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Saturate the scenery with rich colors by faking a polarizing filter

Added on Saturday 22nd of March 2008 07:33 am EST
Adobe Photoshop CS/CS2/CS3
Operating Systems:
Microsoft Windows, Macintosh

When photographing natural land formations, there is no substitute for using a polarizing filter on your camera to saturate the scenery with rich colors. But while shooting with a polarizing filter achieves the best results, not everyone has access to a polarizing filter. No worries; we’ll show you how to replicate the same great results using Photoshop.

To fake a polarizing filter effect in Photoshop, we’ll:

  1. Explain the benefits of using a polarizing filter when you take pictures.
  2. Show you how to fake the effect with a pair of sunglasses.
  3. Tell you where you can download a free polarizing action and explain how to install and run it.

If you’ve ever sported a pair of polarizing sunglasses, you’ve had a first-hand view of how a polarizing filter can benefit your photographs: It reduces haze and reflective sunlight and increases color saturation and contrast. But you need a polarizing filter to achieve these results with your photographs—or do you? We’ll show you how to achieve similar effects in a pinch.

Add a polarizer
In general, polarizing filters are ideal for shooting landscapes and general outdoor scenes, because they reduce glare and unwanted reflections. As you can see in the polarized photo, shown in Figure A, the boats don’t have reflections and the water’s surface is transparent to reveal the bottom of the bay. Polarizing filters also produce richer, more saturated colors, especially in the sky, as shown in Figure B. If you’re looking to purchase one, they cost about $50 to $100. As compared to an hourly rate for time-consuming Photoshop work, that’s a bargain.



Fake the effect with sunglasses
If your camera doesn’t accept filters, don't despair. You can hold a polarizing filter in front of the lens—some photographers even hold their sunglasses in front of a digital camera lens to achieve these effects. Although this is a great way to experiment with polarization effects, you may not always achieve the optical quality of a polarizing camera lens. Though we realize this isn't the handiest solution, it's worth the hassle—polarizing filters make that much difference!

To use a pair of quality sunglasses as a polarizing filter:
  1. Take the sunglasses off your face if you’re wearing them.
  2. Place the glasses as close to the camera lens as possible
  3. Check their position in the LCD viewfinder to make sure you don't have the rims in the shot.
For maximum effect, keep the sun over your shoulder because a pol...