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on Aug 23, 2017 in WRP Ed Zone

To Polarize … Or Not?

London Canals
captured by Df / 24f1.4 / No Polarizer

Polarizers are for removing reflections! Yes, they can make skies bluer but that’s better done better in ACR. Removing reflections is a tool in our photography just like DoF or Flash, all are a means of bringing the viewer’s attention to the subject and tell a story. But when to apply a polarizer is a commonly asked question.

London Canals
captured by Df / 24f1.4 / Polarizer

The first GIANT challange of the polarizer is that it works with physics, math, the hallmark of photography but not most photographers. It’s an angles machine removing reflections based on the theorem, angle of incidence equals the angle of reflection. In both of these photographic examples, the reflection we are removing is from the sky. If you look at the Channel shot, you will see that there are sides of buildings, leaves and the vegetation on the water is what is being affected by the rotation of the polarizer.

Sopwith “Pup”
captured by D5 / 24-70VR / Polarizer

With the Sopwith, the polarizer is affecting the wing and parts of the fuselage. You can see dramatically in both photos what the reflection of the sky is doing to the photograph. But this still raises the question, when do you use a polarizer? To answer the question in regard to these two photos, the Channel was not the time to apply the polarizer and the Sopwith, it was the time to apply the polarizer IMHO. Why?

Sopwith “Pup”
captured by D5 / 24-70VR / No Polarizer

Who wants to see “pond scum” on water? I sure don’t so polarizing it so you can see it isn’t really visually pleasing. On the other hand, I want to see all that information in the Sopwith so it was the time to use a polarizer. How do you decide for yourself? Well, you need to teach yourself because it is your photograph, your story! Simply shoot before and after shots everytime you ask yourself the question, “Should I use a polarizer?” Create a folder for just these photos and constantly revisit that folder and start to teach yourself when you do and don’t like removing reflections. In the final photograph, only you can answer the question, “To polarize … or not.”