Polarisers: Make your images…eer, not shine?

The effects of using a Polarising Filter Tutorial

Standing on the beach looking at the tropical paradise in front of me, I can see through the water spotting yellow and white striped banner fish circling about below the crystal clear deep blue sky. Palm trees to my right hang over the water, contrasting against the sky with a rich and vibrant green.

I take my sunglasses off and hold the camera to my eye and… what? The water has turned to a glowing white, the once deep blue sky is more resemblant of baby blue and those palm trees? As shiny as the plastic plants at the cheap restaurant down the street. That’s not how it looked on the post card!!!

We have all been in these situations, beautiful scenery that seems to be coated in a reflective sheen of white when we try and photograph it. What you are experiencing is the scattering of light as it bounces off the subjects in front of you. I won’t bore you with the physics as to why it happens but I will share with you with a simple solution!

Most of us when we purchase our cameras are talked into buying a UV filter as protection for our lens but unlike a polarising filter a UV doesn’t really have much of an affect on your image in the digital age. A Polariser on the other hand acts like your expense polarised RayBans, eliminating reflections not only from glass, water and metallic object but also from vibrantly coloured surfaces say for instance bright green grass or palm tree leaves.

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“OMG!” You scream, “why don’t I throw this magical filter on my lens all the time?”. Polarising filters are great at doing one thing, they block scattered light leaving us with better colours, no reflections etc but the key here is that they do it by blocking light, not by magical wizardry. If you are photographing in low-light situation such as evening or dark indoor areas the polarising filter is now acting as a light-blocking filter of doom forcing either blurrier shots through slow shutter speeds or noisy images through overly high ISO values.

Reflections disappear!

Without a Polariser

With a Polariser

How do you use them?

Pop it on the front of your lens (see my tutorial on Step-Up Rings if you want to save some cash on multiple filters) and simply turn the front ring of the filter until the desired amount of reflection is achieved! The filters themselves don’t work for all situations but personally, I never leave the house without it!

Which one should I buy?

I should mention that whilst someone should probably pay me to say this, no one currently does… ProMaster… did you read that? hehe
I personally use the ProMaster HGX series as they have a lifetime warranty and have great light transmission meaning they don’t block as much (wanted) light as some cheaper polarisers. They aren’t cheap but they can be bought through some of the major camera stores and my Step-Up Ring article may go a long way to keeping some of those dollars in your own pocket!