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Cross polarisation: The Photography News Podcast #1

Posted on Apr 6, 2020

Cross polarisation can be done easily with objects you likely already have, so it’s well worth trying if you’re looking for new techniques to try at home.

I’ll admit it, the cross polarisation technique that I advocated during the first Photography News Podcast didn’t come out exactly as I’d planned. The last time I did this – around eight years ago when I was shooting a 365 project – I had a nice black background, but this time the black was replaced with a velvety purple. I’m wondering if it’s down to how monitor technology has changed in the interim.

My technique was the same. I used a computer monitor – in this case, my laptop – changed the screen colour to white and then placed my plastic right-angle triangle on the screen. Then it’s simply a question of framing up, adding a polariser and rotating it until you maximise the colours of the stresses of the plastic.

I’d definitely recommend using a tripod, unless you’re Mr (or Mrs) Steady Hands. Polarisers absorb around three stops of light, so my hand-holdable 1/30sec exposure without the filter in situ dropped to 1/4sec with. My advancing years mean I can’t hold the camera still at that low speed, so my trusty Manfrotto tripod was pressed into service. The eagle-eyed will notice in my set up that the polariser isn’t attached – that’s simply because I didn’t have one with the correct filter thread for the lens I was using; Fujifilm’s excellent XF60mm macro on the X-Pro3.

Cross polarisation photography set-up

I did a small amount of working in post-processing as well. I had a few issues with moiré patterns on the laptop monitor, but this was smoothed out by tweaking the Texture slider in Lightroom. A smidgen of the Vibrance pumped the colours up even more.

This is a really fun technique that’s surprisingly easy to achieve with the right kit. Give it a try and send your results to us on social media or email them to [email protected]

If you missed the first episode, you can hear about this technique and others, as well as our favourite cameras of all time and more. Listen here on the podcast page, or on YouTube or Spotify.

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