- Prevents glare on the surface of water, thereby enabling you to see below its surface
- Minimizes glare off of wet features (i.e., rocks and plants after a rain storm), which enhances their color
- Lets you use slower shutter speeds to slightly blur movement of things like moving water
- Creates definition in bright, blue skies by boosting contrast between the clouds and the atmosphere.
Once again, I'm writing about the most underrated piece of photography equipment out there... a polarizing filter.
It always shocks me how many photographers I encounter that don't use a polarizer.
I know that post-processing can fix some of the issues that a polarizer addresses, but, guys, come one...polarizers are much more effective and easy to use!
What Does a Polarizing Filter Do?
Polarizing filters work in a complicated way to filter out specific types of light, and I covered it in depth here.
But, as a quick rundown, a polarizer:
So, yeah, polarizers have a ton of benefits.
As I mentioned above, polarizing filters are one of the most underrated pieces of photography gear out there.
Yet, there are instances in which using a polarizer is a bad plan...
When Polarizing Filters Are a Bad Idea
Photo by DieterMeyrl via iStock
Don't use a polarizing filter in low light. Doing so is counterintuitive because they do have some light-blocking power. If there's low light already, you don't need to make it more low light!
Another specific rule for when to not use a polarizing filter is when shooting rainbows. Polarizing filters don't work with rainbows since all a rainbow is is reflected light.
It's also a good idea to try photographing scenes with and without your polarizer.
For example, you might think that a certain landscape will look better without light reflected off the surface of a lake, but then find that once you photograph it without a polarizer that it is more appealing.
Editor's Tip: A good Circular Polarizing Filter is a must-have for any landscape photographer. Not only do polarizing filters reduce glare off of water and other non-metallic surfaces, but they also boost the contrast in the sky and minimize atmospheric haze. When using a circular polarizer, note that they work their best when the sun is at a 45-degree angle from your shooting position. Strive to get as close to that as you can when setting up your shot to get the best results. Learn more about the benefits of circular polarizers.
My Recommended Polarizer
Kenko's Nyumon Wide-Angle Slim Ring polarizing filter is a great deal for the money and one of the top polarizers on the market. It's available for around $40-50, depending on the size you need, and is incredibly light (around 2 ounces).
The filter is crafted out of Japanese Asahi optical glass, so you won't see those horribly ugly X-patterns you might see on a cheaper quality polarizing filter.
What's more, Kenko has added 16 layers of multi-coating to the filter, so they're easy to clean and easily repel things like water and smudges. That's a huge benefit because you'll spend more time getting the shots you want and less time cleaning your filter!
I also appreciate the fact that the folks at Kenko took the time to develop a slim, low-profile ring. This prevents vignetting when I use my wide-angle lenses, and with a black anti-reflective coating on the mountin ring, I don't have to worry about flare or reflections from it. These are just some of the reasons why I think this is the best polarizing filter out there.
So, while there are plenty of polarizer options, I like my Kenko polarizer because it's well-built, durable, performs well, and isn't expensive.
Let's face it - photography costs a lot of money, so save money when you can!