A Quick Guide to When You Need a Polarizer for Your Photos

When you're first starting out in photography, you may wonder what circular polarizers are and how they can improve your photographs. This quick and helpful video will show you why photographers use them and when you should consider pulling one out of your bag.

Coming to you from David Bergman of Adorama TV, this video will teach you the ins and outs of circular polarizers. Reflected light tends to be polarized, and thus, by turning the polarizer such that its axis is perpendicular to that of the incoming light, you can largely remove glare and reflections from an image. This can be tremendously useful in many situations. In particular, landscape photographers tend to use them to remove glare and reflections on the surface of water and to darken the sky. They can also increase the vibrancy of your images, particularly if you're photographing something like wet vegetation that can get washed out when hit by direct light. However, they're more an artistic choice than a technical requirement, so it's best to learn how they affect your images and decide when you'd like to use them, particularly since you often can't replicate their effect in post-production. Check out the video above for the full rundown. 

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4 Comments

Han Seoul-Oh's picture

the haloing around the tree in the "toned in computer" example is just atrocious.

David Love's picture

One would've worked to film his glasses.

Ansel Spear's picture

Any advice on when NOT to use a polarising filter? Be wary of using a polarising filter on a wide angle lens because the angle of view is wider that the effective polarised area and you will get uneven colour in the sky. Also, polarising filters are only effective when perpendicular to the sun (or a few degrees either way) so not all reflections can be reduced satisfactorily.

I’ve been using B+W polarizers for many years. A lot users have a misconception about their use and how they work. You don’t need for the sun to be out when removing reflections from foliage and water. They really enhance the colors in reference to removing the glare. Those opportunities where you can make the blue sky and white clouds standout while removing glare really makes a photo stand out.

Just learn to avoid the poterzation effect which happens to the deep blue sky when using a wide angle lens. Clouds can help eliminate this issue.