Photography 101: Using a Polarizing Filter:

A Simple Tool That Can Produce Amazing Results

Photo of pink water lilies and lily pads with all the glare removed by the polarizer. AFTER: Waterlilies and pads shot with polarizing filter.
AFTER: Waterlilies and pads shot with polarizing filter.

By F.M. Kearney

Back in the days of film, I used to carry a complete assortment of filters in my camera bag. I had warming filters, cooling filters, neutral density filters, graduated neutral density filters, special effect filters and, of course, a polarizing filter. The digital age had made life much easier. Most of these filter effects can now be applied in post with much greater precision and in varying degrees of intensity. Not having to carry so many filters is a definite plus, but there are some filter effects that can’t be created digitally… yet.

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Subtle, But Significant: A Polarizer Filter Isn’t Just For Sunny, Blue-Sky Days

Cumulus clouds over Dickenson Bay St. John's, Antigua West Indies.

Cumulus clouds over Dickenson Bay, St. John’s, Antigua, West Indies.

Story & photos by F. M. Kearney

I’m a late-comer. I didn’t make the switch to digital until 2014. As a film shooter, I relied heavily on filters. Everything from warming to ND grads to a vast array of special effect filters were permanent residents in my camera bag. Nowadays, digital imaging can replicate many of those filter effects – often much easier and with far more control. But, as good as digital technology is, it still can’t duplicate the effects of a polarizer filter. The photo above is a classic beach scene where a polarizer works most of its magic. By filtering out the glare and atmospheric haze, the true color of the sky comes forth revealing puffy, white cumulus clouds as far as the eye can see.

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