the right spot, meaning you won’t have problems stitching the shots together later.

Who are L-Plates for?

Now I’m not going to lie and say that L-Plates are for everyone. If you’re a studio photographer or if you never use a tripod, it’s better not to waste your money on this tool. However, if you’re a photographer who regularly uses a tripod, I highly recommend that you get one right away.

a vertical photo of a landscape scene - L-Plate Bracket for Landscape Photography

It’s easy to quickly change to a vertical orientation when using an L-Plate

Here are a few photography genres which will greatly benefit from using an L-Plate:

  • Landscape photography
  • Astrophotography
  • Architectural photography
  • Commercial photographers
  • Macro photographers
  • Studio photographers (who use tripods)

Shot vertically using the L-Bracket.

What to look for when purchasing an L-Plate

Unlike many of the other types of accessories we find for photography, there aren’t a whole lot of options when it comes to L-plate brackets. There’s no fancy technology or must-have features. This is a simple tool, but there are still a couple of things to look for when you’re purchasing one.

  • Never purchase “universal” plates: When you’re searching for L-Plates you’ll most likely come across several models which are branded as universal plates. Do not purchase one of these! While they claim to be universal, this is rarely the case. Most likely parts of the plate will block the pockets and plugs on the side of your camera.
  • Metal plates are always best: Metal plates might be a few dollars more expensive but they are worth every cent. A sturdy metal plate is more durable and less likely to malfunction (I’ve had my RRS L-Plate for 4 years and it still works like new).

Final tips

The best option is to find a metal plate which is specifically made for your camera model. For example, I’m using a plate that perfectly fits the Nikon D800 and D810 but when using it on my backup camera, the Nikon D750, it covers the ports on the side, meaning I’m not able to use a cable release.

Lastly, you don’t need to purchase the most expensive alternatives. I know many photographers who use L-Plates that cost between $10 and $30, and these work just as well as more expensive versions. Just make sure that it’s made of metal and fits your camera. You’re likely to find good options for less than $50 so don’t feel like you have to get one of the premium $200 versions.

Love Landscape Photography?

If you enjoy landscape photography check out our comprehensive article – the dPS Ultimate Guide to Landscape Photography which includes a free printable version.

Read more from our Cameras & Equipment category

Christian Hoiberg Christian Hoiberg is a full-time landscape photographer who helps aspiring photographers develop the skills needed to capture beautiful and impactful images. Visit his website to get a free download of his eBook 30 Tips to Improve Your Landscape Photography.

  • Maxou

    I understand why L-plates are a must for landscape but fail to see how you may use it for astro.

  • Scott Gaulin

    Not required if you shoot medium or large format with a revolving back or on 6×6 of course.

  • Orel A Shaï

    try do point sky with a ballhead without plate, it’s limited and awful to take a panoramic, it’s way better with a plate

  • Maxou

    Agreed, I didn’t think about panoramic. Thanks

  • Jess

    Thank you for the info. I’m a freelance photographer, but love landscapes…

  • Robert

    Counter question: Why do you use this stupid plastic cover over the rear monitor? According to the User’s Manual, it’s for protecting the monitor when the camera is not in use.

  • Sassy Deelish

    My L-plate is almost always attached to my camera. I definitely agree it’s functional.

    But it won’t pivot perfectly for panorama shots. It pivots *better* with an L-plate, but you need a nodal slide if you want “perfect” pivoting for panoramic photos. Particularly if you have foreground elements that are close to the camera.

  • George Johnson

    You can’t beat an L-bracket for keeping that centre of gravity, so many times you’ll be on shaky ground and the last thing you need is that centre shifting at a critical moment. Plus the L-brackets makes flipping the camera around the pivot point down the lens barrel so much better and easier. I don’t know how I managed before without an L-bracket. ( One of those things I wish I’d come up with the idea for! Ha ha! )

    I shoot scapes, street and city handheld which means I had to find a way to shoot with a tripod or shoulder strap. So I bought battery packs for my Canon cameras. My L-bracket is attached it to my Canon battery packs, then when I want to shoot handheld with a shoulder strap I simply pull out the battery back ( L-bracket stays attahed ), screw the strap into the camera bush. I use Manfrotto L-brackets and they are a pig to configure and align so the last thing you need is faffing about taking them on and off once they’re locked into the bushes.

  • Charles Church

    The “L” bracket is a very helpful and appropriate accessory for many different photography venues. However I have found the flip bracket facilitates just a bit more in many situations. With a flip bracket I need not remove my camera from the tripod, I simply “twist” the camera around the axis of the lens. It works easily and maintains the focal point of the subject matter. I’ve used both L brackets and flip brackets and my preference is the flip

  • Federico Krafft Vera

    And the L bracket avoid the risk of unwanted inclination of a heavy lens because the ball head is not strengh enough to hold it in place when you turn the camera to the side.

  • ernldo

    I fail to understand how anyone using a tripod doesn’t use an “L” bracket. I have one on all my cameras, have had for many years….

  • grhazelton2

    I’m considered looking for a L bracket for my Pentax K 5 after getting my Pentax 645n which has TWO tripod sockets! But I do like the matched battery grip for the K 5 and its ease of vertical format shooting I keep a Manfrotto quick release in each socket on the 645nm, changing from horizontal to vertical takes only moments. So thoughtful of Pentax; would that other cameras had two tripod sockets.

  • T N Args

    I had a little laugh when I read that tilting the camera on the tripod head without an L-plate will “lose the composition because the camera has moveed a few centimetres to one side”. Guess I’ll just keep doing that, and losing all my compositions. 🙂

  • DAB

    I want to buy one but i am looking expert advise. What wil be the best L plate bracket for a nikon D810 with a Manfroto tripod 055. Will have I to also buy an adapter for the release plate wich iit is not an accra system?

  • Michael Clark

    Most heavy lenses have a tripod collar, which is what should be attached to the tripod. With a tripod collar the rotation is perfectly around the lens’ optical axis. With an L bracket it is usually not as exact because the camera base plate is closer to the lens than the side of the camera body. If using a battery grip the opposite is true, the side of the L bracket is closer to the lens than the bottom.

  • Michael Clark

    Most of the lenses I use with a tripod have tripod collars.

  • Michael Clark

    Or a tripod collar attached to the lens.

  • Michael Clark

    Because he’d rather preserve the camera’s resale value than be able to see the LCD?

  • Federico Krafft Vera

    Yes, but I meant a wide angle heavy lens like 14-24 mm which doesn’t use a tripod collar.

  • Michael Clark

    35.3 oz/1,000g is a heavy lens? Then what do you call a 140 oz./4,000g 400/2.8?

  • Kyle Wagner

    Easy. I determine my composition AFTER I determine whether i want portrait or landscape. I don’t like adding unnecessary parts.

  • Kyle Wagner

    I just determine my composition AFTER I determine whether i want portrait or landscape. 😉

  • Kyle Wagner

    I do it all the time with no L bracket. Not sure what the issue is.

  • Kyle Wagner

    Don’t treat your expensive equipment like garbage and you don’t have to worry about that 😉

  • Phil Colwill

    I use a Kirk. Not inexpensive, but very solid. My biggest problem was that some of the larger lenses, that don’t have a lens mount, would turn on the plate when in vertical orientation. This has solved the problem.

  • Michael Clark

    I use my gear. I don’t go out of my way to damage it, but I also don’t limit the usability of my gear by leaving the covers on it. I haven’t used a UV or other “protective” filter on any of my lenses for normal use in years. If I were shooting at the beach or in a desert and the wind were blowing, or if I were shooting in an industrial environment with cutting/grinding/machining/welding going on, or in some other high risk type of environment with small particles flying around at high velocities I would.

    Having said that, leaving a rear LCD uncovered will eventually lead to fine scratches. It’s just a fact of life. I accept that as the price of usability, but some other folks don’t.

    I’ve never resold a camera body, so resale value isn’t really a consideration for me.

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