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Back To Basics: Filters Part I

Many cameras have a screw thread on the front of the lens. There are a few uses for this, but the most common is filters. Find out how to enhance your black and white lomographs with these essential items

Photo by adam_g2000

This article is not just for the SLR users. Many of the cameras we use in lomography are capable of accepting filters, and those that are not, can often be jury rigged (converted or modified to do so).

For example, I recently wrote an article about my Holga that I modded to allow a lens-hood. The screw thread I added to do this allows me to use filters also. Check it out here.

There are a few types of filter, including the square Cokin series, but the most common and easily available (now for very little money since the rise of digital) are the screw in circular type.

To use them, you need to know what screw thread size your camera lens is. If it’s an SLR it’s normally marked on the barrel. If it’s an old Lubitel 2, you’ll need a push on type. If it’s a more modern one with a screw thread, you’ll either need to hunt down 40.5mm or do what I did, and buy a step up ring to 49mm which are much more common, cheaper, and don’t obscure the focusing lens. A step up ring is a filter that allows larger filters to be screwed into a smaller lens.

For other cameras, search the web and you’ll find your filter size.

Now down to it!

I use filters extensively with Black and White photography. These are nearly always coloured and as there is no colour in black and white, directly affect the contrast of the film in someway.

There are four common types of filter used in Black and White. These are yellow, orange, red and green.

Yellow filters enhance contrast in the sky a little, reduce haze, and offer a more accurate tonal range. I know photographers who have one of these permanently on their lens, like some use Haze filters to protect their expensive SLR lenses.

No filter

This first, very boring, shot was taken with no filter on the camera (and to prove no SLR is needed I used my Lubitel to do it!). It was a partially cloudy day but here you see no clouds at all. I promise you, you’ll see in the next shot that they were there.

Yellow filter

Aright, I admit I moved to get a more interesting shot. But the addition of the yellow filter enhances the sky. You can see lightly more contrast here.

Orange Filter

On with the orange filter and boom, a lot more definition on the clouds and some contrast changes in the trees. You must also start to compensate by a stop or two (see this tipster).

Red filters are used when you want to make something extremely contrasty, so I turned around and aimed at the sky to show you what these puppies do.

Red Filter, bam — end of days!

This beautiful but overcast day looks here like the Perfect Storm is coming.

I love using these filters, here are some I took in the past with different filters:

…and some where I forgot or didn’t…

You can see what a difference they make, it’s easy to tell which is which.

Sadly, the filter I use the least is also my favourite. The green filter is a bit special. It’s used mainly as a bit of a special effect for when you are shooting plants. It lightens the greens, making them stand out dramatically against the background.

Green filter

How much do the ferns leaves pop! It’s almost an infra-red effect!

There are many other types of filter too, One example is the soft spot filter. I own one of these and it has the effect of blurring everything except the center of the image. Check it out…

Photo by adam_g2000

It looks like an effect from a 50s black and white movie! Lots of fun.

Next month, we look at filters for colour photography, focusing (pardon the pun) on the Circular Polarizing Filter and why it’s essential.

Back to Basics is a monthly Tipster series by Adam Griffiths where he seeks to impart a little more technical film photography knowledge. For each installment, he chooses a fundamental subject and explains it quickly and in simple terms (with examples where possible).

written by adam_g2000

15 comments

  1. neanderthalis

    neanderthalis

    Very informative. I like using filters to play with contrast and shadows. Before trying a few colored lenses I would have never believed that a blue filter could change the look of plants or how a yellow-green could improve a B&W portrait.

    about 2 years ago · report as spam
  2. herbert-4

    herbert-4

    Very good article!! For B&W portraiture, a green filter improves complexions by blocking red light. Blemishes are red. A yellow-green filter will also add blue light blocking, improving contrast. Long ago, film was orthochromic and saw only green light, so silent movie stars all had wonderful skin, no matter how hungover and blotchy they were. See Jean Harlow or, especially, Clara Bow.

    about 2 years ago · report as spam
  3. adam_g2000

    adam_g2000

    @herbert-4 that's fascinating. I didn't know that!

    about 2 years ago · report as spam
  4. dearjme

    dearjme

    Great! can't wait to learn more :)

    about 2 years ago · report as spam
  5. stratski

    stratski

    Thank you! I'm looking forward to the color article. I have somehow accumulated a whole range of filters over the years, (all in different sizes unfortunately...) but never got to actually using them. Maybe these articles will give me the inspiration needed. These black and white pictures are lovely.

    about 2 years ago · report as spam
  6. adash

    adash

    Quite informative.

    about 2 years ago · report as spam
  7. adash

    adash

    BTW, I would also recommend to try a polarizer filter, but that would be very difficult on the Holga.

    about 2 years ago · report as spam
  8. asharnanae

    asharnanae

    I keep a yellow filter on my SLR when I shoot B&W, but i never bothered to investigate the greens, maybe now I shall have too! Great article.

    about 2 years ago · report as spam
  9. adam_g2000

    adam_g2000

    @adash I think it could be done, but I've not tried it. I have jury rigged a thread onto my Holga, I reckon you could hold the CPL up to your eye, and mark the top at the points it's doing it's thing. Then screw it onto the Holga and use the marks to line it up. I won't know until I try.

    about 2 years ago · report as spam
  10. adam_g2000

    adam_g2000

    @stratski do you have any effects filters other than the one I showed here? I'm keen to demonstrate starbursts, but cannot find one!

    about 2 years ago · report as spam
  11. adash

    adash

    Sounds like a complicated, but rewarding exercise....

    about 2 years ago · report as spam
  12. bsmart

    bsmart

    Great article. I have been shooting some yellow, orange and red filter comparison photos to write my own article about filters. You beat me to it!!!

    about 2 years ago · report as spam
  13. adam_g2000

    adam_g2000

    I doubt I've covered everything, you should publish it anyway...

    about 2 years ago · report as spam
  14. megzeazez

    megzeazez

    Thanks for the tipster! I look forward to part II.

    almost 2 years ago · report as spam
  15. adam_g2000

    adam_g2000

    @dearjme, @megzeazez, @nuo2x2, the second article on filters for colour is up.

    almost 2 years ago · report as spam

Read this article in another language

This is the original article written in: English. It is also available in: Deutsch, Italiano & Spanish.