Monday, November 24, 2008

Using a Polarizing Filter

Ever take a photo on a bright sunny day, only to have the sky wash out and be pale bluish-white? Ever wonder how photographers manage to get that perfect blue sky?

One of the best ways to get the most out of the sky is to use a Polarizing Filter. A Polarizing Filter, or Polarizer, is a filter used to control the contrast and lightness of the sky, reduce glare and atmospheric haze, and increase color saturation. Here's a great example from the Wikipedia article on filters - the image on the right uses a Polarizer, while the image on the left does not:

Yes, these days the effects of a Polarizer can be replicated in photoshop. But why spend the extra time to get a great shot on your computer, when you can get one right out of your camera. Most DSLR's will accept a polarizer, it simply screws onto the business end of your lens. Just know the diameter of your lens in mm (should be marked on the lens itself), and head to your local camera shop. They run in the range of $30-$50, but in my opinion, it's money well-spent for the time it saves in post processing.

The downside? You effectively lose a couple stops worth of light. Also, a polarizer can sometimes make your image a little flat by diminishing highlights too far in certain situations. So it takes a little practice to know when is the best time and place to use your polarizer. Just remember to carry a soft case in your bag, so you can stow your polarizer safely when not in use.

My advice? Spend the $30, practice until you know the best way to use your polarizer, and then enjoy all the time you'll save as well as more beautiful shots!

Or check out more Paul Sears Photography pages on MySpace, Facebook, or Flickr

No comments: