View Full Version : Filter Question!
05-14-2005, 12:27 AM
I am not certain if this is the right section of the forums for this question - please let me know if it is not (and my apologies if that is the case).
I mainly shoot B&W, and am somewhat proficient with basic filter knowledge (which colour does what, applications, metering issues, etc.) However, I have read this article http://www.acecam.com/magazine/filters-faq.html , by a gentleman who really seems to know what he is talking about (not to mention has been taking photos since before I was a twinkle in anyone's eye). His name is Lars Bergquist, and he suggests that green filters are a total waste of space in a B&W photographers camera bag! The reason I ask, I have purchased a large lot of filters, many of them of types I need, some that I could use, and some that are throw aways - all for a price that more than justified it for the ones I wanted alone! Which category do the assortment of greens fit into? Now, before I spend money and time on film to test this theory ( I was thinking a still nature shot including objeects of all the majour colours, some cut flowers and leafs and person behind them ), I thought I'd ask - can anyone conclusively prove or disprove the usefulness of green filters in B&W photography?
Thanks for the input in advance,
05-14-2005, 12:33 AM
Bruce Barnbaum told me a green filter would help when I was taking some photos from inside a building with the wintertime brilliant green grass of California glaring in the doorway.
Also let it be noted that early glamour shots used green filters or gree makeup to enhance portraits on black and white film.
You may not use it often, but there are times you will find it useful.
Now one that is hard to find but would also sometimes be good is a violet one.
05-14-2005, 01:57 AM
"Usefulness" is individually defined, so the proof is in smiling at your own images. :cool:
I use a green filter occasionally to lighten (green) foliage when other elements in the image are apt to merge into that tone. Sometimes, they are helpful in differentiating between green tones, as well. For portraiture, I'd consider a green filter for a man I wanted to make more dramatic/swarthy, but wouldn't use one on a woman.
this is a great filter resource in list form. I use it quite a bit:
David H. Bebbington
05-14-2005, 02:36 AM
The use of filters is very personal. One thing has changed in the last 40 years - way back then, you really did need to use a yellow filter to get "correct" tone rendering with b+w filters outdoors, skies would otherwise be too light or even print white. With modern films you do not need to do this, the color rendition is balanced. Filters do, however, add drama and a personal viewpoint. Some people always use red for landscapes, others always orange. Personally, I find the rendition with yellow too insipid, red excessive, orange about right except that it lightens red too much (words on signs, etc.) so the compromise I choose is a 2x yellow/green filter, which I use for all shots for consistency, even though the difference between this and yellow may well be slight. Fundamentally yellow passes green and red, absorbs blue, while yellow/green passes green and less red. For studio work, I would shoot people with no filter if they have great skin, otherwise I might use a yellow.
What Lars Bergquist says is fundamentally right, like many amateur experts he is a little over-emphatic. The choice of a filter is really down to personal taste. If you have a lot of filters to choose from, you really need to do some tests (just 4 shots of the same scene with different filters would be enough).
05-14-2005, 05:59 AM
Like Ralph said it all depends on what you want. The link claims you don't need a green filter because a yellow filter does basically the same thing. That's like claiming you don't need two lenses because the first one you own does basically the same thing.
Green wouldn't be the first filter I'd rushed out to get but then neither would deep red.
David A. Goldfarb
05-14-2005, 06:39 AM
Try it in a few different situations, and once you know what it does, see if you use it.
I don't use a green filter too often, except pretty much in the way Ralph does.
Filters I use most often for B&W outdoors would be medium yellow and orange, and I tend to shoot old-style films like Tri-X, Classic 400, and Efke 100. Occasionally I'll use a light yellow filter or red, but not often.
05-14-2005, 08:26 AM
I could probably live with only two filters: a dark yellow (or orange) and a green. Lighter yellow filters usually don't offer any significant improvement in tones and the reds are often too dramatic. But, as stated previously, it's just a personal choice.
05-14-2005, 08:35 AM
I had never considered using a green filter until I read this thread. Now I wish I'd had one when I shot this
It might have helped lighten the trees at either end of the church.
05-14-2005, 08:59 AM
The use of filters is very personal. One thing has changed in the last 40 years - way back then, you really did need to use a yellow filter to get "correct" tone rendering with b+w filters outdoors, skies would otherwise be too light or even print white. With modern films you do not need to do this, the color rendition is balanced.
David are you sure? Without at least a yellow filter in my outdoor pictures there is no differentiation between cloud and sky (and bright blue sky will print white) without a serious underexposure on the rest of the picture. Like you my standard outdoor filter is a yellow-green, which in addition to separating clouds and sky and lightening foilage a bit is also great for caucasian skins.
05-14-2005, 09:04 AM
This was playing with a yellow-green. I was playing with the filter to see the effect on bluebells in long grass. Sorry it's only a crappy shot as I said it was just a test.
David H. Bebbington
05-14-2005, 09:27 AM
It's always difficult to make statements that apply to both European and North American light. It has always been my practice to use a filter (for years it was an orange one, the last few years I have switched to yellow/green) so I have no examples myself of unfiltered landscape shots, but I was told by Fay Godwin, for example, that she seldom if ever uses filters. Looking back at a collection of her work, many pictures have been taken in overcast weather, or early in the morning/late in the afternoon or evening and appear not to have been filtered - they have sky tone present but it is very pale. Others have apparently been taken closer to midday and look as if they HAVE been filtered! If, in the conditions you commonly photograph in, you need a filter to get the sky tone you like, it's obviously good to use one, but I don't feel filters are as vital as they were!
05-14-2005, 09:50 AM
I tried using a green filter a few times, but I didn't understand how it worked with b/w and didn't like what I got. It was interesting to use the green filter with color IR a few times, but I prefer to use my yellow filter with that stuff.
I used to use red a lot with b/w, but more often than not, I don't bother anymore. I use my IR filters with IR film, but other than the occasional ND grad, I haven't used much in the way of filters lately either.
05-14-2005, 09:58 AM
Now one that is hard to find but would also sometimes be good is a violet one.
Have you tried a flourescent conversion filter on B&W film? They are a pale magenta color.
05-14-2005, 10:06 AM
Fords vs Chevy's. Boxers vs. briefs. Red wine vs. white wine. Life is full of choices.
I have a green filter. I don't use it often. But if I encounter a situation where it might be useful, its there. The incremental weight of a Cokin filter is trivial (expecially in a pack that weighs 30+ pounds), and the CD case that I use to hold fiilters has lots of empty slots.
05-14-2005, 11:03 AM
While "sky darkeners" are the most popular, (for good reason), filters of all colors can come in handy under the right circumstances. Sometimes tones that are easily contrasted by their color, become nearly identical grey tones when rendered in B&W. Just remember that a filter lightens its own color and darkens the others. A Green filter will lighten Green foliage while a Red filter, because of its high Magenta content, will darken it. Take a B&W shot of a Red flower against Green leaves and you can decide whether you want a dark flower against light leaves or vice versa. Of course there are other things that play into it but that what makes photography a life-long pursuit :)
Here's an example, I shot this without a filter, took it home a souped it and didn't like it. The faded Red paint and the weathered wood, while clearly distinct by color contrast in the original scene, were rendered as nearly identical tones in the neg and print. I ran to the nearest camera store and bought a Green filter and reshot. The filter darkened the Red paint and gave me the separation that I wanted.
It is also sometimes used for outdoor portraiture where it will lighten the foliage and darken the skin tones slightly.
05-14-2005, 11:41 PM
Thank you all very, very much for your thoughtful input!
I guess the answer is that the gentleman who wrote that article was a little broad in his assumptions, perhaps a little too generalized in his conclusions?
I think I will do that little test - same light, same subject - all the same for a number of filters (of course adjusting for the exposure required by each), then perhaps take a little colour snapshot just to have as referrence. I was thinking of perhaps a collection of objects and plants and a person behind them. If nothing else, it will be fun.
I think I will probably go through a "phaze" where I will abuse my filters, then most likely settle down :) they are new, and I have not really played with them much.
05-15-2005, 04:39 AM
Peter just one last word of advice with filters that seems to be a stock rant from every picture editor I have worked with ... "Keep your bl**dy filters CLEAN!!". I'm sure we're looking forward to seeing your results
05-16-2005, 03:13 AM
Sometimes the simplest advice is the best! I can tell you that in my excitement over new gear, whatever it may have been, I have been foiled by dirt more than once, so this is one that I will definitely take to heart! Thanks again.