May 29, 2011

Five Polarizer Tips

Copyright Scott Bourne 2001 - All Rights Reserved

Sure a polarizer is basic equipment for most outdoor photographers, but that doesn’t mean everyone who owns a polarizer knows how to get the most out of it. In addition to using polarizers to blue up the sky or cut reflections, here are five tips for getting the most out of your polarizer.

1. Get the RIGHT polarizer. Almost every photographer reading this needs a CIRCULAR rather than a LINEAR polarizer. Your AF will stop working if you use a linear polarizer. Don’t worry – the circular polarizer is the most popular and if you already own a polarizer, chances are very good it’s a circular polarizer.

2. Polarizers work best when you are 90 degrees off sun angle. Think about what a watch looks like at 3:00 PM. That is a 90 degree angle.

3. Watch out for vignetting. Polarizers tend to be very thick. If you’re working on a wide-angle lens, you might end up losing the edges of your photo. Even when working at “normal” focal lengths, this can be a problem. Thin polarizers solve this problem but they cost more.

4. Don’t buy a cheap polarizer. Why put a cheap piece of plastic in front of your $1000 lens? (There are also great resin polarizers.) Try to find a polarizer made of glass rather than plastic. My favorite brand is B+W.

5. Consider specialty polarizers. Singh-Ray and Hoya make some interesting colored polarizers that create stunning effects in-camera, especially of interest to landscape photographers.

I only carry two types of filter these days, neutral density and polarizer. Play with a polarizer next time you go out shooting and see if it doesn’t help make your photos pop.

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