Ten polariser tips

I’m a big believer in substituting and working around certain film making tools if they’re too expensive or too much time and hassle under the circumstances. But a polariser filter is a film making tool for which there is no real substitute or work around. There are just some things that can only be done with the polariser. In the previous articles, we covered some of the most common shooting situations that polarisers can help with. We will wrap up this series with a few practical matters, and things to watch out for when using polariser filters.
So here are ten tips for using polariser filters.

Tip number one, polarisers will cut down one and a half to two stops of light. So you want to be careful about using them in low light recording situations. And remember that you also have to adjust your exposure after putting a polariser filter on the camera.

Tip number two, vignetting – that darkness around the edge of the frame – may occur, particularly with wider lenses. Thinner polarisers are less likely to have vignetting. But of course, thinner polarisers are also going to be more expensive.

Tip number three, when shooting with a polariser on a wide lens, the polarising effect on the sky will likely be uneven. Lighter closer to the sun and darker further away from it.

Tip number four, don’t always go full throttle on the polariser. Many scenes like an open sky or body of water may also look unnatural at times when fully polarised. Instead, pay careful attention to the effect as you turn the polariser and shoot for something more in the middle of the polariser range if you want to get a more natural look.

Tip number five, you can also use a polariser as a variable ND (Neutral Density) filter for occasions where you want to lose a little light, so you can shoot at a lower F stop for greater shallow depth of field, or when you want to shoot at a slightly slower shutter speed for motion blur.

Tip number six, you may want to mark or tape of your circular polariser if you wish to match the look of a certain shot later on.
Say you decided you wanted to come back to the same shot a few minutes later, as long as the lighting conditions are relatively the same, you should be able to get the same look out of your polariser.

Tip number seven, if you wear polarised glasses you’ll want to wear contacts or adjust your camera’s diopter to focus without your glasses, since the polarisation on your glasses can do weird things when you look at the polarisers. This is easy to forget if you’re wearing polarised sunglasses.

Tip number eight, stacking filters can be a useful way to handle multiple issues in the same shot. For example, we stack the graduated ND filter to control the exposure of the sky under our polarised filter to control the haze and reflections.

Although stacking a graduated ND filter with a polariser is a common pairing, you should beware that stacking filters can suck up even more light and is more likely to cause vignetting around the edges of the frame. If you have to stack filters, try to limit yourself to two filters and make sure the polariser filter is the last filter you put on so it’s always stacked on the top.

Tip number nine, thinner polarisers cost more but are also less likely to cause vignetting. A thin polariser is definitely the way to go for wide-angle lenses.

Tip number ten, and just like the lenses you put on your camera, all polarising filters are not created equal. The best polarisers of the best brands, like Hoya, Tiffen and Lee filters will cost more than cheaply made off-brand filters, but note that they’ll almost certainly render better images on camera and last you a lot longer.

You get what you pay for in film making.

Well that’s a wrap on the instructional segment of the great polariser spectacular. I hope you are as dazzled as I was and enjoyed this closer look at this polariser filter and the many things that it can do for you.

Thank you for reading. Happy polarising.