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« Great fall photographs | Main | WHAT TO PACK FOR A PHOTO TRIP, PART III »


There are a lot of things I've been able to shed from my pack when I head out the door to shoot with a digital camera. Color compensating filters, for example, used to adjust the color of how film sees light in different conditions is easily replaced by one of two methods. You can either use preset or custom white balance settings in shooting to affect how the sensor reads the existing light, or shift the color in post production with the color balance adjustment layer in Photoshop.

But one thing I still carry for digital photography is my polarizer filter. Yes, there are some Photoshop plug-in filters that emulate it, but I still prefer to have the real thing in my camera bag. Why? Well, a polarizer is a great tool for making a sky look darker and richer than what the scene would look like without. The effect is particularly noticeable when you are shooting a subject that is in the shade, but the sky is still visible. That's because you are opening up the exposure from the full light exposure to capture detail in the shaded areas. But along with that, you are lightening the sky. Using a polarizer compensates for that overexposure of the sky, and makes it look more natural. Just compare the image above with a filter, to this image below that does not have one.

But be aware that a polarizer works at it's best when aiming 90 degrees from the sun. Shooting into the sun, or directly opposite will have no effect. In between, the effect increases as you approach the full 90 degree differential. In this example, I am shooting with the sun in the eastern sky close to sunrise, and I am shooting straight south.

Reader Comments (3)

Your blog is very creative, when people read this it widens our imaginations.

August 29, 2008 | Unregistered Commenteronline lottery

Good tip! Thank you. My hardest is when I have to shoot into the sun.

September 2, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJill

Allen, I practically memorized your tips before I went to Ethiopia and came back with much better photos than I dared hope. While mine don't approach yours, they are greatly improved and I appreciate your expertise.

November 15, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSue Leister

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