A polarizer is the best camera filter to have in your bag, in our humble opinion. In this quick tutorial we’ll explain why, and show you how to use a polarizer to maximise its effects.
A polarizing filter is probably the most useful filter you can own and, unlike other filters, its effects cannot be replicated in Photoshop. Polarizers remove reflections from non-metallic surfaces, which makes them useful when photographing water.
They also remove reflections from the tiny water droplets present in the atmosphere, giving landscapes better colour saturation. Polarizers are often used to darken the sky, giving it a more intense blue colour and making clouds stand out.
The effect a polarizer has depends on the angle of the light striking the subject. They work best when shooting at right angles to the direction of sunlight and are less effective if the sun is directly behind you. They are also effective in overcast conditions to remove glare from water.
Pros and cons
A polarizing filter reduces the amount of light reaching the sensor, so a slower shutter speed is needed to capture the shot. This can be a positive attribute if you enjoy shooting scenes using a long exposure, such as moving water. On the downside, you usually need to use a tripod when using a polarizer, to prevent camera shake and make sure everything is in sharp focus.
How to get perfect polarized shots
01 Choose your polarizer
Polarizers come in two forms – linear and circular – but both do the same job. A linear filter is used in combination with a filter holder fitted to the front of your lens. Circular ones come in different sizes to fit the thread of your lens, so you many need to buy more than one.
02 Set it up
Using a circular polarizer is easy. Screw the filter onto the front of your lens and line up your shot, ideally with the light coming from one side. Rotate the outer ring while looking through the viewfinder or rear LCD until the polarization effect is most obvious.
03 Watch out for…
Polarizers can cause vignetting on a wide-angle lens, but this can be avoided by zooming in. Polarization can also be uneven with a wide-angle view – this is most obvious in a clear blue sky. Shoot a tighter composition if this is a problem and always use a tripod.
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