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Using a Polarizer

Beginner’s photography books almost always recommend polarizer filters for shooting outdoors …but is that the case when shooting action sports?

Polarizer’s are definitely a good thing to have, but we wouldn’t say it’s a must for most action sports.  It will give you nice dark skies and enhance the contrast a little bit but it all comes at a cost.  It is going to cost you between 1.5 to 2 stops of light to have that polarizer on.  That means that all the money you spent to get the f/2.8 version of a lens so you can achieve a higher shutter speed in poor lighting conditions will now have the light performance of an f/5.6 lens.

(Shot captured using polarizer)

But hey, if it’s a nice bright day and you are shooting at the beach or on some nice snowy terrain….put it on!  Keep in mind that at high altitude the sky already looks darker and if you turn your polarizer until the sky is the darkest possible, you will have too dark of a sky rendering the image too surreal.  It’s best to find the darkest spot and back it off a bit.

(Image showing overuse of polarizer)

Polarizers are great products but they do slow down your shutter and will require an increased flash power.  Keep this in mind and use only when necessary.  You can always darken the sky a bit in post production if you must!

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Hi everyone, I am a freelance commercial photographer and specialize in actions sports/lifestyle imagery. For me it’s all about putting my vision in front of the lens to get unique photos. What makes a photo unique for me is not only the photo itself, but also the way I capture it. This kind of mentality has gotten me dangerously close to the action and into some amazing situations. I have a great passion for action sports, and photography helps me stay close to the action and involved in the industry. Photography is not only something that I do, it’s my lifestyle.


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