Using a polarizing filter in your landscape photography is a great way to darken skies and create images with real impact. These 4 tips for using a polarizing filter will help get you started right.
Polarizing filters have a number of uses, but one of the most basic is to darken blue skies. This can help to enhance the contrast between sky and cloud, making it ideal for landscape or architecture shots.
Using a polarizing filter is also perfect for removing reflections and glare from non-metallic surfaces. This enables you to improve the color and definition in your waterfall, sea and river photos, but it’s also effective for darkening windows in buildings and helping to remove unwanted reflections on still-life subjects.
Using a polarizing filter also reduces the amount of light reaching your camera’s sensor by around two stops, which can either be a benefit or a hindrance, depending on what you’re shooting and the effect you’re trying to achieve.
On the plus side it will allow you to use wide apertures for shallow depth of field effects, or longer shutter speeds for creative blur, in bright conditions. But this reduced light can make it difficult to get sharp results, especially in low light, without using either a tripod or increasing the ISO to compensate.
Using a polarizing filter correctly
Choose your mount
Polarizing filters are available for both screw-in and square filter systems. The screw-in ones are great if you only want to use the filter on one lens (or each of your lenses has the same filter thread), but the square systems are convenient if you have lenses with different threads.
Rotate the filter
All polarizing filters need to be rotated to alter the effect they have on the sky and reflections. Slowly rotate the filter while looking through the viewfinder or at the Live View screen, and stop rotating when the blue sky has darkened or the reflections have disappeared.
Check your shutter speed
Using a polarizing filter will reduce the light reaching your camera’s sensor by around two stops, so you need to make sure that the shutter speed doesn’t become too slow to hold the camera steady. The best option is to use a tripod to ensure sharp results in this situation.
Watch the sky
A polarizer is great for darkening blue skies, but when shooting with wide-angle lenses it can affect some areas of the sky more than others. This uneven polarization will produce unnatural-looking results, so you should rotate the filter to minimise it, or remove the filter completely.