Are Polarizing, ND, and UV Filters Worthless?

Every now and then there will be a time when photographers assert that lens filters are ineffective. Certain photographers will claim that just certain kinds of filters, such as ultraviolet and protection filters can be considered bad and others add ND and polarizing filters in the mix and claim that they can duplicate those effects using all these filters using post-processing software. The debate over filters can lead to heated debates within photographers’ circles, much like topics like “Nikon and Canon” or “DSLR and Mirrorless”.

There are definitely some dedicated people who are willing to defend their position regardless of what. It’s no problem with that, since that’s how it usually goes when there’s evidence on both sides. dependent on the perspective you’re looking at There are definitely positives and negatives for filtering lenses. Since I have been teaching photography for quite a while and am now across a variety of photographers of all level in the field.

I’ve come to realize that there’s quite an abundance of false information on the internet regarding lens filters and their correct application. Most of us do not understand enough about the filters, but their profound impact on the workflow of post-processing. While we’ve written a lot of articles on filters for lenses We’ll look at filters again, and hopefully dispel some of the myths surrounding the importance of these tools.

Polarizing Filter

A circular Polarizing filter is an essential tool for architecture and landscape photographers due to it doing things that software simply cannot do. If you are shooting side-by-side with a professional who is aware of the art of photography you’ll see they carry one or more filters that polarize always. So, what’s the point for a filter that polarizes? And what is the reason why anyone would need it? If you’ve been thinking the polarizing filter was just a tool to brighten the sky You definitely need assistance in understanding their main function. When I conduct workshops one of the things I make clear is the fact that a filter polarized was not intended for the purpose of dimming the sky. It’s just one of the results and often unintentionally! When using wide-angle lenses they can cause a mess in your sky, making a part of it appear more dark than the other, as shown below:

Gradient Sky
Wide-angle lenses can cause a sky with a gradient which is difficult to correct in post-processing

When the lens is pointed towards an angle that is the maximum Polarization the sky may appear dark and unnatural as shown below:

Maximum Degree of Polarization Dark Sky
Aiming the camera at the region that has the highest amount of polarization could cause an naturally dark sky

Thus, it is important to understand how to correctly utilize a polarizing filter so as to avoid such weird effects on pictures.

Does this render the filter that polarizes ineffective? Absolutely it doesn’t. In fact, I’ll not leave home to shoot landscapes with no filter in my bag. That’s the value of an polarizing filter is to me! The primary reason I am using the filter to reduce the amount of haze. As you’ve probably guessed it can be difficult to handle. If you are photographing distant landscapes fog is a common scenario. It could be caused by dust, humidity, pollution and smoke present in the air. These reflect sun’s rays onto the camera, which results in lower contrast. It can occur at anytime during the day, and even in the golden hour.

Filters that polarize, initially of all, were made to minimize reflections. By reducing direct reflections (which can be achieved by finding the ideal angle by rotating the front part of a polarizing filter) you can reduce or even eliminate atmospheric reflections.

Let’s look over two images I grabbed quickly in the Lightroom catalog:

Landscape With Polarizing Filter

When you look at these two pictures, you will quickly notice significant contrast between the two pictures. Both of them are “as is straight from the camera” which means I didn’t apply any post-processing or editing to the images. “Before” is the one I took before mounting a polarizing filter “Before” picture is one I shot prior to attaching a polarizing filter.”After” is the one I took after mounting it “After” picture was shot using a polarizer mounted and rotated to lessen reflections in the scene. As you can see, there are significant variations throughout the picture. The first is that the image using the polarizing filter features considerably less haze, especially in the mountains to the distance. Then, look at the bright areas of the image. the yellows and reds appear more vibrant. Additionally, notice how the evergreens appear totally different, appearing more green and more light when compared. This is a result of the reduced reflections directly.

In the absence of a polarizing filter these greens look “dirty” which gives evergreens a dark and more ugly tone. Finally, take note of the difference in the sky. The clouds seem to pop out much more, and the sky appears darker and more saturated. This is due to cutting down on reflections. This is something you can not duplicate in the post.The only issue to this is the unbalanced skies created by the polarizer. However, with a few good techniques using software, I can address the issue very easily.

It is possible to claim that with some excellent post-processing capabilities it is possible to recreate the effects of the filters that polarize. If someone brings this issue my answer is my own personal experience is a more solid base to work from. By making a few adjustments in Lightroom that took me just a few minutes I was able to improve the look of my photo more appealing:

Landscape With Polarizing Filter Edited

What I did was smooth out the sky using 2 GND filters, alter the your camera’s profile and add more contrast, and then small tweaks in the corners. I’m not even imagining trying to alter the color of all the pixels in my photo. It would require many hours of work in Photoshop and I’m confident that the final result will not be even any close.This is only one example. I could show hundreds of images that wouldn’t have been possible without the use of a Polarizing filter. When photographing, for instance, waterfalls the polarizing filter is a necessary tool. I would like to witness someone recreate the following image without the use of a polarizing filter.

Sri Lanka Waterfall
NIKON D750 + 24mm f/1.4 @ 24mm, ISO 50, 5/1, f/11.0

When you photograph waterfalls, you are dealing with rocks that reflect a lot of light, because they are covered in water and other vegetation that is wet on the rocks, all of which reflect badly onto your lens. A polarizing filter can make an enormous difference in these situations, not just reducing reflections but improving the overall brightness and saturation of the photo.In essence, it’s impossible to replicate the effect that a filter with polarization has with software!

ND and GND Filters

Others filters hard to recreate in post-processing are neutral Density (ND) as well as Graduated Neutral Density (GND) filters. These filters are typically required for photography using high-speed shutter speeds in bright daylight. If you shoot wide open at f/1.4 the amount of light that enters the lens may be too high for the camera manage, thereby limiting the shutter speed. If the ND filter isn’t used and the image is overexposed, which makes it impossible to repair later. In addition, if flash is used under these conditions, it will make the situation worse.

Another possibility is to employ ND filters to slow down your shutter’s speed. Sometimes, one may want to intentionally blur fast motion using “dragging” your shutter or slowing things dramatically to make them appear smooth.For the first image of the waterfall I had to reduce the ISO to 50 by using the polarizing filter. This resulted in the shutter speed that was 5 secs. If I wanted to extend the exposure time even more for photography with long exposures my only choice is to utilize the ND filter.

One could suggest that capturing a sequence of images and then stacking them together in Photoshop could produce an identical image, but I don’t agree due to two reasons. First What amount of time, space, and effort would I need to spend opening a plethora of RAW files, then stacking them up to create one TIFF document that could not edit as RAW afterwards? All I need to do is apply only one filter, which takes around 30 minutes to mount, and I am left with one exposure that is effective. With the help of a filter, I can even snap a few photos and stitch them together to create a panorama with enormous resolution. I would advise against trying to achieve that feat using a couple hundred stacks of images. That appears absurd to me. Additionally, the results from only one exposure and an entire stack of images will never be identical. If I am doing long exposures I can use various techniques like blocking a particular part of the image to lower its brightness to get the results I require. By using the technique of image sequence it also increases the possibility of camera shake. Why would you go through all this hassle when you can do everything by using your camera?

Panning motion using dragging shutter speed

In other situations, when using panning is required, it is necessary to make use of slow shutter speeds. This may be difficult to attain on a bright and sunny day, particularly with larger apertures. While reducing ISO down to the lowest value and reducing the aperture can be beneficial, using an ND filter can make the job easier by reducing to the light that enters via the lens.

And I won’t go in the specifics of the reasons why GND filters can be so important. If you’re one of the photographers who think that “HDR could save the world” Good luck! The Internet is filled with over-saturated HDR images that have no contrast. Your contributions in the direction of “Grunge HDR” will probably be welcomed to a couple of local photography groups with fellow HDR obsessed photographers. Sincere and I don’t do not have any qualms with HDR (ahem I’m sorry) If you don’t want to end up in that HDR gap be sure to take the time to understand how to make use of GND filters. Your camera has such a dynamic range that, when you combine it together with GND filters, you will produce stunning images that will not sound “unnatural” for your admirers.