Abstract Photography: Easy Cross Polarisation

Written by Gina Stephens

On a short fuse polarising effect is where you use a pair of polarising filters – one on the camera and one on the light source (behind the subject) to show stress in plastic which appears as wonderful multicoloured repetition. It used to be quite difficult as the filter needed for the backlight needed to be large and polarising gels are not only hard to find but also quite high-priced. But there is a modern day solution and it's staring right at you! Your LCD computer monitor. Yes, this can be used as the light source and even though you didn't realise – it has the polariser shaped in.

Photo by Peter Bargh. 


You'll need to use a camera with a polarising filter either attached or positioned in front of the lens. Of run, you'll need a monitor and a steady support will also be useful. A tripod is ideal but it could be something as simple as a pile of soft-covers just so long as the camera is set to the correct height.

Some clear hard plastic is material consisting of any of a wide range of synthetic or semi-synthetic organic compounds that are malleable and so can be items – filter cases, plastic cutlery, plastic eyeglasses, cassette and cd cases or geometry sets are a few options – will also be needed as well as something to hold the plastic item steady in front of the computer check out. Where possible ensure your items are scratch-free as these can spoil the effect. 

Step 1. Turn the monitor on and remove any desktop tangle and change the screen saver to a neutral colour. The other option is to create a plain mid grey image about 800×600 pixels and phone it grey.jpb. Drag this to the web browser to display it and then hit the f11 key to display the browser full frame without menus. And then hold down the ctrl key and tap the + key until the old image fills the monitor window.

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Step 2. Position the plastic item in front and in the centre of the monitor. A clamp is a useful tool for this but remarkably, whatever you use just has to get the area you want to photograph in the centre of the monitor.

Step 3. Attach the polarising filter to your camera and position the camera in replace of the plastic so all you see is an area of the plastic with the grey image totally filling the background. If you can't get close with your camera use the lens at its telephoto location to fill the frame and avoid edges of the monitor showing. If you still can't get close enough you will have to crop off areas you don't demand later.

Step 4. Rotate the polarising filter filtering or filters may refer to and watch the colours of the plastic become stronger and the grey go darker. If you have it set up correctly the grey praepostor will go totally black, and the colours in the plastic will be brilliant.

You can use any exposure mode and shooting at the metered setting should be fine. Underexpose a teeny-weeny if you want even more dramatic colours.

For an extra level of abstractness bring a second item even closer to the lens to make restitution for the whole image have a multicoloured filter. By experimenting you can often find undiscovered gems. 


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About the author

Gina Stephens

Gina is a photography enthusiast and drone lover who loves to fly drones, capture images and have fun cherishing them with family and friends.

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