#Photo3 – Three Uses of the Polariser

A weekly trio of top photo tips

As digital progresses and Photoshop becomes more advanced, there’s certain filters that we could do without and let Photoshop replicate instead. Graduated filters are one such example, but there is one filter the image editor can’t replace. One filter that has many uses and refuses to be replaced by modern technology (for now!). Step forward the polariser. Probably the most useful filter you can buy and one every photographer should have in their gadget bag. Here’s just three examples of its versatility…

Boost the Sky

A polarising filter removes the polarised component of the light waves in the air and thus, darkens the sky. Add in some fluffy white cumulus clouds and you have a beautiful contrast that adds impact to a sunny day scene. Include a subject featuring warm colours, such as yellow and red and again you have contrast, but here contrasting with the cool, deep blue of a polarised sky. And of course, your chosen subject will also be polarised, boosting its colours to a rich, vivid saturation.

Barn in buttercup meadows, Muker, North Yorkshire Dales

Use a polarisaer filter to boost a blue sky, as well as enrich the other colours in the scene

Enhance Water

The polariser filter also works well when there is water in the scene. It helps cut glare and can improve any reflections appearing on the water’s surface. Rotate the filter more and the polarising effect is further enhanced cutting through the surface glare from any bright light and enabling that ‘see through’ water effect, revealing the rocks below. You do have to be careful when shooting water scenes with this filter however. Rotate the filter too much and the water can become unnaturally dark. This will also make the water darker than the sky above, which also looks unbalanced. So use a suitable grad filter on the sky to keep the two elements evenly exposed.

Thirlmere Reservoir , Lake District, Cumbria

Remove glare off water for enchanced reflections

Prolong the Exposure

Neutral density filters can be used to prolong an exposure. This can help add blur to a scene or even help bring down the shutter speeds on a bright day if shooting at maximum aperture. The polariser is an ideal basic ND filter, reducing the light reaching the sensor by around two stops, which is often more than enough for a desired effect. Just rotate the filter so it isn’t having a polarising effect and now instead, you have a 2-stop ND filter. Great for shooting waterfalls where you can blur and polarise the water as well.

Bus and Nelson Column, Trafalgar Square, London

Sometimes a cut in the exposure by 2 stops is enough to add blur and impact to a subject

 

You can read more about the polarising filter in my eGuides. These are available as part of an e6 subscription or to purchase separately. www.e6subscription.co.uk

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