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Using a Polariser Filter

by: srb photographic | may 2018
Using a Polariser Filter
Deepen blue skies, reduce reflected light and saturate crisp colours. In a world of post-production and photoshop, a polariser filter still has many benefits in photography.
What is a Polariser Filter?
Composed from two separate pieces of glass, a polariser filter blocks light waves of certain angles that are reflected into the camera lens. By blocking the unwanted reflected light, the camera is able to capture cleaner and crisper images.

Similar to when wearing a pair of sunglasses, a polariser filter will limit reflections from shiny surfaces and beautifully saturate colours. With a polarised lens, blue skies appear a deeper blue and clouds stand out in contrast to the background.
How to use a Polariser Filter
It’s important to remember that polarisation is at its most effective at 90 degrees to the sun and virtually non-existing at 180 degrees. A simple way to achieve a near-perfect 90 degree angle would be to make an L-shape with your thumb and index finger, keeping your finger pointed towards the sun.

To set the correct polarisation, simple rotate the front glass element of the polariser filter while checking the image through the camera’s viewfinder. You will notice the polarised effect as reflections begin to disappear and the contrast between a blue sky and clouds will increase.

Tip: To really see the difference, take an image without a filter. Then attach the polariser filter, set a desired polarisation and take an image of the exact same scene.
The Benefits of a Polariser Filter
Reflections. A polariser is the ideal filter to use when shooting with water, glass or a similar shiny surface . It eliminates unwanted reflected light and glare, while also changing the colour of the surface – great for those deep blue seascapes.

Colour. But limiting reflections, a polariser filter will saturate colours and make them more vibrant in the scene. For example, you may notice the foliage on trees looking greener than you would normally without a filter.

Sky. Similar to shooting water, the skies can appear a much deeper and eye-popping blue than normal. One rotation of the filter can take the sky in a cityscape from a pale blue to a much more vibrant blue. Clouds will also improve in contrast, appearing to pop from the background.

Protection. A polariser filter will also act as a handy protection for the expensive front element of the camera lens. Instead of dropping and breaking the lens, the filter will take the brunt of the damage. It is also common for photographers to use a UV filter for this.