What Is A Cpl Camera Filter

By | 29/10/2022

A circular polarising lens filter (CPL filter) is an essential part of any outdoor lensman’s photographic camera gear.

It helps to darken over-bright skies, reduce reflections, and/or suppress glare from h2o surfaces.

Blue skies will become more securely blue and colors will often become more saturated.

Understanding what this useful accessory is and how it works will aid you improve your landscape photography and give y’all much more control over your last product.

What is a CPL filter?

A CPL filter is a drinking glass attachment that fits in front of your camera lens. The near common ones screw onto the front chemical element of your lens and rotate.

For those of you into the science behind it, CPLs kickoff with a linear polarizer which changes the residual of the light in the image.

This is helpful for both light in the sky and reflections, as both tend to be at to the lowest degree partially linearly-polarized.

Out of the diverse types of lens filter, the CPL is one of the about useful, especially for landscape photography.

How to Employ a CPL Filter

A polarizing lens filter can bring out drama in landscapes

A circular polarizer can bring out the color and drama of the sky. | Sony A7 3 + Sony FE 16-35mm f/4

Mastering the art of using a polarised filter volition have a lot of practice. That being said, getting started with a CPL filter is pretty like shooting fish in a barrel.

The first step, of form, is to buy ane that matches your lens diameter. (Brand sure yous have a lens that accepts spiral-on filters.)

Once attached, simply rotate the filter until you get the desired consequence. When composing your shot, your CPL filter will by and large have the best results with the sun or other source of lite to one side or the other. (Your field of study should exist at a 90-degree angle from the dominicus, for example).

If you compose your shot with your primary light source in front of or behind you, your circular polarization filter may have little or no consequence.

One way to nail down the position where you’ll get the maximum benefit of your CPL filter is by making an “50” with your thumb and index finger. Signal your thumb towards the sun. Position your index finger so that it’s pointing at the centre of your scene and you’ll have the bespeak where the sky volition exist evenly covered past the polarization of the filter.

Of course, y’all can only eyeball it or, if yous take a mirrorless camera, use your LCD screen/viewfinder to see how the filter is affecting the scene and adjust accordingly.

One potential challenge is that, different other rotating filters, CPLs don’t have whatever markings showing you where to start. You’re but going to have to rotate information technology and see what happens to your image.

This isn’t much of a problem with mirrorless cameras where you can immediately see the effect of your aligning, simply for those using DSLRs without whatever live view selection, it can be a bit of a pain.

Beware: Shooting with your CPL filter out of whack can make for some very unevenly lit skies – most of which won’t be hands fixable in post-processing. If you’re using it for lens protection and non for its effects, brand certain you check its orientation before shooting a scene.

Some other affair to exist aware of is that CPLs will block at least some of the calorie-free getting into your camera lens. Equally a result, you lot’ll need to adjust your exposure settings accordingly, either by reducing shutter speed or by increasing ISO.

A high-quality CPL photographic camera filter will usually diminish the incoming light by about a end. Turn the filter to where information technology has a polarizing consequence, however, and that can become upwardly to two stops.

Another tip is not to assume that you always need to use your CPL at its maximum value. Bank check out the effects in all of its degrees so that y’all tin can find the wait you lot’re going for. It won’t ever be at the zenith of what the filter can do.

What Is the Difference Between CPL and ND Filters?

Both CPL and neutral density filters (ND filters, such every bit this 1) are considered crucial to any landscape photographer’s kit – they allow for capturing more realistic and dramatic sceneries.

That beingness said, they do work a bit differently from one some other and it’s helpful to know when to use which and when they tin exist used together.

A filter polarizer,
like a CPL, lets sure polarized light waves in, while excluding others. This is what helps to increment the vividness of an image (particularly in the heaven), as well as reduce reflections and glare on water surfaces and glass.

Neutral density filters, on the other manus, simply block out light. That’s it. A high-quality ND filter won’t change the colour or contrast of an epitome. (Inexpensive ND filters, particularly the higher-stop ones, often come with an unwanted color cast.)

In landscape photography, they’re most often used to slow the shutter speed used with an prototype (i.e. long exposure photography) or, every bit in the example of graduated ND filters, reduce the light in i part of the prototype (i.e. an over-bright sky) while not affecting the balance of the prototype (i.east. the foreground).

When Should You Employ a CPL filter?

Before and after using a polarizer for lens

A circular polarizing filter darkens an over-brilliant sky and increases the saturation of the colors.

While there are many applications for a CPL filter in both indoor and outdoor photography, the well-nigh common uses are for concealment skies/enhancing color, removing reflections, and removing haze.

Some people go along the CPL filter on their lens all the time every bit an additional camera lens protector (the way others use a UV filter). If this is you, just make sure that y’all have the CPL rotated correctly when you lot’re non wanting the effect.

Darkening the Heaven

Darkening an over-bright sky is maybe the well-nigh archetype apply of a CPL filter. The effect is especially noticeable with a blue sky, equally it not only darkens information technology but likewise increases the intensity of the blue by bringing out more color and contrast.

This works for both landscapes and cityscapes. A bonus is that the CPL filter ofttimes enhances the other elements in your frame too.

Removing Reflections

Sunlight reflections of objects like trees and rocks in scenes can be reduced

While this is just a demo photo on a murky swimming, you tin can see how much the reflections are reduced. In clear water, you’d be able to see to the bottom.

Whether you’re shooting an artwork in a museum, through a car window, or simply trying to come across to the bottom of a lake or swimming, unwanted reflections can definitely ruin an otherwise amazing shot. A CPL filter tin often reduce or fifty-fifty remove entirely these reflections.

CPLs will also minimize reflections when yous’re photographing wood, painted metal, or items with a protective lacquer.

Only be enlightened, CPL filters aren’t a phenomenon cure for all water reflections. At that place are enough of water/glass situations where a CPL filter won’t work at all. Nonetheless, it volition definitely help out in many – peculiarly in daylight – and is e’er worth a try.

The more you use information technology, the more you’ll become a experience for when it volition work and when it won’t.

Side note: sometimes you’re actively trying to utilise a mirrored image in your photography composition – bank check out our tips on reflection photography here.

Removing Haze

If y’all’re faced with an atmosphere that’s a bit hazy and want to bring out a bit more clarity and contrast, a CPL filter volition oftentimes be the perfect solution.

If you’ve ever worn polarized sunglasses, you lot’ll be well acquainted with the effect. Not only does the haze and glare get removed, but elements in the sky (like clouds) become more than defined.

Increasing Saturation

When used on landscape photos, circular polarizers take the added bonus of deepening saturation, non only of the sky but as well on elements such as foliage.

When Non to Use a CPL Filter

A filter is a useful tool for any photographer to create more impact in images, bring out details and colour, balance exposures and more for beautiful photographs.

Make sure to bank check your polarizer’s orientation if you lot e’er take it on your lens. Strange things might happen to your sky otherwise – effects that are near impossible to correct for.

As much equally CPL filters are useful, there are a few times when it’s better to take them off and/or use a null effect:

  • When you want a reflection to remain in the scene.
    If you desire the heaven to have a “polarized result” yous tin always add that subsequently in post-processing.
  • When you want “wetness” to remain apparent.
    Water is not ever then easy to capture through a lens and that can brand information technology difficult to tell the difference between, say, a dry rock and a wet one. If yous want something to look “wet,” a CPL filter can sometimes make it the mode.
  • When shooting low-cal itself (i.e. light painting).
  • When there’due south non enough light.
    This won’t be a big bargain in any style of photography that uses a tripod, but if you’re handheld and demand more than light, have the CPL off. You lot’ll likely gain 1-2 stops.
  • If you’re shooting with a wide angle lens.
    This is a chip of a catch-22 for landscape photographers equally we want both the polarization event
    a wide bending. Unfortunately, using the two together tin can sometimes event in uneven heaven color or color variations, as the CPL filter doesn’t have full coverage on lenses wider than 24mm. (I still go on 1 on my Sony 16mm-35mm all the time. I merely make sure it’s turned to “no upshot” when I’m wider than 24mm.)
  • When using variable ND filters.
    This is 1 of those cases where you need to take the CPL completely off before using the variable ND filter. (Come across below.)

Can You Employ a CPL Filter and an ND Filter Together?

Both ND and CPL filters piece of work well together, but frequently need to exist used separately when combating specific issues. For case, water reflections and tedious skies are two issues an ND filter tin’t address.

One affair to be aware of though, is that circular polarizer lens filters don’t piece of work well with variable ND filters (like this one). Variable NDs stack two polarizers together and can take weird effects when combined with an boosted polarizing filter.

It’s also of import to exist aware that each filter you put between the scene and the photographic camera lens creates 1 more obstacle for the light to pass through. Even a UV filter, which is oft used to protect the photographic camera lens, can disperse lite, cause lens flares and reflections, etc.

Ownership high-quality filters will reduce any tendency towards epitome quality loss, only even so, there’southward always a potential for lens flare and unwanted reflections.


Whether you’re only starting out as a photography enthusiast or a seasoned pro, a circular polarizer lens filter is a must-have for any camera kit – especially if you exercise a lot of outdoor photography. It can return a lot of life to your photos, without having to do it in postal service-processing.

They tin also be used for basic lens protection, while being much more useful than, say, a UV filter.

Hopefully you plant this guide useful. Take whatsoever questions? Let us know in the comments beneath.


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Source: https://shotkit.com/cpl-filter-guide/