There are many accessories you can buy for your camera and lenses to help you up your photography game. However, for those wanting to expand their kit, the options can be overwhelming.

This is certainly the case for polarising filters. Many photographers buy polarising filters on a recommendation; but then once they fit it to their lens, they are at a loss as to how to make it work for them.

To help you best utilise your filter, we have put together a guide looking at why you should be using one and how it can help make perfect dramatic weather photography.

What are polarising filters?

Landscape photographers, in particular, will choose to use polarising lenses to add drama to their images. These pieces of glass work by only allowing light at a certain angle to pass through your lens. This results in reducing glare from things such as glass, water or bright clouds which can often help in defining details in the sky.

These filters are attached to the front of your lens and can be turned to best achieve the look you are aiming for in your images. Turning the lens will allow and prevent light at certain wavelengths to pass through, so it is versatile for different situations.

polarising filter photography

Why are filters used?

A great example of when to use a polarising filter is removing reflections from glass. If you find yourself taking photographs while travelling in a car or train, grabbing a polarising filter can help you to erase the annoying reflections you may get from the windows.

This gives you a lot more flexibility in terms of what you can shoot and where you can place yourself to get the perfect shot.

Another example of how to use a polarising filter is to smooth out a water source. This filter, combined with a slow shutter speed, can help you achieve a silky smooth look to any water source.

Test this yourself when shooting waterfalls and rapids to see how much of a difference a polarising filter can make.

waterfall polarised lens

How to use a polarising filter

As polarisers prevent light from a certain angle to break through to the sensor, pointing your lens 90 degrees away from your light source will help you get the most out of your filter. They are very easy to fit on the front of your lens, simply screw them to the inside of the lens using the fine threading.

If your subject is more or less than 90 degrees from the light source, you can play around with angles to find the best way to use your filter.

Make sure you have the right size for your lens, as these polarising filters will come in different sizes to fit different lenses. The best thing to do is to buy ring adapters that you can screw together and use to make your polarising filter bigger or smaller.

Polarising filter dramatic weather

Using the polarising filter for weather photography

A common use for polarising filters is to take better photographs of the weather and dramatic landscapes. Subjects such as strange cloud formations or misty mountains can all benefit from a polarising filter.

The filter can make skies a darker shade of blue, to allow your cloud formations to stand out in your image. This helps to not only create more definition in your clouds but also adds depth to the sky, something that can easily look very flat in an image.

Capturing rain or mist becomes even more exciting with a polarising filter, as it can reveal shapes and motion your eye cannot see. You can even get better detail when shooting raindrops or even a stormy sea.

Polarising filter misty morning

Taking dramatic weather shots

We often head off to take the perfect landscape photography and end up capturing something unexpected. Whether it’s an unusual cloud formation, or how the rain changes the landscape.

When trying to capture the ever-changing weather, it can be difficult to get the perfect shot. By using a polarised filter and either a very quick or very slow shutter speed, you’ll be able to experiment with all manner of natural phenomenon.

Use a slow shutter speed when trying to capture the unusual patterns of clouds or rain, but remember to decrease your aperture and ISO to get the perfect exposure. This is particularly important when shooting in the day as the slower the shutter speed, the more light is let in.

Capturing occurrences like lightning can be tricky. However, as the best lightening shots are taken at night, a very fast shutter speed needs to be used to capture the lightning as it happens.

Make sure your ISO is as low as it can go and set your aperture to around 5.6, you can also use a polarising filter to better define fork lightning, as this will allow the brightness of the lightning to stand out against a very dark background.

When it comes to getting the best weather shots, having a polarising filter to hand can be a game changer. Not only will it help you add more depth to your images, but it can also be the thing that turns an average photo into an eye-catching one.

Polarising filter dramatic weather

If you are on the move and looking for that perfect landscape shot, make sure you have ultimate protection for your equipment. Camera and lenses can be very costly to replace, so why not check out Ripe’s Photography insurance.