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Use a Circular Polarizer as ND filter for balancing ambient/flash

agc1976agc1976 Member
edited May 2011 in flash & lighting
I currently do not own any ND filters. I don't like buying cheap filters and can't justify getting an expensive one for the little use that I'll give it. I however have a very good CPL filter (Nikon) that I use for landscape photography.

I believe it loses 1-1.5 stops of light which might be just enough to give me good ambient/flash exposure at large apertures without having to go into high speed sync.

My question is: Do I lose anything by using a CPL instead of ND filter for portraits? (catchlights, rim light from the sun, etc.)


  • ButchMButchM Member
    edited May 2011
    Not sure what you are trying to accomplish here ... if you are trying to avoid high speed sync (FP mode) because of power/flash output issues ... how is using a ND or CPL going to help? The flash is still going to need +1-1.5 (or more) increase of output so that it will match the ambient level ... you are not really gaining anything here ....
  • agc1976agc1976 Member
    Exactly, I want to be able to use large apertures without going into high speed sync. Don't I lose more output power at FP than by adding a filter?
  • ButchMButchM Member
    "Don't I lose more output power at FP than by adding a filter?"

    Depends ... What is the maximum output your flash is capable of? How far away will the flash be from the subject? Do you routinely do this at high noon where you would need considerably more power to match full-on sunlight? Do you use the flash as your main light and overpower the ambient light ... or as fill or accent lighting? ...

    For myself ... when working with individuals and couples ... I work with the light in close to the subject where the shorter flash to subject distance works well with HSS/FP mode ... plus, I don't have anything attached to the lens that can degrade image quality ...

    IMHO there are times when using ND or CPL filters could be preferred, portraiture is not likely the case most of the time ... the difference between the flash output loss for HSS/FP mode vs. using a ND or CPL filter would be quite similar in most cases ...
  • AllenAllen Member
    Hi. There's an excellent article on this very subject on the blog:


    Don't forget to read the comments too.
  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    The polarizer filter should work well in giving you two more stops range on your flash.

    You do lose (about) 2 stops of flash .. but you also lose 2 stops of ambient light.
    This will hopefully allow you to stay out of HSS range, and give you the wider aperture that you seek.

    Also check out this link:

    We used multiple speedlights there to overcome the loss of flash power when we went to high-speed flash sync.
    The simpler and cheaper option would've been to use a ND filter (or a polarizer filter)
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