Why is a polarizing filter one of the most essential tools? How to use it?
Panorama Photography Nature Photography People Photography
June 21, 2019

Photography is a journey of creativity. With the rapid rise in the number of creative photographers, beautiful images are being made every day. If you want to wow your viewers, you need a lot more than the simple basics of photography. Filters added to the beauty and creativity of photography. There are several types of filters available in the market; each type of filter addressing a different issue. Polarizing filters are used to reduce the reflections from shinier surfaces. This filter changes the way the camera treats the lighting conditions. Landscape photographers invariably own one of these. Of all the genres of photography, polarizing filters improve landscape photographs the most. The reason is quite simple. In case of landscape photography, the light is distributed all over the place and this somewhat makes the images look flatter than normal. This is where a polarizing filter steps up. By reducing the amount of reflections selectively, these add a lot of punch to the images.


Image courtesy: plentyandmore.com

How Polarizing filter changes the perception:

We already know that a polarizing filter can add vibrancy to the images. Let us take a look at how they actually do so…

  1. Shinier surfaces like water: This is where polarizing filters have the biggest impact. When you normally shoot a water body, the reflections off the water surface actually spoil the look of the image. Photographers normally want to have reflections on the water surface rather than off it. A polarizing filter cuts off the reflection of light from such a surface and makes the image a usable one. It also changes the color of the water surface a bit by adding vibrancy to it. The brighter and bolder blues change the image completely.

  2. Sky: Another vital aspect of landscape photography is how you are showing the sky. Flat skies don’t lend any punch to the images. They are a big turn off for the viewers. While a lot of clouds can add drama to your shot, what if there are not a lot of clouds? In beautiful weather conditions with clear blue skies, the camera fails to exactly replicate the wonder of the actual scene. A polarizing filter comes in handy here. It adds a lot of vibrancy to the color of the sky and thereby increases the contrast. This increases the glamour of your shot. Another useful feature of a polarizing filter is that it can somewhat cut off the misty haze in your cityscape shots. Although it is not quite as efficient as the dehaze feature in post-processing, it is a useful feature to have!

  3. How polarizing filter changes the color of an object: A polarizing filter cuts off reflections coming off the objects in your image. This, in turn, increases the vividness of the actual color of the object. For example, when you shoot foliage without a polarizing filter, the greens appear way flatter than the greens caused by the polarizing filters.

  4. Windowpane issue: This is a very common problem we face. I was traveling on a bus and there was a beautiful landscape shot to be made. The window panes could not be opened so I took the shot through the window pane. The shot got spoilt because of the reflection coming off the window glass. How often have you faced this issue? For those, who have been left frustrated by this, a polarizing filter is a great gift! A polarizing filter can cut off those reflections to a large extent and can recover your image from the dumps.

  5. Protection: A polarizing filter can protect your lens. Well to be very honest, this is not what a polarizing filter is developed for but it is always providing the extra protection for your expensive lens.

How to use a polarizing filter:

  1. The polarizing filter works best when used at 90 degrees to the sun. The angles can be worked out quite easily. Use your thumb and forefinger to make a pistol. Point the forefinger at the sun and the movement of the thumb will tell you the angles at which you can move the camera. This means that it is never advisable to use these filters against a setting sun as that will brighten some parts of the sky whereas the other parts will appear flat.

  2. A polarizing filter consists of 2 elements. The front element is the one that determines the amount of polarizing effect. Rotation of this part of the filter can actually be quite tricky since you need to be absolutely sure of the amount of polarizing effect you require. The viewfinder may not be the best platform to analyze this. The best way is to adjust the front element to the maximum and then reduce it a little. Overdoing the polarizing effect can ruin your image completely and beyond repair.

  3. Do not use the polarizing filter in low light situations since it does cut off a stop of light. You don’t want dark images just because you were trying to increase the vividness of the landscape.

Common problems to avoid:

  1. Always make sure that the camera is somewhat close to 90 degrees to the sun when you are using polarizing filters. If you have your camera towards the direction of the sun, you will get uneven polarization in the skies. This means that some parts of the skies will have much darker shades of blue and others.

  2. Vignetting can be a major problem while using polarizing filters. This commonly happens when you are using a wide angle lens at the widest focal length. This also happens when you shoot at very wide open apertures.

  3. Going overboard with the polarizing effect is another problem since this can lead to artificial images.

Filters always enhance your photography provided you know how to handle them properly. Polarizing filters are no exceptions. A must-have for landscape photographers, polarizing filters are changing images for the better, across the world. There is no reason you should lag behind!

Panorama Photography Nature Photography People Photography
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