OK, what’s a polarizer for?  Do you know when to use it and when not to?

Darkening blue skies to make white clouds stand out.  Ah, yeah that’s the most obvious answer.  Is that all?  Do you know when to use a polarizer?  When not to?  That’s one of the things that Don & I teach/discuss/show during our workshops.  Polarizers are NOT just for making blue skies darker.  A polarizer can be used to see though glass (by ‘erasing’ reflections) or to see fish in water (why fishermen & fisherwomen (?)) use them.  How about in fall when the foliage in New England is at it’s best.  Do you think to use your polarizer?  If not you should!  A polarizer will help make those nice fall colors ‘pop’ better by minimizing the reflections on the leaves.   How about when you are in the White Mountains and there’s a nice stream with flowing water over rocks?  Get out the polarizer.  It’ll help darken the water so you can get the results you want.  Reducing reflections.

One example.  I was just up in the Camden/Rockport/Rockland area for our annual family vacation there.  I usually run around during the week looking for various photo ops and almost always end up near the water.  My polarizer is always at the ready.  One day I wanted to explore something away from the water so I went to see the Olsen House in Cushing, ME.  I wasn’t able to get inside as it was closed at the time although the person there said that I could certainly walk around the grounds.  So, I took some photos along some of the windows.  I knew I’d be photographing glass so I put my polarizer on the front of the lens as I wanted to be able to see inside right?  Here’s the fist photo.  What do you think?


OK, great huh?  Ah, wait a minute.  It’s lousy!  I can see inside but at this window there isn’t much to see inside.  But by turning the polarizer (or removing it from the lens) I get to see part of the coast off to the right including: a field of dandelions, blue ocean water, green grass & trees along with a so-so sky.  That’s what I want!  That adds some color to my image and also helps in the story telling of the image.  Much better than a black area there.  A great example of when to NOT use a polarizer even though I’m shooting a scene with glass in it!



Now for the advanced section (!):

Notice the reflection of the nearby tree in front of the white curtain shade above the open shade area?  Hmmmm.  I want that out of there or at least to minimize it.  So, I open both images in CS6, drop one on top of the other, create a mask and mask out the reflections of that tree.  Let’s see what I have now…..


So, that’s my final image.  It took proper techniques in the field and some post processing to get the image I wanted.  So, I hope this helps you to think about your polarizer and when to use one and when not to.

In this case I used my Nikon D610 with a Sigma 35mm f1.4 lens at f4.5, 1/125 sec, iso200 on a tripod.

“Get the shot”

Bob Ring




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