Circular Polarizer – A Photographer’s Magic Tool
As described in a recent post (click here to read it) polarized sunglasses can be used to help reduce glare and improve the colors in certain types of outdoor photographs. While polarized sunglasses do work, they can be awkward to use, have limited capabilities and are sometimes too small to completely cover the camera lens. If you photograph in the outdoors regularly, purchasing a circular polarizer is a great accessory for taking your photography to the next level.
Whenever I photograph outdoors I always carry several circular polarizers (one for each lens). In fact, close to 50% of all the daytime photos you see in this blog or on my photography website (rickbraveheart.com) were made with the help of a circular polarizer. Here are just a few examples.
There are many situations where circular polarizers can work magic with your photographs. For example, they can help reduce the sun’s glare on water, ice or window glass or remove the sheen on wet vegetation while allowing the camera to record truer colors. Circular polarizers can also help reduce haze from the atmosphere and deepen the blue colors in washed out skies.
What Are They
A circular polarizer like the one shown below is a round glass filter which attaches to the camera’s lens. It contains two round pieces of glass held together by a metal ring. Polarizers are available for DSLR and many point and shoot cameras. They typically can be purchased for $30 to $90 USD while a few of the more professional models cost upwards of $200 to 400 USD.
A Circular Polarizer
After attaching a circular polarizer to the front of your camera’s lens you slowly rotate the metal ring to increase or decrease the polarization effect while at the same time previewing the results in the camera’s eyepiece or LCD screen. When the scene appears clearer or the colors truer it will look the same way in a photograph.
The Trick To Using Polarizers
For photos that include the sky and/or landscapes, a circular polarizer is most effective when the camera is pointing at roughly 45-90 degrees from the sun. A quick way to estimate this is to extend your index finger and point toward the sun while extending your thumb to form an “L” shape. Now while still pointing at the sun, rotate your thumb clockwise or counterclockwise. Anywhere you can point your thumb is roughly a 90 degree angle. While polarizers have no effect when pointed close to the sun or 180 degrees away from it, their effectiveness improves as they approach that 90 degree angle.
Buying Tips for Circular Polarizers
While there are several types of photographic polarizers, for DSLR or point-and-shoot cameras, choose a circular polarizer. For DSLR cameras, you need to purchase one that matches the diameter of your camera’s lens, such as a 67mm or 72mm diameter. That diameter size is usually marked on the front ring or back of the lens. The most popular manufactures include Hoya, B+H, Kenko, Tiffen and Singh-Ray. Retailers that carry a wide selection include BH Photo Video, Adorama and Amazon in the USA and King Cameras, Park Cameras or Amazon.co.uk in the UK.
For Point-and-Shoot cameras, circular polarizers are available for a various models and the most popular are sold by two firms. MagFilter, offers filters for cameras like the Canon G12, G15, S100 or Sony RX100, to name a few. Another company, LensMate, offers filters for various cameras made by FujiFilm, Sony and Canon. If you have a point-and-shoot camera, visit both websites to see if a circular polarizer is available for you specific model.
A circular polarizer is a great photography tool. If you enjoy landscape or nature photography, consider adding one to your camera gear.