Polarized Light Photography

I’ve always wondered how some textbooks are able to get those photos with beautifully-colored tooth sections. Using them in PowerPoint presentations have become something of a trend, and I came across another one of those a couple of weeks ago. The photos themselves look like false-color images, but I knew there’s no way the speakers had the time and the know-how to painstakingly photoshop each slide. After a little research, the answer is actually just polarized light. Fortunately, it wasn’t hard at all to reproduce.

So here’s a diagram of the setup that I needed:

Schematic of the setup for polarized light micro-photography

Here are some notes from my trials:

  • The thickness of the slide seemed to affect its vibrancy
  • A glass pane for placing the specimen on worked a lot better than clear plastic
  • Having a diffuser on the light didn’t help much
  • Rotating the CPL can give either light or dark backgrounds