CPL Filters – An Essential Tool For Breathtaking Outdoor Photography

blue sky, green grassUsing lens filters lets you go beyond the standard and explore something new with your photography gear. It has the capability to completely transform your photos. Those who are into Landscape photography may have heard about Camera Filters. Among these filters, one of the most creative tools that allow enhancing the final photo appearing on the camera screen is CPL (Circular Polarizing Filter).

The best camera accessory for an outdoor photographer, a circular polarizing filter lets you capture the contrast and vividness in a photo. It comes as a piece of glass that attaches to the camera lens’ front and works to eliminate any unwanted glare, light and reflection. Let us explore more about this tool to find out whether you need it and what all it can do for you.

What are CPL Filters?

Circular Polarizing Filter is a glass attachment that reduces the glare from reflected surfaces. Though there are different types available, circular model is the most popular as it can easily fit onto any camera lens. CPL Filters have rotating front glass and work on the principle of polarization. Rotating the front glass in clockwise or anticlockwise directions will absorb unwanted light, glare and reflection ensuring that only natural colors with desirable details only pass through the filters.

While beginners don’t need it, those who want to enhance their skills can consider using CPL filters to get the ability to turn unusable shots into professional photographs. This ability gives you better control over your final product.

Why Use CPL Filters?

To Remove Light Reflection

When you take photos of landscapes with water body or glass building, it can be challenging to get rid of reflections caused by sunlight. Using a CPL Filter, you can easily cut off light reflections on water surface or glare on glass surfaces. You can rotate the filter to the required angle to minimize the effect of the reflective element in the frame.

For Color Saturation

When you shoot on a sunny day, you may find a little haze and light falling on the surface. Using a CPL Filter in such situations helps you reduce the haze and improve the light quality.

Darkening the Sky

A darker-looking sky gives your landscape shot the perfect sense of tension. Similar is the case when you aim to capture the inside with a sinister atmosphere. A CPL filter lets you achieve this without making the scenario unnatural.

Better Color Tone

With the use of CPL Filters, you can get rid of disappointments of not registering the accurate colors when shooting outdoors. The filter reduces the polarization effect and enhances the color to get a better tone of elements in your frame.

Better Subject Details

Cutting unwanted light, haze and other harmful elements in the landscape shots, CPL Filter gives you clear subject details.

How to Use CPL Filters?

To use the CPL Filter in your outdoor shooting, attach the filter to the front of your camera lens. It has a movable part that rotates clockwise and anti-clockwise. To achieve the best results from a CPL filter, you should point it 90 degrees away from the sun.

You will not see any effect if you shoot directly into the sun or completely away from it and rotate the filter in any direction. To use it correctly, point 90 degrees to the sun and start rotating the filter to see that glare and reflections get removed from the frame. The image starts getting more saturated and clearer. Fine tune the filter to achieve the desired effect and shoot the photo.

When to Use CPL Filters?

The most important use of a CPL Filter is removing the reflections from the water surface when capturing an object inside. Consider the example of a clear fish pond where you can see the fish clearly from outside. However, when you start taking shots with your camera, you notice that visibility reduces due to sunlight reflected by water. In such a situation, using this filter removes the reflection to an extent and lets you capture a better and clearer image.

CPL Filters are ideal and useful in landscape and outdoor photography where reflections seem to impact the photos. Shooting a lake, creek or waterfall are some examples. Attaching a CPL Filter to the camera and rotating the front element filters out the scattered light and helps you cut through the reflections to see the details clearly through the camera.

When Not to Use CPL Filters?

There are some circumstances where it is advisable to avoid the CPL Filter and shoot the scene with natural light.

Low-Light Conditions

A CPL Filter reduces the light entering your camera and hence it is not recommended for use in low light conditions. In such a situation, you want the maximum light as there will be little illuminating your subject.

Highlighting Wetness

When you want to capture water, you should let the light shine off the droplets to highlight wetness. Water being transparent, is not easy to capture through the lens. It can often be difficult to differentiate a wet rock from a dry one. Avoiding this filter can help in this case.

Colored reflections

In some conditions, reflections can enhance the photograph, particularly when the light takes on a different color from the rest. For example, if the sky is red when you shoot, it can create a vibrant effect and is best to keep intact.

Action Shots

When capturing some action, you need a higher shutter speed. It is not recommended to use the CPL Filter here as it requires reducing the shutter speed due to loss of light up to 2 stops.


Now that you know that a CPL Filter can completely transform your outdoor photography, you can use the filter in the right conditions to make your shots more amazing.

You can choose from a wide range of CPL filters from different brands available in the market. See that you pick the thinnest piece of glass to achieve better quality.

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