Let’s say it’s a beautiful, sunny day, and you’re lounging on the beach with a beer in one hand and a camera in the other. First of all, wow, I can’t believe you didn’t invite me! Secondly, if you’re trying to shoot video of all that water and sky without a polarizing filter, you’re selling yourself a bit short. Not familiar with this small but mighty tool? Olivia Speranza is here to give you a quick what’s what. Take a look at the video below!
What exactly is a polarizing filter?
When we record video or take photos, our camera is essentially just documenting light. To get vaguely scientific for a moment, light becomes polarized when it is reflected from almost all surfaces. (Metal is the exception to the rule!) This polarization is not exactly a friend to your camera, it creates a glare that results in blown out footage, and ultimately a loss of detail and color. Not cool!
Think about trying to shoot on a beach. Water is a particularly reflective surface, and to a naked lens it will appear predominantly white because of the glare. Even some of the light coming from the sky is polarized because of the electrons in the air molecules, which cause light to scatter in all directions. This results, more often than not, in a pale, blown out sky. But water and sky contain a multitude of colors and textures that add interest to your shots-- it’s a shame to lose out on these details! That’s where polarizing filters come in.
A lot can be said about the technicalities of how they work, but for all intents and purposes (and to keep this lesson short and sweet), all you really need to know is that polarizing filters change the way that your camera sees and treats light.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
How does it benefit my footage?
When using this kind of filter, you will notice a change in how your camera sees reflections and glare. As a result, it also has the ability to change the vibrancy of colors. In your beach shots, for instance, the blue will be deepened and intensified. The greens of foliage will become more vibrant, and shooting through glass or trying to capture any kind of reflective surface will become much easier.
How do I actually use one of these contraptions?
A circular polarizing filter allows you to adjust the severity of the filter simply by rotating the front element of the filter accordingly. As you rotate, you’ll notice that colors and reflections change. Use your own judgement! Once you’ve got the shot adjusted to your liking, start shooting.
For the biggest impact, try to keep the sun at your side rather than at your back or right in front of you. (Shooting at high noon won’t be as effective, for instance.) Also, be conscious when you’re shooting in low light, during an overcast day, or at night. Using a polarizing filter in situations like these is the equivalent of wearing sunglasses inside. It will cut down the amount of light getting through to your image sensor.
Ready for a challenge?
A polarizing filter looks and works a lot like a lens from a pair of sunglasses. Before rushing to your favorite camera supply store to get your hands (and drop a wad of cash) on a filter, grab a pair of polarized sunglasses for a little test drive! Simply position them in front of your camera’s lens, rotate to find the best result, and shoot. We want to see what you cook up, so share your video with us by accepting the challenge below!Accept this challenge