Fitting a polarizing filter will cut out glare and make the color in your images pop. Our quick guide explains how to use a polarizing filter in three simple steps.
A polarizer is an incredibly useful filter to have as part of your kit, so if you don’t own one already then it’s well worth making an investment. And unlike many other filters, the effects of a polarizer cannot easily be replicated in Photoshop.
polarizers work by blocking surface reflections from non-metallic objects and have a range of uses in different situations. They are very effective at reducing reflections from water and glass, enabling you to ‘see through’ the surface.
They can also be used to great effect to create rich blue skies, which contrast well with cumulus clouds in landscape images. Their ability to reduce surface glare also means that they increase color saturation and vibrancy, and this is particularly useful when you’re shooting foliage.
The polarizing filter effect can be quite subtle to see through the camera, especially on an overcast day, but the results are very evident if you compare a polarized and non-polarized image side by side.
The leaves of most plants and trees have a natural sheen to them, which can render them rather drab-looking in photographs. Fit a polarizer and this glare is eliminated, revealing colors that really pop and bring the scene to life.
How to use a polarizing filter to boost color
What do I need?
Polarizing filters can be linear, for use with a filter holder, or circular. The latter is most common, and they come in specific diameters that screw onto the front of individual lenses. If you only buy one then get one that fits your most versatile lens.
How do I use them?
The effect of a polarizing filter depends on the shooting angle. To reduce reflections from water, around 35° works best. For skies, shoot with the sun at 90° to the subject. Rotate the outer ring until reflections are reduced and colors look their most vibrant.
Watch the exposure
Polarizing filters reduce the exposure by about two ‘stops’. If the exposure was f/11 at /125th sec without the filter it will be f/11 at 1/30th sec with one fitted. In an Auto mode such as Av, the camera will adjust for this but in Manual you’ll need to do this yourself.
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