Circular Polarizer CPL - car photography

How a Circular Polarizer Will Save Your Shots

I don’t even have to ask, we all hate reflections, and it doesn’t help that cars are like mirrors. It’s pretty much impossible to get a shot without any reflections unless you’re out in the open where nothing can reflect off the car.

It’s impossible unless you have a circular polarizer!

Here is a before and after of what we’ll be working on today:

What Is A Circular Polarizer?

A circular polarizer is a filter that attaches to the front of your lens to help you against reflections and glares.

A good way to look at this is by taking some polarized sunglasses and putting them in front of your lens and rotating them. Notice how the reflections and glares change as you turn your sunglasses.

Now I know what you’re thinking, why should I buy a polarizer if I can just use my sunglasses? Well, that’s the cheap route to do it and technically you can use that but I don’t recommend it. You will get way better quality if you buy a quality filter. I use a B+W, which I highly recommend because I haven’t had any problems with it.

Not only does this reduce reflections and glare but it can also make your images more vibrant, giving them more color.

How Do I Use It?

So, you bought a circular polarizer like I recommended but don’t know how to use it yet. Don’t worry, I will show you how to use it along with some examples.

First things first, we have to get that polarizer attached to your lens. Simply just screw the polarizer onto the front of your lens using the threads on both pieces.

The other end of the polarizer is twistable, which is how you get the desired effect that you want. Every time you twist it clockwise or counter-clockwise, it removes the reflections/glare from that part.

The most effective way to use the polarizer is when the car is 90 degrees to the sun. Meaning to the side somewhere, not directly behind the sun or in front of it. An easy way to understand this is to make a gun with your index finger and thumb. Point your index finger towards the sun, if you placed your car correctly your thumb should be pointing towards that, if not, move it!

Here Are Some Examples

You can read all you want, but you have to see some examples of what the filter really does in order to understand it. So here are some examples I took for you so you can see what it does when it’s twisted. My ISO was accidentaly set on 800 so don’t judge me, I make mistakes too!

none

Here we have the original image, I did use the polarizer on this one since I never take it off my lens but I turned it to a point where you can’t really notice it. There are 2 main things I want to focus on and that’s the front of the car and then the side of the car. I want to get rid of those reflections.

windshield

On this one you can probably guess that the polarizer is focused on the front windshield of the car. You can actually see through the window inside the car as in the last picture you couldn’t even see anything since there was that big glare on it.

side

Next, this is where I focused on the side of the car. It’s not perfect but it sure as hell is better than it looked without the polarizer. I could’ve spent a few more minutes and took a few more shots to get all the reflections out but I didn’t think it was necessary.

Now you can take those shots into Photoshop and combine them together taking the front windshield from one picture and the side of the car from the other one.

Here is my finished picture (keep in mind, this one is fully edited):

finished

A Few More Tips

Here are a few more tips that I think will help you out:

  • The filter will mess with your exposure so you might have to bring it down a stop or two
  • It also serves as protection for your expensive lens
  • Use it on skies so they’re not so blown out
  • Use it on water to shoot inside the water with no glare
  • Use it through windows to create some cool effects
  • Don’t overdo it, you still want some reflections so the car still looks natural
  • You usually can’t get the desired effect from only one shot so use your tripod and get multiple shots so you can later do a composite

Which One Should I Get?

The one I use is the 55mm B+W Circular Polarizer. You really can’t go wrong with any of the top brands such as B+W, Hoya, or Tiffen, just to name a few.

Just don’t go the cheap route and buy a $20 one. Trust me, this will only be a waste of money, as they don’t work nearly as well as the top brands. This is one thing that I highly suggest you don’t cheap out on. I bought one to test it out before I bought my current one and it was a total piece of shit!

Make sure when you’re looking at the polarizers to get the correct size. For example, my lens has a diameter of 55mm so that means I need the 55mm polarizer.

That’s All Folks

Well, there you have it. I think that’s all you need to know about the circular polarizers. If you have any questions, I would love to hear from you and see if I can help you so just leave me a comment and I will get back to you as soon as I can!

Do you have a polarizer? If not, why have you not bought one? I seriously want to know so drop me a comment below! If you do have one, how has it changed your shots?


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