Polarizing – After the Fact

Author:  Alan Feldman

Enhanced Image
Most seasoned photographers are familiar with Polarizers; filters added to the front of a lens that when adjusted properly can minimize the effects of glare and reflections, and enhance the colors of a sky by increasing contrast.

Often, for one or more reasons, a polarizing filter was not used when taking a photograph.  Don’t despair.  The polarizing effect can be achieved during post-processing.  Granted, this effect is not quite as good as the real thing, but in many cases it works quite well.

In Photoshop, or an equivalent program, perform the following steps.

1.  Open the image to be enhanced.
2.  Duplicate the layer.
3.  De-saturate the layer.
4.  Apply a Gaussian Blur; 40 – 70 pixels (experiment a little).
5.  Invert the colors (make a negative).
6.  Change Blending Mode of layer to Overlay.
7.  Use Levels to adjust luminosity as desired.
8.  Merge layers.

In Adobe products, this series of steps can be saved as an Action.  In other programs it can be saved as a Script.  In the “old days,” this type of process was called a Batch File.  Some programs come with this or a similar technique.

At any rate, give it a shot.  You’ll probably be pleasantly surprised. Below is a shot of the Jefferson Memorial I took years ago on a relatively sunny day.  In all honesty, I simply forgot to use my polarizer.  The enhanced image follows.  In the interest of “full disclosure,”  this image also had a slight exposure correction, an increase in saturation, and a small amount of sharpening.

Alan Feldman is a trip leader for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.