Polarising filters to remove glare


An effective demo on removing glare when photographing paintings in studio.




  • Well, that looks like magic. I hope I can do it. I love to photograph my paintings so I can load them onto Photoshop and study them from a fresh perspective. 
  • @Dianna, If you have a camera that fits a screw-on polarising filter then its easy peasy.  I can post a photo or two of what my set up is if you like.
  • @Roxy  Yes, I'd love you to post a couple of photos of what your set up is like.  I have a Nikon D5000 camera - I don't think I can fit a screw-on polarising filter though.  But I want to get rid of the camera and buy a different one, so perhaps that's something I can keep in mind.
  • Dianna

    Don’t know what lens you have fitted but the standard Nikon d5000 is 52mm.
    Take your camera into the shop and ask for a circular polarising filter that fits.

  • @dencal in addition to the circular polarizing filter did you place anything over your lights?

  • GTO

    I used a CP filter back in the days of film cameras. Photos through car windows, shop windows, water shots and a huge improvement in sky / cloud contrast. Did weddings, christenings, passport pics parties etc. as a side hustle. Had a home darkroom.

    Not found any CP filters for my new digital cameras yet.

    The CP filter I owned was a rotating pair that could be adjusted to dial in the amount of effect needed.
    Any photography with lights was manageable through positioning. Varnished paintings were not involved.


  • Hi @GTO - yes, the linear polarising film (just looks like a plastic sheet) is placed over the lights. Using the circular polarising filter on its own is not enough - check out the video. I'll post some more pics of my setup shortly.
  • @Roxy. I watched the video and see what you mean about using the linear polarizing film over the lights.
  • @Dianna et al, Here's my setup

    Below is my camera with the circular polarising filter removed. Dianna - it just screws onto the front of the lens. You just have to make sure you get the right size, as lenses differ in daimeter.

    The filter is sitting on what is left of the linear polarising film, which I have cut up and put into a cardboard frame, which is also visible.

    These are the lights I use - they sit behind me when I paint. I have 3 of them.

    ...and my cardboard cutout with the film just sits over the lights. I have 3 cutouts, one for each light.

    I gather it is important for the film to cover the light source, and that there to be no leakage of unfiltered light around the edges. This was easy for me as my lights are flat LEDs. If you have bulbs you may need to rig up some other arrangement like a box so the light only passes through the film. Or check out the solution in the video.

    Photos need to be taken at night or in a dark room, so that the only light illuminating the painting is that passing through the filter.

    The linear filter, plus the circular filter on the camera, means a lot of light is blocked. A tripod is therefore required to get a sharp photo.

    Think that's about it.

  • Thanks @Roxy for posting those details.
  • CJDCJD -
    edited November 2019
    I think I'll try this as well as I haven't had as much luck photographing my paintings lately. Glare is a problem when you're not painting super thinly!

    @GTO there's more good info here https://www.nitpickyartist.com/photographing-art.html
  • @Roxy the polarization film usually comes with a protective film on it.  Did you leave that on the sheet or remove it when you used the film
  • @CJD thanks for the nitpicky artist link.  That is very informative.  @Roxy I saw on the nitpicky link in CJDs comments that their lights are just positioned behind the polarization film and they didn’t seem to be. Inverness about leakage around the edge is the film.  
    Also the polarization.com guys have the best prices and you can order by the foot with a 17” width.
  • Hi @GTO - yes I removed the protective film. I think so long as no direct light sneaks around the edges of the film then I'm sure just sticking it in front would work too. In fact I see that's how its set up in the video. I only bought an A3 sheet, as that's all I needed to cover my lights - but depending on your setup and if you can buy a bigger sheet at a good price, go for it. Being in Oz I got this - https://www.amazon.com.au/Polarization-Polarizer-Educational-Physics-Polarized/dp/B0793PYDF7/ref=asc_df_B0793PYDF7/?tag=googleshopdsk-22&linkCode=df0&hvadid=341791754774&hvpos=1o1&hvnetw=g&hvrand=7492214250481120845&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9071950&hvtargid=pla-568364582580&psc=1
  • Oh, wow! That's magic. I just saw this thread. I have such trouble with glare it drives me nuts. So, if I've understood correctly, I need a circular polarizer to fit over my camera lens and some sheets of linear polarizing film to put over my lights. Is that correct, @Roxy? My camera is a digital Olympus. Does it work for digital cameras? Hope so. I can't wait to try this. Thanks for posting about it, @Roxy
  • @tassieguy you will get the best price in the film at polarization.com the PF006 film $15 per ft 17” wide.  
    The circular polarizer needs to fit your lens (it screws onto the lens just like a UV lens protector.  It works with digital.  In fact you can look through just the polarizer lens after you’ve covered your lights and see the magic.
    I did notice (as Roxy pointed out) that any external light or light bouncing off other surfaces will cause glare so you will want to not let any light escape.

  • @tassieguy - as @GTO said. Yes it is like magic. You'll also want a tripod, or otherwise sit the camera on a stable surface and use the self timer to take the shot - too dark to hand-hold with the filters blocking lots of light.
  • @tassieguy one more thing.  If you have a 50mm lens use that.  It will not have as much fish eye distortion effect.  You might also set the iso to 200 and manual focus to get a good color match.  
    And as Roxy says you have to use the timer to delay the taking of the picture or you will get a blurry picture. And use the tripod.  
  •  Great.. Thanks, @GTO. Photography is terra incognita for me. Hopefully I'll be able to work it out. :)
  • Found this advice today - from a painter who uses a lot of impasto (glare).

    "I’ve been photographing my own work and selling prints for years. It can be a very complicated process if you are going for an accurate reproduction, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive. Here are a few tips:

    • shoot in a large room with lots of light (if you have access to a school classroom, this works really well) or outside during the day in the shade.

    • use a camera with optical zoom or removable lenses (you can pick up an older canon rebel for pretty cheap)

    • use a tripod and shoot at iso 100 and f/8, and then adjust the exposure until you get a well exposed shot (use the 2 second timer setting so you don’t shake the camera)

    • shoot in RAW format with auto white balance, since you can adjust the white balance later if you need to (don’t shoot in jpeg). Take one shot with a gray card in the image as it will allow the editing software to get the right white balance.

    • use a polarizing filter. This is actually one of the most important tools as it’s almost impossible to not get any glare without it, especially in the darker areas of the artwork. Take 5 or more photos, each time, rotate the filter a little bit, that way you can choose the one that cuts out the most glare after.

    • use editing software to crop and adjust the colours. You don’t necessarily need expensive software like Photoshop, though that is what I use.

    Those things should give you quite good results.

    Extra tips for even better results:

    • stack all the images you took with the polarizing filter in photoshop and set the layers to “darken”. This will take all the darkest parts of the images and combine them together to get rid of even more glare

    • repeat the entire process with the painting upside down. Stacking these images on the right side up images (obviously flipped to line up) will get rid of even more glare.

    • use a colour correcting card like Color Checker to get even more accurate colours. I find blues and greens don’t photograph well, so this helps a lot.

    It’s taken me many years to develop a process that gives me accurate results, so hopefully some of these tips can help others 😊"

  • I’d like to revive this thread and see if anybody understands what’s going on. I finally varnished and framed and hung my first two paintings. And I really want to photograph them on the wall. I even have a great camera and although I’m not a pro, I’m also really not a novice at photography. Except I haven’t played with polarizers until now. Got myself a circular polarizing filter, and it’s just not removing any glare at all. Even when I rotate it. I’ll try to post some pictures later, but trust me it’s just not removing any glare whatsoever. I’m totally baffled. I guess it must be the angle of the light? I have overhead lighting that’s pretty much pointing directly down and perpendicular to the paintings on the wall. Maybe that’s glare  that just can’t be removed so I can never get a straight on angle for the photo?
  • You need to use a polarizing film over the lights used to illuminate the painting.  Do not allow any polarized light to leak out.  Then you rotate your polarizing filter on the camera until you see that all the glare is removed.
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