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Why you should use a polarizer for landscape photography

Posted by Todd Sisson


The circular polarizer is the last analog filter that we use for almost all of our landscape photography.  Unlike the Graduated (GND) filter which can be replaced with post-processing techniques, the delicious, shot-enhancing flavours of a polarizing filter cannot be replicated faithfully in post.  We recommend that anyone serious about landscape photography should fit a circular polariser to in most situations. Here's why...

Polarizers cut out reflections:

By reducing the reflections on the water we are able to see what lies beneath the surface - the cold blue tones from the reflected light are also reduced.


This same effect works on micro-reflections on leaves and other shiny surfaces in a scene... 

Notice how the 'micro-reflections are cut from the lawn mower and the shiny leaves in this scene once the polarizer is applied (right). This effect results in the second big advantage of a polarizers for landscape photography....


Polarizers increase colour saturation

Polarized (left) vs non polarized - these images were made with identical camera settings, seconds apart. I'm not sure why anyone would not want their colors to pop like this - all it takes is one little filter...


Polarised (left). The color saturation is a result of all those nasty blue sky reflections being eliminated from the leaves. 

Polarizers make more interesting skies

Polarizers make clouds 'pop' by increasing the saturation of the surrounding blue sky - resulting in greater contrast. You do have to be wary of uneven polarization in the sky when using ultrawide angle lenses on cloudless skies, things can look pretty unnatural.

I hope that this short article has helped illustrate why we believe that polarizers are an essential part of the digital landscape photographer's kit. Feel free to leave comments or questions below.

Cheers! - Todd


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