Polarized sunglasses and photography don’t mix


Polarized sunglasses are the bee’s knees of the sunglass world, costing quite a bit more than the regular shades, all things being equal. Their main function is to cut down glare and haze, and who wants more glare and haze anyway. Light that reflect off objects is partly or fully polarized, and when viewed through polarized glasses of a different polarization, it minimizes that glare.

So why is that bad for photography. The reduction in glare on its own is great, but because of the polarization, what you see through the sunglasses may not be what your camera will capture if you shot the same scene. The sky might be bluer and colors richer through your shades. The effect is akin to putting a circular polarizer on your lens and seeing the enhanced colors.

Even worse, if you’re using a digital camera with a rear LCD screen, because the LCD displays light and dark through the use of polarization, you have to be looking at the LCD at a particular angle with your polarized shades, otherwise you might see a darkening of the screen or even complete blackness. That’s rather annoying.

How does it relate to me? Well, I’ve been living with polarized shades for a few years now because I thought the shades would be great for driving and reducing glare. It was (except now I have a GPS with an LCD screen that I can’t read…), but it’s horrible for photography. I have to take off my shades to see colors accurately and to clearly see the dSLR’s LCD screen. I finally had enough a few days back and bought a normal pair of shades instead.

So as far as I’m concerned, polarized sunglasses are great for fishing, but definitely not for photography.



4 Responses to “Polarized sunglasses and photography don’t mix”

  1. 1 Dennis

    And then there is polarizing filters for your camera which render your argument useless… Using CPL filters since a long time now and they give you exactly the same view you have with your polarized sunglasses.

  2. 2 TopL

    Not exactly actually. I do use a CPL often. But to get the same polarization as the CPL in front of my lens, provided I wish to keep the CPL on whenever I’m wearing polarized shades, I’ll likely need to be tilting my head left or right. It’s rather hard to get around that way with my neck cranked to the side 90 degrees :-).

    Given that, I think it’s easier to use regular shades, judge the need for using a CPL by understanding where the sun is and estimating the amount of polarization and the effect I want, and then pull out the CPL as needed.


  1. 1 Why Your Polarized Sunglasses Don’t Mix With Photography at Imaging Insider
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