Many times you see a beautiful landscape and want to capture it with your camera. But when you get home the image looks boring and flat. In this article we’ll look into one aspect of improving landscape photos by using a filter to make those images pop.
Today we’re talking about circular polarizing lenses and when and how to use them for great results.
A circular polarizing lens (CPL) is small lens filter that attaches to the front of your camera. It works by limiting or filtering the type of light that enters into the camera. This means it reduces reflections as well as glare and haze. At the same time contrast is improved and color saturation is better.
When to use a polarizing filter
You would generally think to use this type filter with landscape photography. The results will be a deeper color blue in the sky and richer colors of foliage. You see the effects best when the camera is pointed 90 degrees from the sun, so shooting directly at or away from the sun will diminish the filter usage.
Also note that this is a circular lens, meaning you can turn or twist the lens to increase or decrease the amount of polarization. It has been said that a polarizing lens is loosely similar to sunglasses in that, it works best on bright sunny days and it also decreases the amount of light entering the camera.
How to use a CPL
If you decide you want to buy one, know that they come in a wide variety of sizes or diameters. You will need to match the diameter to your specific lens diameter. The specs should be printed on your lens where you can then lookup the CPL info that will fit. Look for a small circle with a line through it on the camera lens. Next to that will be a size in mm.
As mentioned earlier, the CPL screws onto your existing lens and can be rotated to enhance polarization. So as you look through the viewfinder, experiment with the polarizing lens intensity to find what looks best to you.
Let’s look at some situations when a CPL would be useful.
- Reflections off water. This filter reduces reflections and glare coming off water and other objects such as glass. The results are cleaner images where you can really see in to the water.
- Blue sky. The color of the sky will go from pale blue to a deeper color when using this filter.
When not to use a polarizing filter
Sometimes you may not want the effects a CPL offers. It’s up to you as you select your shot. You may want to keep the reflections coming off water for example. If the image looks right to you then remove the CPL.
A CPL reduces the light entering the camera lens so you wouldn’t want to use it in low light situations.
As weird as it may sound, you may not want to use it in intense light situations such as sunset. The light at sunset can drape across the scene and add a beautiful color.
How do I choose a polarizing filter?
When choosing a polarizer you need to think about how you want to use it and also how much you intend to spend. Like everything in the camera world, quality matters and costs more.
The price range of polarizers varies and starts around $35US and goes up from there, as does the quality. While you may not need the most expensive polarizer, buy the best you can afford. It will make a difference.
A higher quality polarizer will allow more light through and may only require one f-stop difference.
A high quality polarizer will produce more accurate colors and contrast.
If you have found a good local camera store, go in and select a few to test. Try them out right in the store before purchasing.
What’s the takeaway?
As you learn more about photography and move toward becoming a better photographer, you’ll pick up accessories to add to your camera bag. A circular polarizing filter lens is one of these must have items if you shoot outdoors. It helps you capture the type of picture you want to print and hang on the wall. Choose the best quality CPL you can afford and get out there and takes some pictures.
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