Monday, August 09, 2010
Photo hacks with everyday objects: Using your sunglasses as a polarizer or ND filter
Disappointed in how the sky washes out in your photos and drains all the drama out of the clouds?
Various processing options in Photoshop will allow you to fix this, but it's nice to be able to adjust for this in the camera, so you can see what you're getting. A polarizing filter will do the trick, but not all photographers have them, or have them with them when they need them. And most point-and-shoots don't take any filters at all. So what can you do to dress up that point-and-shoot landscape?
That's where your Polaroid sunglasses come in -- you know, the kind that selectively cut road glare. They also darken the blue of the sky while leaving the clouds intact. And they cut the glare on water and sand, keeping them from washing out.
I tried this with my Coolpix this afternoon, holding the camera lens close to the sunglass lens, and you can see the results. The shot at the top is with sunglasses; the one at the bottom is without. Both have the same processing. Because my sunglasses are amber, I tried it in black and white, to avoid introducing a color tint. But with neutral gray glasses, the same thing would work in color.
It's easier with a point-and-shoot, simply because the smaller lens is easier to position in the center of the sunglass lens, but it should also work with a DSLR in an emergency, though you might have to do some cropping around the edges to avoid the frames or reflections (there's a bit of flare on the left of the photo above, which I could have gotten rid of either by cropping, or trying to angle the glasses slightly differently).
Along the way, I discovered another application for the sunglasses -- serving as a makeshift neutral density (ND) filter, which is used to darken an image so as to use either a slower shutter speed or larger f/stop -- as in giving a nice blur to a running stream, for example. Judging from the exposure of the two images, the sunglasses were equivalent to a 2.5X ND filter. Darker glasses would have even more of an effect.
Next time you're outdoors with your shades and a camera, give it a try!