BetterPhoto Q&A
Category: New Questions

Photography Question 
Valarie Paris
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/2/2005

ND Filter Vs. Polarizing Filter

I am going to be shooting some outdoor pictures this weekend. I have both a polarizing filter and neutral-density filter. Which would be better to use to capture a little boy in a shaded area? Or would you recommend using a filter at all? I'm going to try to keep everything in the shade, but may be in the sun a bit, too.

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5/19/2006 9:10:04 AM

Dennis Flanagan
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/31/2005
  There is no right answer. If you are shooting in the shade with a bright sky or strong backlighting a graduated ND filter would be useful. If you are dealing with harsh glare from the sun, the polarizer is your best bet. Plus, you can stack them, especially if you have a tripod.

A useful hint if shooting a backlit subject is to cup your hand in front of the lens about 8 inches and take an exposure reading from it. That will set your cameras light meter to read the amount of light hitting your models face.

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5/19/2006 10:46:30 AM

Michael H. Cothran   A ND filter is useful for "dimming" the light when you are in bright light and/or desire a slower shutter speed. No real need for it if you are shooting in the shade. The polarizer, in addition to removing certain reflections, also acts as a 2-stop ND filter. Unless there are reflections you need or want to remove, I see no reason to use it in this situation either. A word of caution to you: Shooting in the shade on bright sunny days (with daylight film, or daylight-balanced white settings) will result in images with a pronounced bluish cast - normally not advisable or desirable on human skin.

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5/19/2006 11:03:13 AM

Valarie Paris
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/2/2005
  Thanks to both of you for your input! I appreciate it very much. Hopefully, I won't really need either one, but will have them along for the "just in case".

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5/19/2006 11:56:40 AM

Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/17/2003
  Sounds like a perfect scenario for a warming filter. Shaded sunlight is cold and will record on film or on digital sensors with the blue-cast Michael described. The intensity of the color-cast will be more pronounced in areas of really deep shade. With film, an 81-A or 81-B filter will correct the blue-cast incurred during shaded sunlight conditions and render more natural colors and skin tones.

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5/20/2006 6:39:36 PM

Cheryl Kolus   So don't 81A and B filters work on digital cameras?

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5/24/2006 4:14:09 PM

Bob Chance
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/19/2006

I don't know if they will or not if the camera is set to auto WB. It may see the warm shade of the filter and try to compensate for it. Either way, it will either nullify the effect of the filter or overexagerate the correction and make the bluish cast even worse. All I can suggest is try shooting some shots under the same shady conditions, with and without the filter and see what happens.

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5/24/2006 4:41:45 PM

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