Filters For Black and White Photography

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There is a huge range of filters that can be used with black and white photography, but there are a few common ones that you may want to keep in your camera kit for all occasions.

This article is mainly written for film users but it can also be useful for DSLR users when shooting black and white. Of course, the Yellow-Green is not valid with digital photography and manipulation may also be done in the camera or with your photo editing software.

black and white photography filters

“Mussenden Temple from Downhill” captured by Richard Crowe (Click Image to Find Photographer)

Before getting onto filters, a quick discussion on stepping rings is in order as they are a necessity for the filter user.

Stepping Rings

Stepping rings allow you to use filters of different diameters than your lens. You can step-up to a higher diameter or step-down to a smaller diameter. Be careful of stepping rings with a wide-angle lens as with very wide lenses you can see the stepping ring and filter in your frame.

Stepping rings save you having to buy the same filter over and over for different lens focal lengths.

1. Neutral Density

The neutral density filter allows you to modify the intensity of light striking your film plane by reducing the amount of light entering the lens. Neutral density filters have no effect on the subject colour. They are useful for slowing down the shutter speed when there is bright light present. They come in varying degrees of density. The neutral density filter effect can be seen in water photographs (e.g waterfall) where the water appears mist like. This is due to a considerable slow shutter speed, sometimes minutes. An ND filter is required on a sunny day to allow such a slow shutter speed.

2. Polarizing Filter

This filter allows you to modify reflections and will intensify the blue in sky-scapes. Reflections may be eliminated altogether or modified. This filter comes with a ring that can be rotated for variations with the effect.

black and white lens filters

“Jamp 2″ captured by Jimmy Drougo (Click Image to Find Photographer)

3. Ultra Violet (UV)

The UV filter removes all Ultra-Violet radiation from the image. This is a useful filter in black and white for lens protection as well as haze penetration.

4. Yellow-Green

This filter corrects the color rendering of panchromatic emulsions to approximate that of human perception. It provides a more natural effect to skin tones. This is the filter generally chosen for general black and white photography for lens protection, color rendering and optimum contrast (particularly for landscapes).

5. Yellow

The yellow filter creates good contrast in landscapes with clouds and sky. Darkens blue skies and absorbs Ultra-Violet radiation as well.

6. Orange

The orange filter creates strong contrast for red and yellow, which are rendered lighter than with the naked eye. It penetrates haze and adds details to distant landscapes.

black and white photo

“Funnels” captured by Jimmy Drougo (Click Image to Find Photographer)

7. Red

This filter will absorb ultraviolet, blue and yellow light, rendering red and yellow objects lighter. In bright light has a strong effect on contrast; a blue sky will be rendered very dark. It will cut through haze and is also used for infrared photography. The red filter is commonly used for creating dramatic skies in landscapes and used in studio portraiture for lightening skin tones considerably.

8. Skylight

This filter was created for color film use and has a very faint red tint to it. The filters original use was for increasing the warmth to film which was considered to be slightly cold (blue). The addition of this filter was to balance the result to a more natural looking photograph.

It has historically also been used as a security filter for mainly color photography but also black & white. Security meaning the filter was attached to keep anything from coming in contact with the lens and also protected against damage and grime.

Filters can be useful in your every day black and white photography. Carry a selection for all your needs and also appropriate stepping rings to fit all your favorite lenses.

Roo du Jardin is a photographer who runs an informational website about Online Photography Courses. Read some more tips, techniques and resources at Online Photography Courses blog.

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