If you are into landscape photography, then you would have come across the term camera filters. Then you may have heard about the CPL filter or Circular Polarizer Filter. The question is, do you really need a CPL filter for photography? To answer this question, let us see what all things this CPL filter can do. It will help you to decide whether to use one or not.

What is a CPL Filter?

A CPL Filter is the short form for a Circular Polarizer filter. It is a piece of glass that gets attached to the front of the camera lens.

A circular polarizer filter can remove unwanted light, glare, and reflections. It works on the principle of polarization. It will have a rotating front glass.

So, when you rotate the filter in clockwise or anticlockwise directions, it will absorb the unwanted light, reflection, or glare. Thus, only the natural colors with good details will pass through the filter.

Why use a CPL Filter?

Circular Polarizer filter hoya

This question comes to the mind of most amateur photographers. So, let us figure out whether you need to use a CPL filter or not.

If you are a beginner in photography, then I don’t recommend buying one. I don’t want to complicate your learnings.

Too many accessories can spoil a photograph. If you are into landscape photography or travel photography, I recommend you buy a Circular Polarizer filter and start using it.

In order to check why you need a CPL filter, let us see its advantages.

For Saturating Colors

If you are shooting on a sunny day then you may find that there is a bit of haze and harsh light is falling on the subject. If you use a CPL filter in such a situation, you can reduce the haze and improve the quality of light.

To Removes Light Reflection

CPL Filter Before and After

There are 2 situations where you want to remove the unnecessary light reflection.

When you take pictures through glass windows then you can see the window glare on your pictures (shown in the left image).

So, use a CPL Filter while shooting to remove this glare. After shooting with this camera filter, the glare is removed completely (shown in the left image).

If you are shooting fish or any subject underwater from outside then you can easily cut off the unwanted light reflections from the water surface by using a Circular Polarizer Filter in front of the lens.

You need to hold your camera at a 45-degree angle and rotate the filter to remove the reflection of light on the water surface.

Thus a CPL Filter will help to improve your images in the above 2 situations.

Better Color Tone

Since the Polarizer help to cut out the unwanted light you will be able to get a better color tone in your image. it will help to saturate the colors that will make the picture more vibrant.

Better Subject Details

CPL filter will help you to get capture clear subject details. The details in the image will be more clear.

How to Use a CPL Filter?

Thread in the CPL filter to your camera lens. It will have a moveable front part that rotates in the clockwise and anti-clockwise direction.

To get the best results from a polarizer you need to point it 90 degrees away from the sun. If you shoot directly into the sun or fully away from the sun then you will not see any change even if you rotate the polarizing filter in any direction.

Position yourself 90 degrees away from the sun and start rotating the polarizer. You can see that the reflections and glare are getting removed when you rotate.

The image will get more saturated. Fine-tune it and set it to a position of your choice and take the photo.

When should I use a CPL filter?

A CPL filter is very useful to remove reflections from the water surface while shooting. Consider the example of a fish pond in an open area. The water is very clear and you can see the fish from outside.

When you start shooting with a DSLR camera you may see a reduction in visibility due to sunlight reflecting from the water. Use the CPL filter in this situation.

Turn the rotating front element of the filter while looking through the viewfinder of the DSLR camera. The reflection will go off at a certain point. You can start shooting now.

When not to use a CPL Filter?Hoya CPL Filter

I have covered the occasions where you should be using the CPL filter. Now, let us see the situations you should not use a circular polarizer filter.

When you want to Capture Reflections

If you are photographing reflections from the water surface or glass then better remove the Polarizer filter. It will not help in this situation as it will remove the reflection.

In Low light conditions when you want to Capture Reflections

A polarizer reduces the amount of light entering the camera. So, it is recommended no to use it in low light conditions. A circular polarizer filter can reduce up to 2 stops of light.

So, if we use it we may have to increase ISO by 2 stops since we have already fixed the aperture and shutter speed values. Higher ISO will result in a grainy image, which is not desirable.

For Action shots

When you are shooting some action then you will need a higher shutter speed.

So better not to use this filter for action photography as it would result in loss of light up to 2 stops. So we may have to reduce the shutter speed.

Shooting towards the Sun

CPL filter will not have any effect if you shoot directly into the sun. An additional glass piece in front of your lens is not recommended since it affects image quality.

So, it is better to remove the camera filter if you are shooting into the sun.

Shooting Against Sun 

Shooting against the sun is also not recommended if you are using a circular polarizer filter.

Limited time to shoot

It is not recommended to use a Polarizer when you don’t have enough time to attach the filter and fine-tune the exposure settings.

Which CPL filter should I use?

There are many brands of CPL filters available in the market. So, it is a tough choice to select one.

I would always recommend choosing the thinnest piece of glass. Thinner the filter glass piece better would be the image quality.

Most of the slim filters are costly. So, buy a camera filter that fits your budget. Some of the recommended brands include Hoya Filters, Lee Filters, and Tiffen Filters.

If you want to try using a CPL filter before buying then you can take one for rent. 


Now, it is quite clear that a CPL filter can really transform your level of photography if you are into landscape photography. You need to ensure to use this filter in the right place at the right time. Only then, you can really make amazing images.

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