What is a Polarized Camera Lens | And How to Use

A polarizing filter is one of the most required tools in a photographer’s bag. It is typically the first filter landscape every photographer buys to instantly improve their image by adding vividness and contrast to them.

Putting a Polarized Camera Lens filter on your lens is like wearing a pair of polarized sunglasses over on your eyes – the polarized glass blocks random light waves from passing through, creating a very clearer picture.

In this article, we will go through detailed information on polarized camera lens filters, what they do, why they are very important, and why you should consider using them for your best photography needs.

What is a polarized lens for the camera?

A polarizing filter or polarising filter (you can see spelling differences) is often installed in front of the camera lens in photography in order to some darken skies, also manage reflections, or suppress glare from the surface of lakes and the sea.

The rotational orientation of the filter is adjusted for the preferred artistic effect on photography.

How does a polarizing camera filter work?

The vast majority of our planet’s atmosphere is composed of many gases that are invisible to every human eye. But, a small portion of the atmosphere is created up of water vapor, pollutants, and also other particulate matter.

These elements vary in quantity depending on the weather, day, and also location. Sometimes Water vapor and pollutants contribute to haze, which decreases visibility over very long distances, particularly close to bodies of water.

The haze we see is a result of some light waves hitting particles in the air, causing randomization. Also on a clear, very sunny day, distant subjects can be covered by haze. And The best way to cut through that haze is to use a Polarized camera lens filter.

Simply like atmospheric particles randomize daylight, so also do reflective surfaces. Using a Polarized camera lens filter can increase color saturation in your pictures by reducing reflections from water, glass, leaves, and other non-metal surfaces.

Additionally, using a Polarized camera lens filter helps you create deep blue skies in your pictures. Blue light waves some shorter than red and green waves, causing them to scatter very easily.

Polarizing filter your view of the sky will prevent randomized blue light from coming into your camera lens, leaving you with the absolute blue light possible.

Polarization filter can vary hugely depending on the celestial position of the sun, so it is very important to understand that both times of the day and the time of the year can very good impact the amount of polarization one can obtain from a polarizing camera filter.

When to Use a Polarizer Filter?

The beauty of Polarized camera lens filter is that they solve all sorts of problems with outdoor photography

Polarized camera lens
polarizing filter

To Cut Down Glare

If there’s water in your scene, a polarizer will minimize the glare from the sun off the outside of the water.

Polarizer Filter Not only does this improve the look and feel of the picture by not having a bright glare to distract your eye, but if the water is shallow, a Polarizer Filter allows you to actually see into the lek water.

That’s an obvious good benefit regardless, however, especially if you’re using water as foreground interest because the viewer will be able to see what lurks below the water’s surface.

Additionally, Polarizer Filter eliminates reflections off of wet outsides you might encounter in a landscape, like rocks or leaves along a body of water.

That means you get more extensive, more saturated colors, again without the distraction of the sun’s glare.

To Use Slower Shutter Speeds

What some photographers don’t know is that a Polarized camera lens will actually let you use a slower shutter speed than usual.

Now, a Polarized camera lens filter certainly isn’t going to give you the same to same light-stopping power as a neutral density filter will.

However, you can get a couple more extra clicks of shutter speed to get those gorgeous, milky water effects as you see in the picture above.

To Make Clouds Pop

I know I’ve faced my fair share of gorgeous landscapes that were accidentally under a bright sky with little definition and little color.

But a polarizer filter helps rectify that problem.

Not only does a polarizer filter add definition to very bright clouds, but it also helps deepen the blue color of the sky.

That’s because a polarizer filter also helps minimize haze which is all too very common – be it from smog, smoke from forest fires, fog, or a temperature inversion.

As a result, a polarizer filter is very helpful for making the sky an asset in your landscape images, rather than being the very low spot of the shot due to lack of color and definition.

Read our Another post: Camera Lens Hood

When NOT to Use a Polarizer filter

So now that you understand the benefits of using a Polarized camera lens filter for landscape photography, it’s time to consider when using a polarizer filter is actually not such a good idea.

Polarized camera lens
Polarized camera lens filter

When You Want a Highlight Wet Surfaces

Sometimes, eliminating the glare of wetness on landscape elements is actually harmful to the shot.

After all, that wetness can add just a touch of very soft reflection that gives the picture a bit more depth and interest to the image. Moreover, sometimes you might not want to see for water and instead use it to reflect your scene, as is the case in the picture above.

The key here is to pick and choose when to remove the polarizer filter.

If you see that the reflections are too intense or distracting, use the Polarized camera lens filter. If they are subtle and very soft, think about continuing to shoot without a polarizer filter.

Low Light Situations

As noted previously, polarizer filters reduce the amount of light entering your camera lens, so naturally, if you’re shooting in very dim lighting, a polarizer filter isn’t going to get you the results you want.

Densely forested scenes, canyons, or shooting at dusk are situations that quickly come to mind in which you should go without the polarizer filter.

Moreover, if you’re out at midnight shooting things like the night sky, a polarizer filter won’t do you any favors.

For example, if you’re shooting the moon, having a polarizer filter will only force your own camera to use a very long shutter speed or a higher ISO. Instead, remove the polarizer filter and speed up the shutter to avoid star trails (or extend the shutter to get star trails) and minimize the ISO to minimize digital noise in the shot.

When Light Has Intense Color

When there is a lot of color going on, such as on sunset day, removing the polarizer filter from your camera lens can actually help your photoshoot.

This is because that color will be reflected off of any wet surfaces in the picture.

So, if you’re photo shooting a sunset day at a beach, going without a polarizer filter will allow you to incorporate the very gorgeous, color-filled reflected light off of any rocks protruding from the water.

What’s more extra, near sunset day when the light is a fine golden color as seen above, going without a polarizer filter helps you highlight that color.

That, in turn, helps make for a more dramatic picture with more color and light in the image.

When Photographing Rainbows

Even though a rainbow isn’t just reflected light (it’s also due to refraction and dispersion of light), a Polarized camera lens filter will still minimize its appearance in your images.

That means that if you’re shooting a scene with a rainbow; remove your polarizer filter and photoshoot without.

You’ll see that the rainbow is far more intense and vibrant without a polarizer filter!

Best polarized camera lens filter

  1. LEE Filters 105mm Landscape Polarizer
  3. B+W XS-Pro Kaesemann HTC CPL MRC Nano polarized Filter
  4. Tiffen Circular Polarizer
  5. B+W 77mm XS-Pro HTC Kaesemann Circular Polarizer filter
  6. HOYA PRO1 Digital Filter Circular Polarizer
  7. Breakthrough Photography X4 CPL Circular Polarizer
  8. LEE Filter Seven5 Circular Polarizer Filter
  9. Tiffen 77mm Polarizer Filter
  10. Hama Polarizing Filter

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are lots of situations in which a polarizer filter shouldn’t be used.

Of course, there are plenty of situations in which having a polarizer filter is important, too.

Even though you shouldn’t use a polarized camera lens filter all the time, it’s still a very incredibly valuable tool to have at your disposal, mainly for landscape photography.

Of course, like most photography gear, you don’t want to outfit yourself with something very cheap. Instead, you want a very high-quality polarized camera lens filter that helps you produce excellent pictures while offering you years of durable service as well.

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