Photographers use various tools to enhance their photographs and make them look more professional. One of these tools is the polarizing filter.

But what is this small tool and how can it make or break your image? Let's discuss.

What is a polarizing filter?

A polarizing filter, sometimes called a circular polarizing filter (CPL), is a type of filter that works by blocking certain light waves while allowing others to pass through. It might look similar to an ND filter, but the purpose is totally different.

While polarizing filters can reduce the amount of light coming through your lens, it is not as translucent or opaque as an ND filter.\

Related post: Which Landscape Photography Accessories Should You Get?

Shooting landscape photos with a polarizing filter

What are the uses of a Polarizing Filter?

There are several ways to maximize the usage of a polarizing filter. Here are some of them.

Reduce reflections

Try to take a photo of the beach or a river and your image will reflect a lot of the surroundings, particularly the sky.

Using a CPL can reduce reflections from glass and water. This is helpful when shooting landscapes, seascapes, or any body of water. It is also a great addition to your arsenal if you photograph cars.

Sometimes product photographers use a polarizing filter too if the product has a reflective surface.

When light reflects of the subject's surface, glare is sometimes present.

The polarizing filter improves the image by reducing the glare. It does so by cutting the light waves that cause the reflection.

The final image will then look more detailed, has better contrast, and has reduced distractions.

A CPL or polarizing filter is best used when the light source is coming from the side. The effect is not that apparent if the light source is directly overhead.

Reduce the amount of glare

Besides reflections, a polarizing filter can reduce glare and improve color saturation. 

Like what we've mentioned earlier, it is useful when shooting subjects with reflective surfaces. This includes jewelry or even wine bottles.

For product photography, a CPL can bring out more colors in the image. The contrast and improved saturation make the final image more vivid and more appealing.

 Cut down on polarized light in the atmosphere

Landscape photographers use a polarizing filter to cut down on polarized light coming from the atmosphere.

For instance, if the landscape has clear blue skies, it may look washed out without a polarized filter.

Using one solves this problem. The CPL will make the shot more vivid and the skies will end up better looking with more contrasts.

Protects the lens

Like other filters, a polarizing filter attaches to the front of your lens. It can protect your lens from scratches, dirt, and other debris.

The filter works as a barrier between your lens and the environment. In case of an accident, the filter may work as cushion between your lens and the ground. 

It is better to replace a filter than to replace an expensive lens, right?

Jewelry images are often shot with a polarizing filter

How to choose the right polarizing filter?

There are different types of polarizing filters available today. This includes linear and circular polarizing filters.

Linear polarizing filters only allows horizontal or vertical light waves to enter the filter while it is being rotated.

Meanwhile, circular polarizing filters or CPL allows circular polarized light waves to pass through the lens. However, it is also sensitive to linear polarized light.

So which type of polarizing filter should you get?

If possible, choose a circular polarizing filter since it is more versatile and is compatible with a lot of cameras.

But before buying a CPL, you need to consider the lenses that you have and their diameter.

The best way is to purchase a CPL with a large diameter and purchase step down rings.

Step down rings or adapters allow you to use a large diameter filter on smaller lenses.

This saves you money since step up rings are more affordable than buying individual filters for each of your lenses.

Final Thoughts

Using a polarizing filter has a lot of benefits for photographers. It helps you take better images by reducing reflections from glass, water and other reflective surfaces.

Moreover, the effect of a CPL is challenging to duplicate in software editing. 

Choosing the right polarizing filter is important since it will greatly affect your image output and shot efficiency.

Lastly, if you haven't tried using a polarizing filter, we encourage you to give it a try. Even if it's just the affordable ones, just so you can see the difference between a polarized and non-polarized image output.

Have a great day!

Aim Orallo