What does a polarizing filter do to water?

By Ian Middleton

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When photographing water, consider using a polarizing filter.

In my previous entry, two great polarizing filter effects, I showed you how a polarizing filter can be used to cut out haze in the sky or on mountains, and boost contrast. But what does a polarizing filter do to water? Well, simply put, a polarizing filter reduces glare and darkens reflections on water. This may or may not be a good thing, depending on whether the reflections are wanted or not.

The two images below show you the difference. I took the first photo without polarization applied, and you can see that the sky and hotel are both nicely reflected in the water, helping to create a mirror image.

In the second photo, I applied full polarization to the scene. As you can see, the clouds are no longer visible in the water because the polarizing filter has darkened the water down and cut out the reflection.

Without polarizing filter

With polarizing filter

Lake Bled

The same goes for this classic view of Lake Bled in Slovenia from Osojnica viewpoint. In the first photo the water is much brighter without the polarizing filter applied, but in the second photo with full polarization the water has been darkened down. This has the effect of making the church and colours stand out more in the photo.

Without polarizing filter

With polarizing filter

Which are better?

Personally, I like them all. Each has its own appeal. What do you think? Leave your comments below…

So if you haven’t got one, get out there now and add this great filter to your camera kit. I recommend these two makes. I used the Hoya Pro Digital circular polariser for these two images above, which I still have. I also now use a Kase magnetic filter that came with their K9 filter holder. You can see what I think of this in the video below.

Get the right size for your lens

Be sure to check the diameter size of your lens so that you buy the right size filter. To do this, look on the front of your lens for the diameter in millimetres. As an example you can see on the righthand side of the lens in the photo here is 77mm.

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Subscribe and receive my regular newsletter to get the latest information about my workshops, new tutorials, videos, new photos and more.

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