Polarising Light in Studio Photography

Polarising studio light can be incredibly useful in commercial photography. But you have to know why, when and how to do it.

This knowledge will equip you with an extra level of control, which is particularly useful when shooting reflective or shiny surfaces, or even shots with multiple surface textures.

In this class, Karl explains what polarised light is and demonstrates how it works through three different practical shoots. He explains the difference between polarising your light and polarising the lens, what each does, and what happens when you do both.

In the class:

  • What is polarised light
  • How to polarise light
  • Cross polarisation
  • The difference between polarising light and polarising the lens
  • Linear vs circular polarisers
  • Polarising metal

Questions? Please post them in the comments section below.


  1. Thank you Karl for sharing your passion and knowledge with us through this platform! It is by far the best investment I’ve made this year!

    May I know for the Kenko extension tubes, which size do I need to get? They sell it separately as well as a set and I’m not sure which one is needed. I shoot with a Canon 6d mark ii.

    1. Hi, it depends entirely on how much magnification you need but I don’t think the set is much more expensive? If I had to choose then the thinest one is the one I use the most.

  2. As far as I remember from my lessons in Physics, a polarizing filter is created through a series of parallel lines or fibers running in one direction in the filter; its direction. By placing this filter in front of a light source you polarize the light by only allowing the light to pass through that is going in the same direction. By placing a second polarizer on the lens.. which is receiving the light, you can modify the lens polarizer filter lines so they are perpendicular to those coming at the lens. If you completely polarize the light, setting the filters perpendicular to each other, as exemplified perfectly by your table top straight down plastic shot, you get complete polarization. As I understand, a circular polarizer has two polarizing filters built together and you are rotating one from parallel to perpendicular and back again to parallel to adjust how much is applied. They are more expensive because you have two filters built in. .. I always assumed they are called circular because you rotate them, but that seems to confuse people. A linear filter is just a single layer of polarizing material.. for full polarization you need a second one.

    Excellent demonstrations of polarization control. I have been trying to source out large linear sheets for lights. They can be pricey.. There are some scientific ones I have found, but I haven’t yet taken the plunge on the purchase. Thanks Karl.

    1. Hi Gary, almost correct apart from the part about the circular polarisers, they aren’t two layers of glass that are seperated they simply use a different method of polarisation, based more on a spiral blocking rather than linear. The sheets I were using were LEE ones.

  3. This is an excellent subject to talk about and I appreciate the effort it takes to explain the science and the effect of polarization in this video. I feel like this is could be that “aha!” moment to bring up my photography to the next level. Thumbs up emoji.

  4. I don’t know how to thank you Karl for this extremely useful workshop, and I don’t how to describe my happiness for joining your online education center…

    Thank you for everything!

  5. Loved the session, very informative and I learned a lot already. I knew about polarizers and have used them but never in the light source, main take away for me. Your grace in answering some of those questions is saint-like. I’m new to your course and look forward to the rest of the program. Thank you Karl.

  6. Great tour of how to make and use polarised light Karl – really enjoyed watching that. Incidentally – LCD screens are a usable source of polarised light (as long as you need a flat panel of light): I took this handheld test shot 10 years ago using a Samsung LCD monitor as the light source – using the exact same technique Karl used on the last set-up in the video. I just made a pure white image in Photoshop and displayed it full-screen.


    They are very dim of course. But that shouldn’t matter if everything is locked down in a dark room and there’s no movement involved. I’ve never used this for anything since though :-/

    Just ordered a new sheet of polarising gel (from Stage Gear in the UK) Rosco 730011 is the code for it. The Lee code is 239

  7. For many years I was going to do shots like the last set up.. This course refreshed some infos for me and added more in great details. As always, thank you so much I appreciate all your efforts as well as the team behind you.. Be safe!

  8. Hi Karl. In my product shots accurate colour is really important. When you polarize the light the overall colour appears to change. How do I correct the polarised image so that the product still looks the correct colour.

    1. Hi, technically the colours aren’t changing, they were always there they were just being obscured by the polarized light. However I do understand what you mean, essentially we end up with colours that look more saturated so it would make sense that a little desaturation would bring them back to a perceptual perspective.

  9. FYI, Fotodiox makes extension tubes for the X Series of Hasselblad cameras which also provide electric connections for metering and focus etc. They work quite well.

Leave a Comment