Shareware Beach

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Polarizing Pictures

Filed under: Photography — Jan @ 11:57

A key benefit of an SLR camera over a compact is that you can put some nice lenses on the SLR. On top of that, such lenses are threaded, making it easy to put on filters. Though many filter effects, particularly color filters, can be easily replicated (or even done much better) by post-processing RAW files, that is not at all true of polarizing filters. Digital camera sensors don’t record the light’s polarization. Most light we see isn’t polarized anyway.

Sunlight does become polarized as it travels through the atmosphere, and tends to stay polarized as is reflected. A polarization filter filters out light that’s polarized at a particular (adjustable) angle. They can make the sky appear a deeper blue, reduce haze and reduce or even eliminate reflections on water, foilage and even people. The filter will have the most effect when you turn your shoulder to the sun.

Below you’ll find two pairs of photographs. Each pair was taken with the exact same (automatic) camera settings. The only difference is that for the first picture, I turned the polarization filter for minimum effect, which gives about the same result as not using the filter at all. In the second picture, I turned it for maximum effect. As you can see, filtering out the reflected highlights yields a more saturated picture. There’s more detail in the shadows because there are less highlights to be kept from overexposure. Which style you prefer is of course a matter of taste. But I do know I’ll never leave home without the polarization filter in my camera bag.

Portrait lit by sunlight

Portrait lit by sunlight, reflections filtered with a polarizer

Forest river glistening in the sun

Forest river, reflections filtered with a polarizer

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