An Ideal Day For A Polarizing Filter

A detail, on the top of the visitor entrance gate, at the glorious Palace of Versailles photographed from a low viewpoint; with a polarizing filter; and processed with added saturation for extra drama.

Part of the success of this photo is due to me employing a polarizing filter to reduce reflections and, thereby, enhance the colors within the image.

The photo features a detail on top of the visitor gate at the Palace Of Versailles. It was made on a bright, hot day which is the kind of weather that would normally produce quite flat, desaturated images.

I was wearing high quality sunglass, but still found myself squinting. I can tell you I came close to melting into the pavement, with the rest of the crowd, as we waited for the entrance gates to be opened.

It’s incredible to see just how well a polarizing filter has brought out the vibrant golden color of the ornate decoration and the rich blue color of the sky.

Now, while I love to be out and about on sunny days, it's by no means my favorite weather for photography.

The bright, direct sunlight hits leaf, grass, tree and stone alike reflecting much of the color and texture off the surfaces in question.

The light reflected off these surfaces is scattered in a way that adversely affects the impact of the image.

In particular contrast, sharpness and saturation are often diminished when photographing under bright blue sunny skies. You know, the very same conditions most folks make photos under.

What's A Great Day For You?

What's you favorite kind of weather?

I like diversity but, if put to it, I'd choose a warm day with little or no wind.

I live in Melbourne, Australia where the weather is mostly mild. That's not to say it doesn't get hot. Most summers include scorching days with maximum temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius (i.e., 105 degrees Fahrenheit).

Fortunately, we don't tend to get more than half a dozen of them per season, and normally not more than two or three such days in a row.

My ideal day, at least as far as temperature goes, would be in the 18 to 27 degrees Celsius range. And I'm talking maximum temperatures. I feel this moderate range of temperatures is ideal for folks like me who, when we're outside, like to be relatively active.

If you like to trek or are involved with sports, with the exception of water-based and winter sports, you may well agree with me.

Certainly for folks involved in more leisure-based outdoor pursuits like bushwalking, cycling and photography this temperature range allows us to spend extended hours in the fresh air without the risk of overexposure to the elements.

And I'm sure you're aware of the positive benefits of sunlight to our health and well being, particularly during the cooler months of the year.  

If I was running the world this would be my ideal range of maximum temperatures throughout the year.

  • 18C in Winter

  • 18-24C in Autumn

  • 21-24C in Spring

  • 24-30C in Summer

How To Use A Polarizing Filter To Make Better Photos

The solution to making photos under very bright light, just as it was in the days of film-based photography, is to secure a polarizing filter to your camera.

Simply rotate the filter, while looking through your camera's viewfinder, until the desired effect is achieved.

In addition to maintaining color and texture on the surface of things photographed, you'll often notice blue skies rendering a deeper shade of blue and clouds, when present, appearing fluffier and more three-dimensional. 


A Circular Polarizing filter. My favorite brand of filter is the German made B+W filter.


Using the polarizing filter, which is actually two layers of dark grey glass, will result in a loss of light reaching the sensor. Fortunately your camera's light meter adjusts automatically.

Likewise DSLR and mirrorless cameras have no trouble focusing when a Circular Polarizing filter is attached to the front of the lens.

To maintain image quality and reduce the chance of vignetting (i.e., a darkening near the corners of your photos) ensure there's only one filter in front of your lens at a time.

You can think of the polarizing filter as a combination of a UV and polarizing filter in one. Therefore, there’s no need to keep the UV filter on the lens when the polarizing filter is being used.

Nonetheless, due to the loss of light experienced when using a polarizing filter, I only ever employ one when it's needed. The rest of the time I protect the front glass element of my lenses with high quality UV filters. 

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru