Are colored filters for B&W necessary?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous Equipment' started by IloveTLRs, Jun 16, 2008.

  1. IloveTLRs

    IloveTLRs Member

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    I just bought a beater Ricohflex VI the other day and it came with a yellow filter. I've noticed a lot of my photos looking nicer and am starting to wonder if I should use filters more often.

    Do you consider them necessary for B&W work? Is one not getting the best out of their photos without them? I'd like to hear some opinions on this.
     
  2. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    Necessary? No. Can they help? Yup. Can they hurt? YUP.
     
  3. Kevin Caulfield

    Kevin Caulfield Subscriber

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    They are not necessary, but they can certainly be handy in enhancing the look of your photos. For some applications, such as using IR film, they are almost essential.
     
  4. munz6869

    munz6869 Subscriber

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    I'm addicted to using a light orange filter almost all the time, just because it makes the sky a bit darker (the "blue" can easily disappear otherwise, so clouds and sky are all just a bland white), and overall gives a softer palette. Red is super for portraits because it makes fleshtones smoother and less blotchy. I've used a UV transmissive filter on my Rollei and that's lots of fun - like shooting through a welding glass (lose about 8 stops!) - it has the opposite effect on fleshtones, showing up every freckle and unsightly discolouration...
    And of course a green filter makes men look "swarthy"...

    Marc
     
  5. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    They are used to alter the color relationships of the light hitting the film. Thus the effect they have depends on what you are shooting. (It helps to understand color photography.) What filters do is pass more of their color on to the film than they do the other colors. Therefore, they darken the tone of that color on the neg, and thus lighten the tone of that color on the print (and vice versa - they pass less of the colors that they are not, thus make them lighter on the neg and darker on the print).

    I would not use them all the time, nor would I *never* use them...unless shooting news journalism. I would say that you should definitely read up on them and experiment with them, but would not make the blanket statement that you should use them more often, or that they are "necessary"...absolutely not.
     
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  6. IloveTLRs

    IloveTLRs Member

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    Tell me more, stranger ...
     
  7. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    As far as "can they hurt"...

    If you are not aware of all the effects each one will have, and under what conditions they will have them, you can create tonal relationships that you don't desire.
     
  8. Matthijs

    Matthijs Subscriber

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  9. juan

    juan Subscriber

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    Hurt - Depending on the quality of the filter, they can also affect the optical characteristics of the image. Some filters are plastic - others are gel between two pieces of glass. Either can become distorted in various ways. They can be scratched. Because they sit out in front of the lens, they can sometimes cause flare and sometimes need a lens shade more than just the lens would.

    In general, use them when you need the effect. They can be useful, but are not necessary.
    juan
     
  10. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Member

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    They can hurt in the hands of the uninitiated. I;ve seen some beautiful clouded landscapes cheesed over by the use of a Red factor 3 where a light yellow would have done the trick. Filters have there place and it is on a subject by subject basis as your interpretation demands its use. No more. If you are going to get more filters, I would suggest adding the lightest blue and red to see what affect they have on your own photography. And that should cover most basic B&W contrast control needs.
     
  11. IloveTLRs

    IloveTLRs Member

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    I'll keep that in mind, thanks.
    I've been avoiding filters up to know simply because I have so many lenses and they're all different diameters (and filters can be expensive.)
     
  12. AutumnJazz

    AutumnJazz Member

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  13. Tony Egan

    Tony Egan Subscriber

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    There are plenty of basic guides around that show the effect of coloured filters on black and white tonal range. Red filters may be great for dramatic skies but can kill most shadow detail as it is blue reflected light that is also often illuminating the shadows. Many dramatic high contrast sand dune images exploit this effect. Experiment and bracket to learn. Try no filter then a yellow, orange and red filter on a landscape scene and make your best print of each. Very instructive. They can be very powerful if thought through for the right scene understanding the pros and cons.

    http://www.cokin.co.uk/pages/pdf.htm (page 9 of the 100 page guide)
    http://www.schneiderkreuznach.com/tipps/sw_fotografie_e.htm
     
  14. panastasia

    panastasia Member

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    I think you answered your own question.

    What filters work best depends on the film your using. I shoot Tri-X and Plus-X with a yellow filter, almost always. I don't like the no filter look; light skin looks darker than it should, clouds are missing much detail and a blue sky will look pale.

    Edward Weston found that photographing in Death Valley, CA was best without the yellow filter because of the color of the landscape - there was probably a lot of yellow in the scene that was filtered out by the yellow filter.
     
  15. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    A yellow filter would not filter out yellow. It would reduce the transmission of everything but yellow.
     
  16. bobwysiwyg

    bobwysiwyg Subscriber

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