How to Create a Polarizing Filter Effect in Photoshop

Written by shawn m. tomlinson
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Polarising filters have been used in colour and black and white photography for many years. The filter is especially good for sharpening the contrast between a blue sky and clouds. This produces a more dramatic effect, especially if the sky is light blue. You can use a couple of quick steps in Adobe Photoshop to simulate the effects.

Skill level:
Easy

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Things you need

  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Printer
  • Glossy photo paper

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Choose an image that will help show the effect of the polarisation. Big, billowing clouds against a blue sky work best. Save a copy of the image (File > Save As) to work on, then resize the image for your final output, whether that's to the Internet (72 dots per inch) or for a print (300 dpi). Do this with Image > Image Size by typing in "72" or "300" in the Resolution box.

  2. 2

    Add a New Layer (Layer > New > New Layer From Background) to work with. You also can do this in the Layer palette (Window > Layer) by dragging the Background Layer to the New Layer button at the bottom.

  3. 3

    Select the New Background Layer, then go to Image > Adjustments > Black and White. At the top of the popup window where it says Default, select Red Filter. You can adjust the Red Filter with the slider controls. To get that deep blue sky, you can increase the Red and Yellow channels. Be careful not to lose detail in the shadows of the foreground.

  4. 4

    Change the form of the new Layer by using the Blending Options popup (Layer > Layer Styles > Blending Options). Change the Blend Mode at the top to Soft Light. This will remove the appearance of black and white from the image, but leave the dark blue sky intact.

  5. 5

    Adjust the shadows with Shadows/Highlights (Image > Adjustments > Shadows/Highlights) if necessary, but don't overdo it or you will remove the dark blue in the sky. Flatten the image (Layer > Flatten) and Save. Go to File > Print and take a look at the results, especially on glossy, high-quality photo paper.

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