Filters for Black and White Photography

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Filters are used in black and white photography for translating different colors into shades of gray. Color filters help to render certain colors lighter or darker. Learn about which filters to use for which purpose in this tipster!

Photo via Photography Mad

If you seek for darker colors in b/w photography you got to use filters. There are several color filters that are used in b/w photography and I’m going to talk about each one.

Yellow filter (Y):
Filter factor: 1.5 stops

The Panchromatic films that are available today produce such outstandingly accurate tonal gradations that the yellow filter has lost much of the significance it once had. Yellowish, greenish, and reddish tones are lightened noticeably, skin tones are lightened and skin blemishes are slightly subdued. Clouds contrast slightly with blue sky. A yellow filter is also important in the photography of snow scenes in sunlight, because it increases the contrast in blue shadow areas. Photographs of snow scenes made without yellow filter tend to be rather flat.

Yellow-Green filter (Y-G)
Filter factor: 2 stops

Produces similar effects to those of the yellow filter and nearly same rendering of clouds. Green tones turned out somewhat lighter, therefore it is especially useful for photographs of landscapes with plenty of green.

Photo via Photography Mad

Green filter (G)
Filter factor: 3-4 stops

This filter produces a decidedly stronger effect than a yellow-green filter by further lightening greens in landscape photographs. Green areas in the shade, like fringes of woods or mountain slopes, still show shadow detail. Red roof tiles in landscapes, for instance, are rendered dark gray, and freckles and skin blemishes will appear unnaturally prominent.

Photo via Photography Mad

Orange filter (O)
Filter factor: 2-5 stops

Blue is recorded markedly darker, yielding particularly impressive cloud scenes. This filter is good also for winter photographs in sunshine, because it gives mode depth to snow by slightly strengthening the shadows. It penetrates mild haze in landscape photography, making distant scenes appear cleaner and more brilliant. Red and yellow hues are rendered very light, and suntanned skin also appears much lighter.

Photo via Photography Mad

Red filter ( R )
Filter factor: 6-25 stops

A red filter has an even stronger effect than an orange filter. It dramatically exaggerates cloud scenes. Since blue is reproduced as nearly black, interesting possibilities present themselves. In architectural photography, for instance, brilliant white building exteriors can be made to stand out dramatically against a dark sky. In distant views, it penetrates haze even better than an orange filter does. Fresh scars, freckles, reddened skin areas and skin blemishes disappear. Skin tones are rendered very light.

Photo via Photography Mad

Blue filter (B)
Filter factor: 1.5 stops

Blue filters make panchromatic films act nearly like orthochromatic films when they are exposed in day-light or by electronic flash. Scars and the tiniest veins under the skin become clearly visible. Reddened skin areas are emphasized in relation to their surroundings. Blue filters also help to preserve the misty atmosphere of a foggy scene in daylight on panchromatic film. In artificial light, they prevent blue eyes from being rendered too dark and give more vitality to lips and skin tones.

Photo via Photography Mad

Most common filter used by me is Yellow-Green. I love the results and its not too dramatic either. What are you using?

written by pvalyk on 2012-05-25 in #gear #tipster

9 Comments

  1. neanderthalis
    neanderthalis ·

    I find I use my Orange filter the most, but I like to experiment with them all.

  2. deja-mew
    deja-mew ·

    Thank you!! What a handy article. The photos showing the filter effects is just wonderful. I can't wait to play with some filters now!

  3. jackpumpkinhead
    jackpumpkinhead ·

    NIce article, but dang I could have done with this a few weeks ago! www.lomography.com/homes/jackpumpkinhead/albums/1831214-zen…

  4. chilledvondub
    chilledvondub ·

    great article, i use a red filter most give amazing contrast and stops quite well for a bit of neutral density in them lower light conditions

  5. dearjme
    dearjme ·

    Fantastic and well written article.

  6. deepfried_goodness
    deepfried_goodness ·

    I need to play with filters more often. Very informative article.

  7. iwillhauntyou
    iwillhauntyou ·

    first of all great article!
    second, maybe a stupid question, but where do they sell those filters?

  8. pvalyk
    pvalyk ·

    @iwillhauntyou You can buy filters from any pro photography store, online stores or ebay. Lomography had a set for the Holgas but it's not available any more.

  9. lighthouseblues
    lighthouseblues ·

    Very useful, thanks a lot!

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