Hack 18 Use Sunglasses as a Polarizing Filter

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Chances are, you have a high-quality polarizing filter with you at all times, right under your nose. (Actually, it's sitting on your nose.)

Next to a fully charged battery and a huge memory card, a polarizing filter is the digital photographer's best friend. It reduces unsightly glare, deepens the richness of skies, and improves overall color saturation.

The problem for most shooters on the go is that they don't always have their full kit of accessories with them. And many point-and-shoot cameras don't even provide a way to attach an external filter, even if you wanted to.

So what's a photographer to do? Does this mean you'll have to suffer with glare-y subjects and desaturated skies, just because you want to tote a convenient digicam instead of lugging around an albatross of a camera bag?

Not at all. Your solution is sitting there right on top of your nose. Your sunglasses! Great lighting usually results in good photographs, with or without filtration, as shown in Figure 2-4. But sometimes you want to enhance an already good lighting situation. Often, polarization is the perfect solution, as shown in Figure 2-5. If you don't have a polarizing filter with you, try your sunglasses. You might be surprised by the results.

Figure 2-4. Without a sunglasses filter

Figure 2-5. With a sunglasses filter

Many quality shades are made out of the same material that camera polarizers are made out of. Simply take off your sunglasses and place one lens as close to your camera's shooting lens as possible. Then, take the shot. If you want to see the difference, take the same picture again without the sunglasses.

As with any good hack, there are ways to maximize the effect:

  • Stand with the sun at one shoulder. The polarizing effect is more pronounced when the sun is coming from the side.

  • Glasses with bigger lenses are much easier to use as filters than small-lens models. If you're shopping for a pair of photo shades, get a pair with decent-sized glass.

  • Stick with neutral tinted lenses. You can always adjust the color balance on your camera, but unless you want all of your shots to look like pop art, stay away from colored lenses.

  • Use sunglasses that actually say they produce polarizing effects. Many quality brands do.

So, next time you want to enhance that beautiful blue sky with lots of big puffy clouds, loan your sunglasses to your camera for a few frames, and marvel at the results.