Introduction: Make Pictures With Polarized Light From an LCD

When I started to write this instructable I realized that it is not simple to explain what is happening in my experiments. Therefore, briefly, polarized light is light where the electromagnetic waves are restrained or limited to certain directions. You will find more on the web if you are interested. This effect of polarization is applied in sunglasses, 3D movie glasses and LCD monitors (see When placing objects between a source with polarized light and a polarized filter, we can observe color formation indicating properties like stress in materials.

Luckily, this time it will be easier done than said and you really do not have to know the whole theory in order to make fascinating pictures. We can use an LCD monitor as a source for polarized light and all you'll need is a camera and a polarizing filter.

Step 1: The Setup

You'll need a camera with a polarizing filter. I used a Cokin A160 linear polarizer. I put the camera on a camera stand.

For the polarized light source, I put a portable computer flat on the stand and opened a white screen (e.g. in a web browser or word processor).

Next, you'll have to turn the polarized filter until no light is transmitted to the camera. You will see that the white backgound turns to black. It's my personal preference, but I think it looks better with a black background.

Step 2: Take Pictures

Of course you'll need to look for objects to take pictures of. I had the best results with hard plastic and translucent materials.

Adjust focus and exposure time on your camera. I can not give you hints here, it is a matter of trial and error.

As an example, you can see a cookie packaging plastic without and with polarizing filter.

Step 3: Take More Pictures

Many apparent uniform materials generate colored pictures indicating that the physical properties of the objects are not uniform. Stress points can easily be demonstrated using this setup.

But aside of all the science, the pictures are nice to look at...


Jan_Henrik (author)2014-05-07

Wow, awesome picture, i have to try it!