Filters and their Use in Black and White Photography

Ever since I could remember I’ve loved Black & White photography. It was what attracted me to photography in the first place. However, I’ve always found it more challenging to get the right kind of effect. If you are not keen or don’t like your work then there’s nothing Photoshop, Lightroom or any other kind post processing software can do to help.

Some pictures taken in colour can be converted into Black & White. It is pretty easy to do but it doesn’t mean that it will work. On the other hand some colour pictures just look so much better in Black & White.

In order to have a Black and White image that I am happy with, I believe that the original image needs to have some depth, needs to tell a story and needs to draw the viewer in.

However, some help can always help. This is where FILTERS can be helpful…

Image courtesy of Ilford Photo
  • Red Filters
These particular filters give a very strong effect and increases contrast significantly. Many photographers find them to be very harsh.
In lanscape photography, they turn a Blue Skye almost black which makes the clouds stand out more. They are also useful when when you want to increase visibility in Haze and Cloudy weather.
Red filter are also a cheaper alternative to infrared photography.
Image Source
  • Orange Filters
Half way between the Red and Yellow Filters which gives a nice balance.
Commonly used in portrait photography, the Orange Filter reduces the appearance of freckles and blemishes giving the skin a healthy and smooth look.
When photographing buildings, this filter gives bricks a pleasing tones and increase contrast between materials to add depth and textures. It can also darken the sky emphasise clouds.
Image Source
  • Yellow Filters
This particular filter adds a subtle effect to images. Sometimes even barely noticeable to the eyes. Great choice when starting out using filters. Yellow filters help balancing out skies exposures since the darken effect is subtle.
In portrait photography, they produce warm, natural and appealing skin tones in a less intense way than the Orange filters.
They are great for separating shades of green, so great when photographing plants to increase foliage contrast.
  • Green Filters

Mainly used when photographing plants as it also great at separating foliage from the brightly – coloured flowers and buds.  

In landscape, they are used to boost the appearance of grass and trees, but they also lighten the sky so you need to be careful not to lose too much details.
  • Blue Filters

Very rarely used in Black & White photography as they darken most colours and reduce contrast across an entire image. However, when used correctly it can be useful to add a sense of calm and soothing atmosphere to an image.

Blue filters also increases the appearance of haze and mist, making them useful when photographing early morning scenes. 
A series of coloured filters are a great addition to any kit if you are interested in Black & White photography. A great value set can be found here.
Have a great week everybody.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. B&W ……. Film every time. Sebastião Salgado goes to great lengths to make his digital images look like his preferred film. Maybe it’s an age thing but colour conversion doesn’t always get the right tonal balance. Nothing like Kodak Tri-X.
    I find P/S channel mixer gets me close, but then I have the age problem………. 🙂


    1. pammyv02 says:

      I’ve been reading that a lot of photographers are using the Nik Software to get that age look. Never tried it myself but often wonders if it truly gets that close.

      1. pammyv02 says:

        🙂 Simple & short answer. Love that

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