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  1. #1

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    Should I be using a contrast filter?

    Recently, I've been shooting a lot of B&W recently with no filter. Results are attached.

    I scan them (Nikon 4000ED) and do my dodge/burn in Lightroom. Should I be shooting them with more contrast (a light or mid yellow filter) or should I keep shooting them pretty flat, and giving them the business in LR? Is this entirely personal preference? For a short time, I had access to a darkroom where I could wet print, but I am only scanning now. My gut tells me that I should be shooting flat and dealing with it in post, but I'm not certain that's the best way to achieve a balanced final image.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Scan-130506-0004.jpg   Scan-130506-0007.jpg   Scan-130506-0003.jpg  

  2. #2
    Truzi's Avatar
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    I'm not qualified to answer your question since I've only recently gotten into B&W with any seriousness and have barely used filters. However, I have recently tested a few MF backs I acquired. So I took two of each picture - one with and one without a yellow filter.

    I really like how the filter seems to separate objects and textures by how it affects contrast.

    Some feel a contrast filter is "mandatory" for B&W. I think it would be based on the scene, composition, lighting, and desired effect (and I'm only beginning to learn this). I definitely see how contrast filters can improve a negative and will probably use them a lot.

    However, it all comes down to what you like. On the other hand, if a filter makes it easier for you to get the desired final image, I'd think the answer would be to use one.
    Truzi

  3. #3

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    Truzi-

    Do you have any pictures that can demonstrate what you're describing? What do you mainly shoot?

    Part of me is of the thinking that you described - a contrast filter is generally necessary, based on inherent contrast, lighting, etc etc. Unfortunately, I usually shoot photographs that don't allow me the time to meter the scene correctly and choose a filter. I suppose what I'm asking is if I would be better off throwing a light yellow on there for all the time shooting, rather than shooting with no filter at all.

  4. #4
    Dr Croubie's Avatar
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    I'd always shoot with a yellow, but then that's me and I always do shoot with a yellow. Except when I shoot with a different colour, red filters really really make the sky black and stand out (I've got one of a red lighthouse against a blue sky shot with a red filter, the lighthouse is very bright and the sky very dark, i'd share but I'm at work and it's at home). Most portraits I use an Orange, just to give a bit stronger effect than Yellow.
    I haven't used blues and greens much, but i will one day (when i shoot landscapes where i want bright green foliage and dark red autumn-leaves, or something). My GAS bought a whole colour-set cheap and one day they'll be there waiting when I want them.

    I also shoot B+W negs and scan. But I hate PPing in photoshop (well, I use GIMP, can't afford PS or the Windows to run it on), so i'd prefer to get it right in camera. If you hate taking longer in the field and love sitting staring at a screen to get it right, then by all means don't use a filter, but i'm definitely the opposite. Also, one day if/when I ever wet-print them, then they'll already have the effect that I'm after.
    An awful lot of electrons were terribly inconvenienced in the making of this post.

    f/64 and be there.

  5. #5
    Dr Croubie's Avatar
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    ps, as for using a filter vs not, I hope that didn't sound like "I use one and therefore you should". There's definitely some situations where you don't need (or can't use) one. I had to shoot indoors on Sunday, 180/2.8 Sonnar and Delta 3200 at EI3200 and 1/30s, I couldn't afford even half a stop of light loss with a yellow filter (let alone the 2-3 stop loss of green, all the lights on stage were green for some reason), so i shot bare-lens.
    But if you're already doing the darkening/lightening in PS, you should really figure out if you want to either always darken and lighten every colour the same using a filter on the lens, or would you prefer the extra control (but increased time) of dodging/burning every shot manually?
    An awful lot of electrons were terribly inconvenienced in the making of this post.

    f/64 and be there.

  6. #6
    Simon Howers's Avatar
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    The short answer to the question is "Yes". In most situations monochrome film will achieve a better result with the appropriate filter. The software salesmen will tell you that you can do anything with their product, which amounts to hubris. The various coloured filters for monochrome work will allow you to vary contrast in camera, which is by far the best place to do it. "Mending" a poor neg in some computer programme is always second best and a last resort.

  7. #7

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    and youve got to think about your subject. filters lighten the colour that they are eg a red filter will lighten any reds etc. so if youre shooting some autumn leaves and youve got green, red, yellow in there you need to choose which filter you want because it will lighten certain leaves and darken others.

  8. #8

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    Look in any B&W book. There is always a section on filters and 3-5 examples of the same scene shot in yellow, yellow/green, green, orange and red. These will tell you a lot. Alternatively obtain the kind of filter books that the likes of Hoya gave away as part of its marketing where the same shots as in the B&W books are shown

    pentaxuser

  9. #9

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    Use filters as needed, but sparingly. There is no rule that a yellow filter will help all the time. The effect of any filter depends on the colours (and saturation) of light reflected in the scene. And it is not always obvious so you can sometimes get unexpected effects. You have to look carefully at the scene an make a decision on what filter if any to use based on that.

    I suggest doing some reading on filters for black and white photography.

  10. #10
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    If your images need contrast, just add developing time by 10-15%.
    "Photography, like surfing, is an infinite process, a constantly evolving exploration of life."
    Aaron Chang

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