Polarizer Filters In Photography

If there’s one important digital camera accessory that professional photographers carry apart from the lens, it has to be the polarizer. The pros that use DSLRs or large-format film normally have various types of this accessory.

polarizer photo filters

“watching every sunset” captured by Aiman

It cannot be denied that the polarizer does wonders to images. It was used even before the introduction of Photoshop. Firstly, a polarizer improves the look of a scene by reducing or removing the glare and enhancing the overall color saturation. As an example, it can darken a blue sky to create a deep and crisp blue.

Compared to the current software programs that many photographers use today in editing their photos, the polarizer’s effect is unbeatable. What’s good about it is that, being a filter, it allows only certain light waves to pass through. As such, it eliminates the glare that is often seen on subjects and surfaces that reflect light. The result is a rich color in the images you capture.

The polarizer filter often comes in a circular shape and is used by mounting it on a plastic disk that has a metal or plastic ring frame that can be rotated. This is attached to the lens by screwing it or clipping it on the front part. The screw-in type is ideal if you use only a single lens. It is also good to use if all your lenses have a similar filter thread.

The circular polarizer is designed for the SLR cameras with the auto-focus feature. It should be understood, however, that it can also be used on the manual cameras.

In terms of thickness, experts strongly recommend using a thin polarizer to avoid the problem of vignetting or the darkening in the corners of a photo which often occurs when using the thick type. The thin type of polarizer filter may just cost a little more and if possible, should be used with wide angle lenses.

When using this accessory, it helps to learn the effects it creates. Before shooting, you need to rotate the filter to get the effect you want to achieve. Keep in mind that rotating the filter creates a varied effect.

The polarizer is best for landscape photography. For those taking photos of scenic spots that include bodies of water such as the river, this accessory can help you achieve a more detailed image by reducing the reflections. When photographing a river, for instance, you will be able to make the water appear transparent using the polarizer. Additionally, it is a good idea to use this filter when capturing images of foliage.

when to use a polarizer filter

“Early Morning Light on the Towers” captured by nathan mccreery

It’s important to adjust the polarizer whenever you use it. You should know the effect you want to achieve. If you’re not satisfied with what you see, always adjust and take another photo. It also helps to take another photo of the same scene without the polarizer to make you see the difference.

About the Author
For information about camera accessories, visit 42photo.com, New York’s legendary camera store in business for over 40 years.

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4 responses to “Polarizer Filters In Photography”

  1. Bob says:

    Not really very in-depth about the best way to use them …

    “it can darken a blue sky to create a deep and crisp blue.” – a polarizer doesn’t have much effect on the sky when used towards and away from the sun. The first example you showed was towards the sunrise/sunset. Best is when you have the sun on your left or right.

    For this reason it can be a disadvantage to take landscapes with a wide-angle lens and a polarizer, if there’s a lot of blue sky in the shot. One part of the image will have a much darker sky than the rest – i.e. the part which is 90 degrees to the sun.

  2. nes sunglao says:

    Thank you very much! I’ve been checking this CPL uses for quite sometimes now since I bought a set of it for my 2 lenses. I already know that CPL can make significant improvement on the pictures. What I want to find out is why it’s rotating (and you answered here pretty well and in a very layman’s term). Thank you for that. I have been learning so much from this site and I share it to my students ( I have a CCA-photography for secondary students)

  3. Karen says:

    It would be nice if you would include “before” and “after” images to display the effect that the polarizer actually has. It’s hard to justify the expenditure if you don’t know really know how they are going to affect your image.

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