Make your clouds “pop” with a polarizer filter

I’ve written about polarizer filters in the past and how they’re great for removing reflections.

But they’re also great for making the clouds pop out of your landscapes.

I’ve noticed that several of my classroom students keep polarizer filters on their cameras at all times, but many of them admitted to not really knowing how to use them.

Here are a couple of examples:

No polarizer used

An un-polarized photo


The polarizer was rotated to bring out the clouds in this shot

For the first shot, I didn’t use a polarizer filter, but for the second one, I did. Notice how different the clouds look in the second shot. They’re barely noticeable in the first shot.

How to get this effect in your landscape photos

To see the effect of the polarizer filter,  you have see it with your own eyes. Put your polarizer filter on the lens and rotate it slowly.  Watch the image change. You’re looking for changes in the colour and contrast of the sky and watching for clouds showing up out of no where.

If you don’t see any changes, then point your camera at a different scene. Try about 45 degrees from where you are currently pointing.

Why? You need to be at right angles to the sun to get the full effect of the filter. You don’t have to measure that, just try in one spot. If it doesn’t work, try again. You’ll see if it’s working without even taking any photos.

Remove reflections too

If you are near a body of water, or even a puddle, you can also remove surface reflections. This filter allows you to see deep into the water. It will also work with window reflections.

Don’t cheap out on filter quality

A decent polarizer filter is going to cost you at least $100. You want to make sure you get a good one, otherwise you will notice white balance changes as you rotate it. And a cheap one might be soft on the corners of the frame or cause vignetting. It might be best to visit a camera shop to talk to a salesperson before buying one.

Do you use a polarizer filter?

Let me know in the comments.

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