Types of Polarizer

Polarizers differ profoundly from all the other camera filters. They do not discriminate among wavelengths as color filters do, but, rather, transmit all colors of visible light approximately evenly, as do neutral density filters. But they do not resemble ND filters in function. Instead they selectively absorb or transmit the various vibration planes of light.


To understand the polarizing filters, first we need to understand the polarization of light. Light has a wave characteristic, for example, a ray of light traveling outward from a source has transverse waves, or vibrations, perpendicular to the direction of propagation, and occurring simultaneously in all directions around the linear axis of the ray. Because there is no preferred plane of vibration - as there is, for instance, when wave motion is generated along a rope - this sort of light ray is said to be un-polarized. But if all but one plane is extinguished, the ray is said to be plane polarized.


There are a variety of ways in which light can become polarized, some that occur regularly in nature, and some that can be induced artificially. In general photography there are two ways of natural polarization that stand out.

  1. One is the partial polarization of light by scattering, as in sky and haze effects.

  2. The other is polarization by reflection from surfaces.

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