Do I need to use a colour filter when shooting B&W?

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by michelleg, Oct 28, 2010.

  1. michelleg

    michelleg Member

    Messages:
    25
    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2010
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    I was wondering if I need to use any coloured filters when shooting B&W? Are they needed? What are the different colours for? Thanks!
     
  2. AgX

    AgX Member

    Messages:
    11,958
    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2007
    Location:
    Germany
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    They are not needed, with the exception of infrared films.

    However they may be helpful by changing the reproduction of colours into shades of grey.
    Basically an object of the same colour as the filter will be lighter in relation to the other colours in the final positive image.
    As the filter will absorb light from the other colours and grey objects (and even a bit of the light from the an object of same colour) you may consider an exposure correction, depending on the final effect you desire: lightening that one colour or darkening the others.

    This is put very simply. Have a look into one of the basic photography books.
     
  3. mbsmith

    mbsmith Member

    Messages:
    92
    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2008
    Location:
    Utah, United
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    You might try checking your public/school library for some books or info on b&w photography and the use of filters.

    A couple of titles,
    The Photographer's Guide to Using Filters - Joseph Meehan
    The Photographer's Guide to Filters - Lee Frost

    You might also try John Garrett's Black-and-White Photography Masterclass.

    Try a subject search at your library for,
    Photography -- Light filters
    or
    Photography -- technique

    Good luck!
     
  4. Mike Wilde

    Mike Wilde Member

    Messages:
    2,936
    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2006
    Location:
    Misissauaga
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    A thumbnail guide - light yellow to draw out clouds by darkening a blue sky. Next, a darker yellow, for a more pronounced effect. Finally a red for stark white clouds against near black sky.
    Closer to the ground, a green is good for separating red and green in foliage and flowers; many foliage colours translate to almost the same shade of grey.

    I keep a light green/yellow for better portraits of caucasian skin tones under tungsten light. I also have a light orange for when I want to emphasize freckles, etc.

    Like the others have said, I would read up on the subject before you start buying filters.
     
  5. hpulley

    hpulley Member

    Messages:
    2,214
    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2010
    Location:
    Guelph, Onta
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Or you can just buy a bunch of filters in the junk drawer at your local camera shop for nothing. With digital being so popular, hardly anyone uses color filters anymore.
     
  6. michelleg

    michelleg Member

    Messages:
    25
    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2010
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Thanks everyone - I will check out the suggested reading material. At least I know a filter is not necessary - I thought I might be making a mistake by not using one.
     
  7. R gould

    R gould Member

    Messages:
    430
    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2010
    Location:
    Jersey Chann
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Michelle if you want to shoot landscapes then the yellow or orange is important to bring out the skys, yellow for a normal looking sky or orange for a dark, menacing sky, I take black and white landscapes as part of my living and these are the only 2 filters I use, for portraits or general studio work you really don't need them, although if you are taking b/w pictures of wood with a nice grain or texture a green filter can help bring out the texture/grain.although not the textbook awnser for all practical purposes that is really all you need to know, best way is to get a set of black and white filters and see what they do,look in the sale bins for red yellow green and red, but don'tforget to add 3 stops for red,2 for orange and green or 1 stop for yellow, Richard
     
  8. r1ma

    r1ma Member

    Messages:
    35
    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2010
    Location:
    Sacramento,
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    I do like this book, and it can be found very, very cheaply (I bought a copy from goodwill for $3)
    but, through the wonder of google, here is some of it (including the chapter on filters for B&W)

    http://books.google.com/books?id=zv...lters - Lee Frost&pg=PA83#v=onepage&q&f=false

    Sometimes having a visual representation of all these words helps
     
  9. holmburgers

    holmburgers Member

    Messages:
    4,423
    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2009
    Location:
    Rochester NY
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Just to avoid potential confusion; depending on your camera you might not have to make a concious adjustment of the exposure. If you camera is an SLR or other camera that has TTL metering (through the lens) then it will see through the filter and make the necessary adjustment automatically.
     
  10. dehk

    dehk Member

    Messages:
    890
    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2010
    Location:
    W Michigan
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
  11. michelleg

    michelleg Member

    Messages:
    25
    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2010
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Great reading, thanks for the links!
     
  12. kb3lms

    kb3lms Subscriber

    Messages:
    872
    Joined:
    Jun 24, 2006
    Location:
    Reading, PA
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Could anyone point me towards a source for a moderately priced set of the most important filters.
     
  13. holmburgers

    holmburgers Member

    Messages:
    4,423
    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2009
    Location:
    Rochester NY
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    kb3lms,

    Look for a 'lot' on eBay, or find separate filters from different buyers if the deals are there. Look for a Tiffen, Hoya, B+W, Heliopan or other quality filter. More precisely, just don't buy one of those cheap filter sets on eBay where you get all the primary colors. High quality filters can be had for cheap by waiting and finding the right auctions. (some times the seller won't say the brand in the title so you've got to inspect the pictures!)

    Yellow, orange and red are the black and white standards, green and blue can be great also, a polarizing filter is something to consider as it is useful for color film as well. Every filter has a purpose; it's just a matter of when to use it.

    Also, check around local camera shops; maybe they're like mine and they've got a bargain bin with tons of miscellanea.
     
  14. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

    Messages:
    8,003
    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2008
    Location:
    Los Angeles,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    You do not need them at all. You use them only if you want their effects.
     
  15. jpberger

    jpberger Member

    Messages:
    70
    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2009
    Location:
    Vancouver Ca
    Shooter:
    35mm RF
    It's worth noting that from a creative stand point you use filters to determine the value of a particular colour on film -- eg a red poppy will be white on film with a red filter and very dark with a blue or green filter. But traditionally, it was advisable to use a yellow filter by default to counteract the over sensitivity of film to blue light. This is still the case with "traditional" non t-grain films. But t-max films in particular, and, even supposedly old school plus-x are much less blue sensitive than other films so a yellow filter does not do very much. It's also worth noting that some film developer combination s benefit from stronger colour filtration to regulate overall contrast-- for example I find that with tri-x in diafine an orange filter (normally a fairly dramatic effect) is about right as a default filter.
     
  16. AgX

    AgX Member

    Messages:
    11,958
    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2007
    Location:
    Germany
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Recently we had here a report on a IR-filter of unknown brand name, where the glass did not fit the technical designation, and in effect spoiled the exposures.

    That may have been by purpose by just putting anything at hand in the fixture or just by mixing up glass sorts due to negligence.
     
  17. Pumalite

    Pumalite Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,078
    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2009
    Location:
    Here & Now
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
  18. jeroldharter

    jeroldharter Member

    Messages:
    1,954
    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2005
    Location:
    Wisconsin
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    Although not color filters per se, polarizing and neutral density filters are useful. I have seen others use colored gradual neutral density filters too.

    For starters, I would get yellow, red, green, polarizing, and 8x ND filters. Assuming your lens diameters are not too large, you can get step up rings for each lens in order to standardize on a single filter size. An alternative is to use Cokin filters which use their own series of rings plus a single filter holder that can be transferred lens to lens. They sell starter packs for B&W filters plus many other options.
     
  19. Maris

    Maris Member

    Messages:
    883
    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2006
    Location:
    Noosa, Australia
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Why filters, which filters? Since I make photographs on panchromatic film I use a full range of colour filters from deep red to deep blue and all the in-between values too. In addition, a polariser and a selection of grad neutral and grad colour filters see plenty of use.

    Why so many filters? The problem is subject matter. It is consistently difficult to find subject matter that effectively supports the message the photograph is intended to convey. For example the visual equivalent of "drama" could be a gothic castle against a black sky (a cliche yet still persuasive) but even after the castle is found the chances of a black sky (gathering thunderstorm?) are nearly zero. The deep red filter delivers the black sky and visual "drama" is there for the taking.

    Similarly a high key photograph suggesting light, heat, air is easy to find behind a deep blue filter looking at a seascape on a cloudy day.

    Every full colour scene is actually many scenes all nested together like russian dolls that can be unpacked with colour filters so that their individual "look" can be used for expressive purposes.