Using a Polarising Filter.

As the old saying goes, ‘If you only see one film this year, you ought to get out more often’. However, if you only use one filter, may I suggest using a polarising filter. I use a Hoya Pro1 Digital Filter, Circular PL, but, of course, other makes are available.

Without polarising filter
Without using a polarising filter – much more glare on the water.
Using a polarising filter – little glare on the water and richer colours.

A polarising filter does a number of things. 

  • Saturate Colours
  • Lessen Reflections and Glare
  • Protect your Lens

Using a Polarising Filter

It’ll do more to enhance your pictures than a skylight or UV filter, although both have their place. A filter’s effect is two-fold, as well as doing the job it is supposed to, it also protects the end of your lens from scratches and other damage.

A polarising filter is about a 10th the price of a lens. With this in mind, it’s a lot cheaper replacing the filter than the lens.

Using a Polarising Filter

How to use a Polarising Filter

Firstly, the filter screws onto the front of the lens using the filter thread. Make sure it screws on cleanly to the lens and of course, don’t cross-thread it.

To clarify, the polarising filter itself rotates while it stays securely on the lens. To best illustrate a polarising filter, point the camera at the sky or some water while standing at a right angle to the sun.

Using a Polarising Filter

using a polarising filter

Then, rotate the filter slowly and you will see the sky get bluer or the water will start losing its reflection. Keep rotating until you get the maximum effect from the filter (bluest sky or least reflective water). Now, take the picture.

You will notice that the shutter speed has reduced compared to the same picture taken without the polarising filter. Generally speaking, most polarising filters will reduce the shutter speed by about 2 stops.

Results of using a polarising filter

In this instance, one result of using a polariser is that reflections on water and other shiny surfaces is dramatically reduced. Below, for example, it is easy to see which picture has the polarizer. In this case, the photos, have not been photoshopped or adulterated in any other way.

Using a Polarising filter
Using a Polarising filter
F22 1/6 sec ISO 100 without Polariser
F22 1/6 sec ISO 100 with Polariser

 Another result of using a polariser is that colours become more rich and vibrant. Once again, the photos below have not been adulterated in any other way.

Using a Polarising filter
Using a Polarising filter
F22 1/5 sec ISO 100 without Polariser
F22 1/2 sec ISO 100 with Polariser

What gear should I use?

Below is the exact gear I used to take these photos, it’s what works for me. Obviously, you need a polarising filter. The filter I have linked to comes in a range of sizes to fit your lens.

  • A polarising filter can reduce glare
  • A polarising filter can make the colours punchier
  • It will also protect the end of your lens
  • Changing your position relative to the sun will change the effect

Here comes the science bit! For the exact hows, whys and d’you mind if I don’ts about Polarising Filters click here

For all my tips and tricks see my Photography Tutorials page.

Photography Tutorials

To see all my gear, check out What’s In My Camera Bag.

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how to use a Polarising Filter

Using a Polarising Filter

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