One filter to rule them all

The hum­ble po­lar­is­ing filter is the most ver­sa­tile and one whose ef­fects can’t be repli­cated in Pho­to­shop

Amateur Photographer - - Technique -

IF THERE was only one filter on the planet you could ever own, it would have to be a po­lar­is­ing filter be­cause of all the things it can be used for – it’s a filter that can be used for four dif­fer­ent ef­fects. Is that even pos­si­ble? You’ve prob­a­bly al­ready guessed that it is, and it’s this ver­sa­til­ity that makes po­laris­ers es­sen­tial for all types of pho­tog­ra­phers. For land­scapes, how­ever, you should never leave home with­out one, es­pe­cially when shoot­ing wa­ter.

Po­lar­is­ing fil­ters are mainly used to re­duce sur­face re­flec­tions and glare on wa­ter and glass, along­side their abil­ity to deepen blue skies. But they also re­duce glare and in­crease sat­u­ra­tion. More­over, their abil­ity to re­duce ex­po­sure by up to 1.5 stops means they can be used as a low-strength ND filter. Most of these ef­fects can’t be re­pro­duced in post­pro­cess­ing. They’re most ef­fec­tive when the sun is at a 90° an­gle to the cam­era.

Us­ing po­lar­is­ing fil­ters couldn’t be sim­pler, whether us­ing them with a drop-in filter sys­tem or as a stand­alone screw-in type. At­tach the filter to the lens or holder – some hold­ers have a front at­tach­ment for the po­lariser while oth­ers have a re­cess within the holder it­self with di­als to turn the filter. Once at­tached, ro­tate it un­til the de­sired ef­fect can be seen in the viewfinder. Take care when deep­en­ing blue skies be­cause over po­lar­i­sa­tion will leave the sky too blue.

Po­lar­is­ing fil­ters are of­ten used with ND grads and ND fil­ters to com­bine ef­fects for the best re­sults pos­si­ble. One thing worth men­tion­ing is that if you’re us­ing screw-in fil­ters and would like to use an ND filter along­side a po­lariser, make sure the po­lariser is screwed onto the ND. If you at­tach the fil­ters the other way around the po­lariser will ro­tate while the ND is be­ing at­tached, which will lose the de­sired ef­fect. Also, if your lens ro­tates while fo­cus­ing it’s best to man­u­ally fo­cus and then turn the po­lariser for the de­sired ef­fect af­ter.

Im­prov­ing skies

Even mod­ern cam­eras strug­gle to cap­ture scenes the way the eye sees them, and what ap­pears to be a blue sky can be cap­tured white by the cam­era. Ro­tat­ing the po­lar­is­ing filter un­til the sky is blue is all you need to do but take care not to over po­larise the sky. Over-po­lar­i­sa­tion of skies will look un­nat­u­ral and can also re­sult in ar­eas of the sky be­ing darker than oth­ers.

Re­mov­ing glare and re­flec­tions

Glare and re­flec­tions on wa­ter some­times make a shot, but in sit­u­a­tions where you don’t want them, a po­lar­is­ing filter will be able to re­duce or com­pletely re­move the glare in many cases. Com­pose your shot and then sim­ply ro­tate the po­lariser un­til the glare or re­flec­tion be­come in­vis­i­ble. This also works with glass and other sur­faces such as car body­work.

Po­lar­is­ing fil­ters re­duce sur­face re­flec­tions and glare, as well as deepen blue skies

Glare: with­out po­lariser

Glare: with po­lariser

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