All You Need to Know About Polarising Lens Filters

14 March 2024

The world of photography can feel overwhelming, especially when it comes to the range of lens filters available. While you might be familiar with the basic filters like those for ultraviolet (UV) reduction, skylight correction, and lens protection, venturing into specialised filters like polarising lens filters opens up exciting creative possibilities.

This guide will equip you with the knowledge you need to understand the role of various filters, with a focus on the ever-popular polarising filter and how they can elevate your photography game.

Understanding Polarising Filters to Master Light and Reflection

Let's dive into the world of polarising filters, also known as polarising lens filters or circular polarising filters (CPL). These filters are renowned for their ability to manipulate light and control reflections, leading to stunning visual effects in various photography scenarios.

Here's how they work. Light waves vibrate in various directions. A polarising filter acts as a sieve, allowing only light waves vibrating in a specific direction to pass through the lens. This has profound impacts on your image:

  • Reduced Glare: By filtering out scattered light, polarisers significantly reduce glare and reflections from non-metallic surfaces like water, glass, or even leaves. This translates to deeper, richer colours in skies, creating a more vibrant and saturated image. Imagine capturing the crystal-clear reflection of mountains in a still lake or achieving that breathtaking blue sky in landscape photography. Polarisers are your key to achieving these effects.
  • Increased Contrast: Polarisers enhance image contrast by eliminating scattered light, making details and textures more prominent. Capture the intricate details of clouds against a clear blue sky or sharpen the definition of foliage in a forest scene. The possibilities are endless.
All You Need to Know About Polarising Lens FiltersAll You Need to Know About Polarising Lens Filters

How to Use Polarising Filters

All You Need to Know About Polarising Lens FiltersAll You Need to Know About Polarising Lens Filters

Using a polarising filter is a straightforward process. Simply screw it onto your lens like any other filter. Most polarisers feature a rotating ring that allows you to adjust the filtering effect. As you rotate the ring, the image in your viewfinder will subtly change, revealing the impact on reflections and colour saturation. Experiment with different rotation angles to achieve the desired effect.

Here are some additional tips for using polarising filters:

  • Polarisers work best when shooting at a 90-degree angle to the sun, such as during sunrise or sunset, with scenes featuring water, glass, or glossy surfaces.
  • Be mindful that polarising filters can slightly reduce the amount of light reaching the sensor, so you might need to adjust your exposure settings accordingly. They can have a minimal effect when shooting directly towards the sun.
All You Need to Know About Polarising Lens FiltersAll You Need to Know About Polarising Lens Filters

Exploring Other Filter Options

All You Need to Know About Polarising Lens FiltersAll You Need to Know About Polarising Lens Filters
Sample Image Showing the effect of an ND Filter

While polarising filters are popular, the world of filters offers many creative possibilities. Let's explore a few other noteworthy options:

  • Neutral Density (ND) filters: These filters evenly reduce the amount of light entering the camera, allowing you to achieve slower shutter speeds for creative effects like silky smooth water flow or motion blur.
  • Warming and cooling filters: These filters add a subtle colour cast to your image, allowing you to adjust the colour temperature for artistic expression or to compensate for specific lighting conditions.
  • Coloured filters for black and white photography: These filters allow you to experiment with different colour channels, adding a dramatic touch to your black-and-white images.
  • Colour correcting filters: These filters help correct specific colour casts in your images, often caused by artificial lighting or specific environmental conditions.
  • Special effects filters: Enjoy more creative control with special effects filters. From star filters that add a starburst effect to soft focus filters that create a dreamlike effect, these filters offer endless possibilities for artistic expression.

Find a Polarising Filter for your lens

Try a Polarising Camera Lens

To find out more about other lens filter options and what they can do, check out our Camera Lens Filter Buying Guide. With all this understanding of lenses and the possibilities they bring, it’s time to start experimenting. Need more help? The experts at Ted’s Cameras are here to answer all your lens questions, online or in-store.

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