This helps you see in black and white, without being distracted by color. It’s useful because it makes it easier to see tonal contrast, texture, lines, shapes, patterns, and light.
With color landscape photos, you can rely on the strength of the color to create drama and interest. The key to good color landscape photography is to find a dramatic scene and photograph it in the most beautiful light possible. That’s why so many color landscape photos are taken during the golden hour or just after sunset.
To understand why they are so useful let’s think about the typical settings used for a landscape photo. First of all, you set your ISO as low as possible for the best image quality (ISO 100 or 200 on most cameras). Next, you set an aperture that ensures everything in the scene is in sharp focus while avoiding the smallest apertures on your camera because of diffraction related softening. Most landscape photos are taken at f/11 or f/16.
Before we delve into what reach color filter will do the thing to remember is that in Black & White photography the each color filter will render its own color as a lighter gray in a scene while darkening it’s opposite color, also known as is complimentary color. For instance a green filter will lighten greens while absorbing reds rendering them darker.
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When you look at their work, ask yourself why their black and white landscape photos are so dramatic and powerful? What light are they shooting in? What photographic techniques are they using? How do they approach composition? The answers will teach you a lot about black and white photography.
Neutral density filters give you control over shutter speed, which you can then use creatively to create more interesting black and white landscapes.
It doesn’t feature the arches the beach is famous for, but it’s more personal to me and was more satisfying to make.
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For portraits an orange filter will reduce the appearance of freckles and other blemished while giving skin tones a smooth, more healthy look. Please note that the dress the model is wearing is red and the background foliage is predominately green.
I touched on this in the previous tip, but I want to emphasize them here because they are so important.
For example, this photo works well in black and white because of the contrast between the twin waterfalls and the dark rocks.
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Yellow filters yield the most subtle effects of all the colored filters. They are kind of considered the UV/Protector” of Black & White photography but they do have more of an impact on tones and contrast than a UV filter would. The effect is just strong enough to give a scene a little boost without it being immediately noticeable.
With those variables set, the shutter speed depends on the ambient light level. In bright sunlight, it might be around 1/125 second. In low light, it could be as low as 1/2 a second. But what if you’d like to use a slower shutter speed for creative effect? If ISO and aperture are fixed, the only way you get longer shutter speeds is by using neutral density filters.
If you think about the sort of things that appear in landscape photos – cliffs, rocks, grass, trees, mountains, sea and man-made objects like piers and jetties – they all have distinct textures.
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Yellow filters do darken blue skies slightly so clouds pop a little more also this creates a better balance with the foreground.
The 25A is a deep red filter that passes red and blocks bluish colors so that blue skies are rendered as a much darker gray or even nearly black in a B&W photograph. This filter allows for much stronger contrast to bright out white puffy clouds.
Don’t forget to set your camera to shoot in Raw format. Raw files contain all the information captured by your camera’s sensor, and give you the freedom to process the images in color if you want, even if you initially shoot in black and white mode.
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Black and white is different. Without color, you have to work harder to create strong compositions. You need to learn to look for the building blocks of photographic composition, such as leading lines, shapes, patterns, tonal contrast and texture. Really, what you are learning to do is see in black and white.
Let me give you an example. Earlier this year I visited the Playa de las Catedrales (Cathedral Beach) in northern Spain. Search for it on 500px and most photos will look something like this, showing the cathedral-like arches for which the beach is named.
This series of filters allows you to better control contrast and the lightness or darkness gray tones of a Black & White picture at the time the photo is taken. This is also known as “the tonal rendition”. By adjusting the tonal rendition at the time of capture there will be less need for post processing with software, that saves time and as the saying goes, time is money.
In the photo below, the arch, the cliffs in the distance, and the rocks in the foreground are all heavily textured. The sea and the sky are much smoother. There is a strong contrast between the roughness and tactility of the rocks, and the smoothness of the sea and the sky.
Without travel, I would never have experienced and photographed places like this (photo taken in Bolivia).
All the photos that I have shown you so far were taken in northern Spain. Unless you are lucky enough to live in an area like this, it is likely that, like me, you need to travel to find similar inspiring landscapes to photograph.
Less popular than the other colors but still very useful for specific types of photography. The Green filter is good for lightening the tone of green foliage which can give an other-worldly effect similar, but not has strong as infrared in some situations. Since it renders greens lighter it can be used in the scenic photography but because it also makes skies a lighter gray care should be taken to consider the scene and include as little sky as possible.
Here’s an example. This photo was taken at dusk with an aperture of f/11 at ISO 200, and a shutter speed of 1/5th of a second. This was slow enough to introduce some blur into the water, which you can see in the foreground.
Here is the effect of the Hoya X0 Yellow-Green filter on a models skin tone and red dress.
Then I added a neutral density filter and made this photo (below) with a shutter speed of 180 seconds (3 minutes). The water is completely blurred, and the clouds have moved across the sky, creating a streaked effect.
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Photographer Cole Thompson has an interesting idea. He practices what he calls photographic abstinence, and doesn’t look at the work of other photographers. The theory is that it enables him to see the landscape through his own eyes, without being influenced by other people’s photos.
Anybody who visits this beach will naturally want to take photos of those arches. They are why the spot is famous. But this can be a hindrance when it closes your eyes to other possibilities. After getting my rock arch photos, I really started looking. I saw some rocks in the sea that made an interesting minimalist composition. So I made the following photo.
It can also be used on leaves to give green foliage more contrast. Please note that the dress the model is wearing is red and the background foliage is predominately green.
A green filter is also highly effective in yielding better skin tones when taking portraits under tungsten lights or natural light. Please note that the dress the model is wearing is red and the background foliage is predominately green.
Hopefully, this article has given you an insight into why I love black and white landscape photography so much and that it inspires you to give it a go yourself. Do you have any tips for black and white landscape photography? Please share in the comments below.
The yellow-green filter was another filter that was traditionally considered an “all-around” filter to leave on a lens all the time when shooting Black & White. It has properties of the Yellow filter, such as darkening the tone of blue skies slightly while also lightening green foliage. These properties make it a good filter for “walking around” when shooting with either Black & White film or with a digital camera set in Black & White.
I’ve never taken this idea to its extreme because I believe it’s important to research an area before you go to find its most photogenic parts. But the problem with this is that the most powerful images you see during your research tend to stick in your mind. The natural tendency is to want to create similar images. The problem is that you then end up with photos that look like everybody else’s.
Tonal contrast is the term used to describe variations in brightness between different parts of the image. Take the photo below as an example. The jetties, silhouetted against the evening sky, are dark. The sky is much lighter. This is tonal contrast. The sea is mid-grey – darker than the sky, brighter than the jetties.
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In portrait photography a yellow filter will yield more clear, warm skin tones similar to the orange while still appearing very natural. Its subtlety is the beauty of they yellow filter.
For city scape or scenic photography the orange filter can render blacks as a pleasing tone and increase contrast between different building materials. In scenics the work similar to red filters in that they darken blue skies a little so clouds are more clearly defined and slightly reduce the effect of fog and atmospheric haze.
6 Tips to Help You Make Better Black and White Landscape Photos
Neutral density filters are the secret weapon of the landscape photographer. They are made of glass that blocks light so that less reaches the camera’s sensor.
In Black & White photography orange is considered the general purpose leave in at all times filter. It sits between red and yellow filters and has some effects of both.
One of the benefits of working with digital cameras is that they can help you learn to see in black and white. All you have to do is set your camera to its black and white (monochrome) mode. It then shows you the scene in black and white in Live View, and if your camera has one, in the electronic viewfinder as well.
Getting into Black & White photography with either film or digital? They you really need to see how some of these colored filters for Black & White Photography can improve your photos.
Red filters also render red color has much lighter gray tones then because it passes a lot more red light than any other color increasing the exposure of this color and by doing so, making its gray tone much lighter. In certain circumstances a red car could appear as white in in Black & White when a red filter is used. Please note that the dress the model is wearing is red and the background foliage is predominately green.
Black and white photography is as popular as ever, and landscape is a genre in which many photographers have chosen to work in monochrome. But working in black and white is different to working in color. It takes time, and practice, to develop your eye for black and white. These tips will help you make better black and white landscape photos.
Even if you do live somewhere with spectacular landscapes, you will need to travel to expand your experience and add depth to your portfolio. All my favorite landscape photos were taken while traveling. The two activities go together very well. Travel is more interesting and exciting when there’s a purpose behind it. Landscape photography is one of the things that can give you that sense of purpose.
You can educate yourself about black and white landscape photography by looking at the work of masters like Ansel Adams and Edward Weston who worked predominantly in black and white. Also look at what modern day photographers are doing by browsing 500px. Some names to search for include Cole Thompson, Rob Dweck, Arnaud Bertrande, Thibault Roland, Joel Tjintjelaar and Nathan Wirth.