- Don’t Use a Linear Polarizer
- Do Use High-Quality Circular Polarizers
- Don’t Forget to Turn the Filter Ring
- Do Use Circular Polarizers Indoors
- Don’t Use Your C-POL as an Always-On Filter
- Do Keep Them Clean
- Don’t Fear the Filter
photo by TuelekZa via iStock
Circular polarizer filters are one of the most useful photographic filters for serious photography. I recommend a circular polarizer as part of an essential photographic kit.
First things first, why do we use “circular” polarizers? The term circular is used to differentiate from linear polarizers.
Some years ago, the standard polarizer filter was a linear filter. They adjusted polarization in a specific way. When modern metering and focusing features began to be commonplace in 35mm cameras, using a regular (linear) polarizer could affect the camera’s internal metering or autofocus sensors, giving imprecise readings.
“Circular” polarizers operated in a slightly different way, bypassing the issue with internal meter and focus sensors. Both are polarizer filters, they do the same exact thing, they just do that work by a very slightly different means.
In the current market of DSLRs and mirrorless digital cameras, circular polarizers are the norm, but it's still a good idea to check to make sure yours is a circular polarizer (C-POL). It will usually be in the product name or the first line of the description or even printed right on the filter ring.
Table of Contents
Don’t Use a Linear Polarizer
photo by rudi_suardi via iStock
Rarely an issue anymore, but I still see super low priced polarizer filters offered for sale from some websites. On close examination, these are usually linear polarizers. That’s fine for anyone using older film cameras, but even late 80s and 90s vintage film camera makers were recommending circular polarizers.
Bottom Line: shop for and use circular polarizers. Learn how to use a circular polarizer since they can be used on any camera of any vintage, brand, or type, film or digital.
Do Use High-Quality Circular Polarizers
Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger from Pexels
You spent a lot of time learning how to use your new camera and you have also spent some considerable money on your gear. In order to maintain the high level of image quality you have learned to produce, lens filters with superior optical qualities are preferred.
The same optical glass used for lenses goes into the making of better filters. Since we’re learning circular polarizer tips to enhance our images, we want the filter to be capable of high end results. The Haida NanoPro MC C-Pol Filter is a good choice for serious photographers.
A couple of things I really like about the Haida C-POL filters is how thin they are and their multi-coating virtually eliminates ghost flares with reflection control. Those two things add to the superb optical quality making this filter a superior choice among moderately priced C-POL filters.
Don’t Forget to Turn the Filter Ring
Though this is one of the most common circular polarizer mistakes among beginners, it catches experienced photographers, too.
In the image above of the Haida NanoPro MC C-Pol filter, do you see how there are two metal rings in this filter? There are actually two pieces of glass with a dichroic absorption layer in between.
You screw the filter into your lens until it stops. That’s one piece of optical glass in place. Then, while looking through the viewfinder or viewscreen, you slowly rotate the out layer with the other piece of glass until you see the desired effect in the view with your eye.
If you never turn the filter or randomly turn it without monitoring, you will never get the full benefit of a circular polarizer if you don’t fully follow through with properly adjusting the filtration.
Do Use Circular Polarizers Indoors
Photo by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels
We always remember to think about polarizers when shooting landscapes, cityscapes, beach scenes, or views of pretty skies, but we forget how useful circular polarizers are for other subjects.
Two situations that automatically have me reaching for my circular polarizer filters are art museums and real estate or architectural photography.
If the art gallery or museum allows photographing the exhibits, go for it! But the oils of the paintings and marble of the sculptures can reflect the light poorly. At least, poorly for photographic imaging. So, I use a polarizer. If the taking of photos is restricted, I just enjoy the art.
Inside rooms of architectural subjects, the same things happen with glass and tile and home-style lighting. Reflections! So, I use a circular polarizer to tame those reflections.
Don’t Use Your C-POL as an Always-On Filter
photo by Dimitris66 via iStock
C-POL filters are not meant as protective filters. If you use a filter for protection, make that filter a UV or clear filter. I like to use a rigid lens hood on certain lenses for added protection.
Several reasons for this tip. C-POL filters aren’t cheap. A good UV isn’t exactly cheap either, but circular polarizers cost substantially more. Besides, you should be thinking about how to use circular polarizer filters when you have them on the lens. They are an artistic tool, not lens protection.
Circular polarizers also reduce the amount of light transmitted through the lens, thus affecting exposure. Most attenuate by about 1 ½ or 2 stops of exposure value.
Do Keep Them Clean
photo by PeopleImages via iStock
I have so many microfiber cloths spread throughout all my camera bags, cases, and even desk drawers. A filter is part of the optical path of light creating your image, so treat them as you would your lenses.
Carefully clean them, keep them free of filter prints and smudges, and store them properly to avoid scratches.
Don’t Fear the Filter
photo by mysticenergy via iStock
Filters are fantastic tools for creative photography. You can control everything about their use. They work for you.
Use these circular polarizer tips to enhance the quality and creativity of your photography for fun and for profit. Choose quality filters, learn how to use circular polarizer filters, and reap the benefits.