Best Filters For Black And White Digital Photography

December 15, 2018 5:01 am by columnblogger
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Best Filters For Black And White Digital Photography

When photographing foliage in black and white, a green filter is used almost exclusively.

In black & white photography, colour filters in particular are useful as they can control how the colours in a scene are reproduced as greys. Normal black & white films are sensitive to all wavelengths of visible light although how they interpret the colours of that scene will not always match the way you see it. Colour filters therefore allow us to modify, at the point of capture, the way the film will respond to the different colours.

Red filters produce a very strong effect and greatly increase contrast. They’re often considered too “harsh” for most types of photography, but can be used to produce striking creative effects.

Although a yellow filter darkens blues, it reproduces green, yellow, orange and red in lighter shades. This gives more differentiation between the different colours of foliage while flesh tones have a more natural look.

Green filters are less popular than the others but are useful in some circumstances.

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A typical orange filter has a filter factor of 4 (the manufacturer will supply the exact factor with the filter). Most cameras with TTL metering will not be able to automatically correct for the filter factor. Due to the dramatic effects given by an orange filter it is recommended that shots are taken with +1 stop extra exposure.

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Different coloured filters (top line) affect your scene’s greys in different ways.

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Many photographers use a yellow filter to “bring out the clouds”. This works by darkening the blue sky, giving a greater visual separation between the darkened sky and the white clouds on the final print. A yellow filter will also give improved penetration of haze and fog.

A green filter lightens greens, separating foliage and flowers. Image by aussiegal.

A blue filter darkens most colours and is used to reduce contrast. Image by Tony Armstrong.

In portrait photography, an orange filter reduces the appearance of freckles and blemishes, giving the skin a healthy, smooth look.

Coloured lens filters offer a solution to this problem because they affect the way colours are “converted” to black and white. This allows you to control the way they appear in the final image, ensuring that objects are well separated and clearly defined.

In portrait photography, they produce warm, natural, pleasing flesh tones, like an orange filter but less intense.

A typical blue filter has a filter factor of 2 (the manufacturer will supply the exact factor with the filter) while most cameras with TTL metering will be able to correct automatically for the filter factor.

Blue filters are rarely used for black and white photography. They darken most colours and reduce contrast across an image.

Unlike the subtler changes given by yellow and orange filters, a red filter can create bold and dramatic effects. Blue skies are now recorded as black on the print, resulting in an impending thunderstorm effect. Pictures of mixed material buildings gain drama and clarity. A red filter will also give marked penetration of haze and fog. When used with a film like [SFX] it can create an infrared style look.

Blue skies will be recorded in very dark tones on the print, giving bold contrast between the sky and clouds. An orange filter will also penetrate haze and fog. Most flowers will be recorded with a significant difference in tone from the surrounding foliage giving impact and effect.

An orange filter gives warm, smooth skin tones. Image by David Jubert.

When photographing buildings and cityscapes, they give bricks a pleasing tone, and increase contrast between different materials to add depth and texture to the image.

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Yellow filters produce the most subtle effect of the 5 coloured filters. In some cases the difference is barely noticeable, but it can help to lift a photo just enough. They’re a popular choice for beginners as they can be used in virtually any type of photography.

A yellow filter has always been the “classic” first choice filter for black & white film photographers. It gives an excellent balance between photographic effect and ease of use making it a useful and versatile accessory.

A yellow filter gives slightly darkened blues, increasing sky contrast. Image by Alex Gorstan.

When shooting plants they help increase definition between flowers and foliage. This is particularly useful when shooting red flowers, as they have a similar tone to the surrounding leaves.

When used correctly, this reduced contrast can be useful for giving a shot a calm, soothing atmosphere. A blue filter also increases the appearance of haze and mist, making it handy for enhancing the mood of an early-morning scene.

It also lightens blues and darkens yellows, oranges and reds which helps separation in scenes containing a mix of colours.

Orange filters sit between red and yellow filters, giving a nice balance of each one’s properties. This makes them a popular general purpose filter.

If you’re serious about black and white photography then a selection of coloured filters is a great addition to your kit. They’ll give you much more control over the way your photos appear, helping you to create mood, balance contrast, and emphasise the most important parts of a scene.

It lightens green foliage, which is particularly important with dark green leaves which can record very dark without a filter. It therefore gives a more natural, lighter feel to the photograph.

A blue filter is not often associated with black & white photography however, it can really add “mood” to a photograph by increasing the effect of haze or fog.

A common problem in black and white photography is that certain colours look very similar when converted into greyscale. For example, some shades of red, green, and blue look completely different in colour, but almost identical in black and white.

Orange filters give stronger effects than  yellow filters but are not as bold and dramatic as a red. It is therefore an ideal choice to span the effects given by both these filters.

When snapping landscapes a yellow filter darkens the sky slightly, helping to balance its exposure against the darker ground. They also bring out clouds nicely, resulting in more interesting skies.

Each coloured filter produces a different effect on the scene.

Because of their different effects, each colour filter tends to be used in a different way.

Red filters produce such an extreme effect that they can make your photo look like it’s been shot through an infrared filter. This makes them a popular, cheaper alternative to true infrared photography.

Yellow filters are good for separating shades of green, and can be used whe photographing plants to increase the contrast of foliage.

A typical yellow filter will have a filter factor of 2 (the manufacturer will supply the exact factor). Most cameras with TTL metering will correct automatically for the filter factor but check your particular model.

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This image shows how different filters affect the way colours are converted to black and white:

There are 5 filter colours that are commonly used in black and white photography – red, orange, yellow, green, and blue. Each lets through its own colour of light and blocks other colours to varying degrees. For example, a red filter will let red light through, but block most green and blue.

They can also be used in landscape photography to boost the appearance of grass and trees, but they also lighten the sky so you need to be careful not to lose detail there.

This can cause objects in a black and white image to blend into one another, leaving you with a photo which is flat and lifeless, and lacking in contrast and definition.

When shooting flowers without a filter there’s often little tonal  difference between the flowers and the foliage in the print. A red filter will, in almost every case, give a significant difference in tone, making the photograph more interesting and dramatic.

A typical red filter has a filter factor of 4 to 5 (the manufacturer will supply the exact factor with the filter). Most cameras with TTL metering will not be able to automatically correct for the filter factor. Owing to the dramatic effects given by a red filter it is recommended that shots are taken giving +1 to +2 stops of extra exposure.

Filters have long been a popular accessory for photographers and offer a number of different functions or effects. In both analogue and digital photography it is possible to recreate some of these in the darkroom or digital darkroom. However there has always been a benefit to getting it right in camera.

Black and white filters let you control how colours are converted to shades of grey. Use them to get the right contrast and mood in your photos.

Using Colour Filters for Black & White photography Posted On 30th March 2017 To Beginner Series

A green filter is mainly used for photographing plants as it helps separate the green foliage from the brightly-coloured flowers and buds.

Although limited in application, it can be the perfect solution for many photographs. A typical green filter has a filter factor of 2 (the manufacturer will supply the exact factor with the filter) while most cameras with TTL metering will be able to correct automatically for the filter factor.

Similarly to red filters, they can be used to reduce the appearance of fog and haze, and to darken skies and emphasise clouds.

The result is that colours matching the filter colour appear brighter in the final image, while other colours appear darker. In black and white photography this means that objects appear as lighter or darker shades of grey.

In landscape photography, a red filter will turn a blue sky almost black and make clouds really stand out, giving the scene a dramatic feel. They’re also excellent for increasing visibility in haze and fog.

A red filter gives extreme, dramatic contrast. Image by Nicholas.

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