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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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).