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How to Use a Polarising Filter - Photo Biker 26

7 Building Blocks of Photography 2


Why would you need a polarising filter, and how do they work?

As the sun’s light travels through the atmosphere, droplets of moisture and clouds, etc., break the rays of light up and scatter them, so they are travelling in different directions. A polarising filter gathers the rays of light and brings them all together. That way, they are travelling in straight lines.

And for us photographers, that helps by removing glare and saturating colour.

However, polarising filters also remove 1.5-2 stops of light, potentially slowing down your shutter speed and causing camera shake. What does that give you? Blurry pictures!

Understanding what angle to shoot at for the polariser to make a real difference. 

I experiment (in the video above) shooting into the sun with a lovely composition. But, even with the filter in place, turning it to change the strength of polarisation, I still couldn’t improve the exposure of the shot. It made next to no difference.

So, where does it actually come in handy?

A polarising filter is great for deepening certain colours to make the contrasting ones really pop. You can change the feel and mood of a picture immensely, and it’s a real creative choice. They are also ideal when water is in the frame as you will always get a level of glare coming off.  

What you always need to consider is, does it look natural or does it look overdone - like you’ve gone a bit overboard in post-production editing?

Polarising filters have their place, and it’s handy to have one in your kit. But you do need to experiment with and without one to get a feel for when it works and when it doesn’t…

Watch my video to see how I use a polariser in a bright, blue-skied waterfront setting.

If you want to learn more about photography and like how I teach, check out my Masterclass in Photography.

Best wishes...

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Mike Browne Masterclass In Photography

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commasopencommasclose7 Blocks of Photography has helped me think about all of the areas of the 7 blocks, rather than just my settings. The focal length / DOF section was most useful, but all of the elements helped improve my photography.

- Rick Phillips -