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Polarizers and the Sky

Lesson 11 from: Photoshop and Lightroom for Landscape Photographers

Matt Kloskowski

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Lesson Info

11. Polarizers and the Sky

Matt goes over the pros and cons of shooting landscape photography with a polarizer.

Lesson Info

Polarizers and the Sky

Take a look at polarizers. So let's look at polarizers and kind of what polarizers will do, or what they can do to the sky. Pre-shoot, yo, capture at capture. When I teach those landscape photography workshops, all week long the question always comes up, "should I have my polarizer on"? "Should I have my polarizer on"? All week long, always comes up. My thought is, I'm almost always going to have my polarizer on unless it significantly hurts the photo. Because, for me, the polarizer is not about the sky, the polarizer is about everything else. It's about taking glare off of everything. If you're shooting near water. If you're shooting where the sun is hitting something. It's about taking glare off of something. Making the sky more blue, I don't need a polarizer to do that, right? And we all know if you turn, just because you can doesn't mean you should, if you turn your polarizer to full effect, we all know we're like wow, you know? But, you look at that photo later and something looks...

a little bit off. The sky gets a little bit funky, sometimes it gets too blue. So, just because you can, doesn't mean you should. To me, the polarizer is more about everything else. It's reducing glare off of everything. So, when I have a photo like this, what I knew was happening was, you know, the shot for this is not sunrise like when the sun first comes up. The shot's actually a little bit later when you start to get some depth and dimension over all these patterns. The problem is, as the sun gets higher, this stuff gets really glary, alright? It just looks faded. Not too worried about the sky. The sky looks blue. If I want to make it more blue, I can do that pretty easy. What I do, is I put the polarizer on. Now, did it make the sky look artificially blue? Absolutely. But, look at how it renders all this stuff that had a faded, hazy look to it before. Alright, that's before. That's after. So, that's what the polarizer does to me. But the problem is, is the downside is when you're wide-angle and you put that polarizer on you get that, that dip. And when I say wide-angle, I mean 18, 24 millimeter. You know the lower end of your 16 and 24 millimeter lenses. The higher end, you know, 16 to 35. It's iffy. You could still get it, it depends, it really depends on where the sun is. Your 24 to 70, the higher end of the 24 to 70, you won't see it. But it's really your wide-angle lenses. Cause if you think about it, how do you know how to use, when to use a polarizer? You point at the sun and then point your other arm 90 degree angle. If you're shooting that way, 90 degree angle from the sun, that's going to be your greatest area that you'll see the polarizer from. So, that's why you get these little dips there. So we want to get rid of that. I don't want to not use the polarizer. So, think of it ahead of time. Camera's on a tripod. Turn your polarizer to where it doesn't affect the photo. Take one, then turn your polarizer to where it does affect your photo. Take another shot. Now you're taking two. Just like what we did before. Select both photos. Go photo, edit in, open as layers in Photoshop. So that's going to swing us over into Photoshop. So now, we've got both of those layers on top of each other. Add a layer mask. Same thing. Layer mask is white, I have to paint on it with black. What do I, what do I, paint on it with black? Like what part do I want to paint on with black? I want to paint the part that I want to hide. So, in this example, the top version, I'll rename it to sky. Cause that's the good sky. The bottom version, is the good foreground. So, I've got the good sky on top. The good foreground on the bottom. So I need to paint on this layer to reveal the foreground. Rather than taking a brush and painting and doing all that. I can make life easier on myself, and I can use a quick selection tool. So what the quick selection tool does is, I just . . . draw over the sky. If it selects something you didn't want it to, for example, you can see it got part of the totem over here, then, if I hold down the option or alt key see how it goes into minus modes, subtracts? So I'll just paint right on there. That's a good, real fast, quick way to make a selection. So, what do we do? Well, if I fill this with black, what's gonna happen? Edit, fill, with black. Gotta flip the mask. If I fill this with black, what you're going to see is it's going to give us the reverse of what we want. It brought back the sky, from underneath. So, rather than do that, I just reverse the selection. I could've, when I made the selection, I could've saved myself the trip. I could've just selected the foreground instead of the sky. But, since I already did, let's just go to select, inverse. Now we got the foreground selected and fill it with black. Okay? It's different way of doing it than we did before. It's just a fancier way of making, of putting black on that layer mask. Remember, the layer mask wants white or black. It needs white or black. Desires white and black. That's all, to fulfill its life, it just needs that. It doesn't care how it gets it on it. Whether its with edit, fill. Whether you take a brush. Whether you use a gradient. Whatever you want to use. You just get white or black onto it. So I could, I've got that selection, I could very easily take a brush and brush over it, and do the same thing. It won't go outside the selection because the selection protects everything. Alright, so now if you look at the photo, what we've got is, we got the best of both worlds. We've got the good foregrounds and we've got the better sky. Okay? Same thing as before, we want to get this back over to Lightroom. So all we gotta do, we don't want to change the name or location. All we gotta do is go to file, save, close it, hop back over to Lightroom, and you'll see, it's got our new photo right over there. There's all our combined layer image. So, there's our before images and there's the final one. This more one of those things that, as a landscape shooter, you keep it in your back pocket when you're out there shooting. You know, you're gonna shoot for Photoshop. You know what the limitations are, you're gonna shoot for Photoshop. You're actually gonna shoot it knowing that you're going to have to edit it later. So, it's a good logical stopping point for questions. Anybody, uh? Thanks. Can you talk about the layer, are there any layers tools in Lightroom? Or is everything that you do with layers have to go to Photoshop? No, there are no layers tools in Lightroom. Everything has to go to Photoshop. Or, Photoshop Elements. Any layering program. On1 has Perfect Layers. There's, yeah, other alternatives out there too. But it's gotta be some type of layer program, Lightroom can't do it. But the day it does, watch out! Yeah. On the first picture that you presented in this thing, it had a, there was a halo that went along the, the horizon. This one? No, the one before that one. The first one you presented before, in skies. Man, you're uh, you're making me think back to Think. That, that was a half hour ago. (chuckles) I don't remember what I had for lunch anymore. Was it Dalver Desert? Ah, I think so. Okay. How do you get rid of that halo along the skyline? That line that goes. Yeah, there is a tiny little line there. I wonder. So, I'm gonna guess that that might be a little bit of over-sharpening. Yeah. See it? Then we zoom in. Yeah, that's a little bit of too much sharpening. So, yeah, I just have to back off on the sharpening a little bit. It's a lower resolution photo, I must have somehow converted it. But, yeah it's a lower resolution photo so its not handling, I just sharpened it too much. What do we got? We have a couple of questions actually about dehazers. So, how would you deal with haze? Haze. Haze is a good one. There's a couple of ways we can do it. I know I've got some, I've got a whole folder of hazy photos. That's actually, that's probably one of the most common landscape photo questions. So, the first thing I would say is, the haze is there because it was there. Right. You know, it's not, the camera didn't make it hazy. The haze is there because it actually really was there. But, it's one of those things, it goes back to what we talked about earlier which is the photo rarely looks like what you saw when you were there. When you were there, you weren't thinking of the haziness, you were thinking of this monstrous mountain that's right in front of you that looks so cool. You know? And you're not seeing all those different things. So, uh, let's take a look, clouds and haze, I know I have probably a good example in here. Here's one. So, see the washed out type of look it has? You know, I guess I kind of knew it was there, but it really didn't seem like that. It was just this great, huge mountain that was in front of me. So, what you can do is, you go to your brush tool, is probably gonna be one of the better ones. I've gotta couple of, I'll show the grad presets, the grad filter presets because I have a dehazer. It's called Haze Killer. So that's . . . go ahead and pull it down just so it goes over the whole thing. And it makes it darker, all we've got to do is maybe tweak the exposure a little bit. But, that's before. That's after. So, that's an option. But most of the time, especially if you have, it's usually gonna happen on mountain ranges and trees that are off in the distance, a lot of time I'll take the brush tool. And I know I have, I know I got a dehazer inside here. So let's got with. . .Haze Killer, there we go. So, I'll just take my brush, and just paint. Alright, best thing, let me zoom in so you can actually see it. There we go. So, I just paint. Is that coming through? Can you guys see it? Pretty cool. Just paint right on there. If you look at the settings. Contrast, highlights. Cause, what's part of what's causing that haze? Your layer tones start to look flat. So I boost them with the highlights. Shadows, actually boost the shadows. Again, your tones tend to look flat. It's almost like adding a levels adjustment into just those tones in those areas. So, highlights and shadows, clarity, of course, is going to really bring out some of the details. And then, some sharpness on there as well. So, I just paint that across. If I hit the little toggle switch right here, you'll see, before and then after. So, those are, again, I showed you the settings in there. I think the preset pack's like nine bucks. On So, if you don't want to go through and add all the settings. You can hit the website. But that's the settings for, here, I'll do one on this one. Cause this is a good hazy photo too. So, before I would even paint, bump up the exposure a little bit. And then, just paint. Ooh, looks good on, really good on this one. Somebody had asked earlier today too, there is uh, there is a checkbox down in the brush tool. It's called Auto Mask. So, if you notice, what I'm trying to do is make my brush a little bit smaller and try to get into some of these areas. If you've got a fairly defined edge, if you turn Auto Mask on, you can actually make your brush pretty big. Okay. As long as that little crosshair in the middle stays over your edge, it'll keep the effect inside. So, as long as that crosshair, I can take the rest of the brush outside of it, but that crosshair is what it's really looking at. Okay, if I show you the mask, you'll actually see what it was doing. There's a little checkbox down here. Show Mask. See that? So, for the most part, it kept the effect inside that edge there. So, what I'll usually do is, I'll paint with Auto Mask, and I'll get the edge and I'll outline the mountain, and then once I'm done, then I'll come in, and I can use a bigger brush. And I can go in there and get the rest of it too. So, there's a lot of good dehazing stuff that we can do right inside of Lightroom. I almost kind of feel compelled because the clouds, we're on clouds, I almost kind of feel compelled because the clouds look cool in this photo. Let's go use. . .white puffy clouds. So, that kinda adds a little bit to them too. Okay, so yeah, that's uh, that's haze. And it happens a lot, landscape it is, it's a fact of life for your landscapes. But, that's a good way to get rid of it.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Lightroom Presets
CreativeLive Sky Pack

Ratings and Reviews

Barry Walsh

Great class Matt! I am about two-thirds the way through the class and have learned a lot about Lightroom and the objective of this course. I must admit I was over-whelmed by the amount of material covered and that was probably due to not having prior knowledge about Lightroom. I have since signed up for the 7 day trial of Adobe Creative Cloud Photography plan and then went through their "beginner's" tutorial. If you are contemplating taking this course, I would highly recommend taking the Adobe Lightroom tutorials first. They cleared up a lot of confusion on my part and I now have a better understanding of the concepts Matt covered. I'm actually going to go back and retake what I viewed to help reinforce both what Matt initially covered and the basic concepts tutorials offered by Adobe. Again, great job Matt and thanks for all the useful information!

a Creativelive Student

Matt is the best and he his the same in person. I had the fortunate opportunity to run into Matt on the side of the road at Dallas Divide in Colorado a couple of years ago.... he is the real deal. I have learned almost all my LR post processing from him when he was with Kelby and have continued to follow him over to On1 as he is the best teacher out there when it comes to Post. Great class and bring him back again. Another great CL class ....... bravo!........ Johnny Boyd @

Student Work