Polarizing/Polarizer Filter

I was asked to clarify on a reference I made about using a polarizing filter. I’ve decided to share with a wider group.

A polarizer is frequently considered the second most popular filter, behind the UV or skylight filter. It has several uses:
1. Reduce or eliminate glare or reflection on glass, water, painted or laquered surfaces such as glazed pottery and shiny doors, shiny plastic, stone or any other surface. It can make windows more transparent, remove shine from leaves and grass, reduce sheen on wet surfaces. It will NOT remove reflection or glare from metal surfaces or mirrors.
2. It will make a dull sky more dramatic by deepening the blue. This will also bring out the detail in clouds and make them stand out more. It will also deepen the blue in a large body of water.
3. Reduce contrast ratio between land and sky allowing for better exposure, as in a dark shadowy mountain against a light washed out sky.
4. Reduce haze in landscapes, especially mountain landscapes.
5. Improve color saturation.
6. Make objects stand out from their surroundings.
7. Clean up a background.

User tips:
- The filter must be rotated to get the maximum impact and must be judged visually. Turn the filter until the reflection, glare, etc. is reduced as much as possible.
- Exposure usually needs to be increased 1-2 stops.
- The filter is least effective when the sun is highest.
- The light source has to be at the correct angle to the subject and camera viewpoint for the filters to work effectively. Some recommend that the sun be at a right angle to the camera.
- The wrong angle could darken the sky too much, even blacken.

There are two kinds of polarizing filters:
1. Linear – manual focus lens
2. circular – autofocus lens
Most companies make filters that screw directly on to the lens. I am most familiar with the Cokin filter system where the filters fit into a filter holder that holds up to 4 filters and is screwed on to the lens with an adaptor ring. There are 2 systems for different lens diameters and camera format.

Sources: Cokin Creative Filter System user manual; Amphoto’s Complete Book of Photography – Bidner and Burden; Photography: The New Complete Guide To Taking Photographs – Freeman; The New Manual of Photographhy – Hedgecoe.

I’ve realized while gathering this information that I don’t use my polarizing filter as much as I should. Thank you to Jenson for the nudge!

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