Filters, on the camera or during enlarging?

Discussion in 'Black and White' started by adam_jones|8, Apr 9, 2010.

  1. Hi, i've been doing B+W photography on and off vaguely for a while now. Was wondering about filters on the camera and during processing.
    Is it better to have your filters on the camera or to apply filters in the enlarger for contrast whilst processing with a well exposed film?
    Thanks
    Adam
     
  2. On the camera... because you get it on film right the first time the only thing the filters with multicontrast paper will do is change contrast not definition. On the camera they will block the light waves you want to remove.
     
  3. If you are using B&W film then you can really only filter on the camera. For instance if you use a red filter to darken skies &c as is commonly done, it can only do its work if it has light of different colours to distinguish between. Once the image is recorder on B&W film, that colour information is lost. You can, of course, use a colour sensor (film or digital) and then filter afterwards, but even then you can't, for instance, use a polarising filter, because polarisation information is lost.
     
  4. What filters should i use, and when would i use them?
    Thanks
    Adam
     
  5. The two are completely different, so we're not really talking about a choice between one or the other. On-camera filters for B&W photography are used to suppress light of certain wavelengths, thus changing the way different colors of light are rendered in relation to each other on the gray scale. They will cause light of similar color to register darker, and light of the opposite color to render more lightly.
    Think of the yellow, orange, and red filters commonly used as blue blockers with light yellow having the least effect and red the most. Using one of these filters will darken blue skies because they block a portion of the blue light from the sky from ever reaching the film. White clouds appear whiter because they reflect back more of the entire light spectrum and get correspondingly more exposure. Using one to photograph a (mostly) red flower with green foliage will lighten the flower and darken the foliage. A green filter will do the opposite. Let me make it even more simple. If you were to photograph an object that was painted half blue and half red, each half with approximately the same reflectance value, the resulting image would show almost no differentiation between the two halves of the object. Slap a yellow filter on the camera, and the amount of light reaching the film from the blue half is decreased, while the amount of light from the red half reaching the film is essentially unaffected. The difference is heightened when orange is substituted for yellow, and heightened even more when red is substituted for orange.
    Contrast filters for variable contrast papers have a completely different purpose. They do not change the way the original colors are rendered in relation to each other. They are used to expand or contract the tonal range of the paper. A soft contrast filter might allow the paper to render a gray scale that covers perhaps 7 stops of density from maximum black to paper white. A normal grade allows for about 5 stops of density range, and a hard filter allows for about 3 1/2 stops of range. That's all. A sky that prints featureless with a normal filter will not show any significant differences with a change in printing contrast filters. It may print a little lighter or darker, but there still won't be much differentiation in texture
     
  6. So a filter lightens the colour it is and darkens the colour on the opposite side of the colour wheel?
    Someone said to me that they use a yellow filter all the time, is this a good idea?
    What about flesh tones?
    Thanks for your help
    Adam
     
  7. Yep, that about sums it up quite handily. Should you use a yellow filter all the time? Some do, some don't. On an overcast day, there's no real advantage and maybe even a slight disadvantage. Daylight on an overcast day is relatively rich towards the blue end of the spectrum and relatively weaker on the red end, so theoretically a yellow filter will cut your film speed more on an overcast day than it will on a clear day. In practice, the effect is weak enough to not make much difference. What a yellow filter will do is lessen the appearance of freckles and redness in the skin by lightening these artifacts. It will not make them disappear.
     
  8. So is it a good idea to get a red orange and yellow filters and experiment with them? Or just get an orange? Or not to bother at all!?
    Thanks
    Adam
     
  9. Adam,
    There are dozens (perhaps hundreds) of different filters that can be used on camera for B&W photography. There are yellow, orange, red, polarizers, neural density, split neutral density, green, blue, yellow green, UV, etc. There are multiple strengths of each filter. For example, you can't just go buy a red filter. There are weak red filters, medium red filters and dark red filters. Each filter will have a different effect.
    So, which should you use? The one that will give you the effect you want.
    I get from your post, however, that you are basically clueless about filters. Consequently, you can't really tell us what effect you want. It is time to go to the library or to visit Amazon or Google Books. There are hundreds of books on using filters. One book will get you farther than asking such a general question on an internet forum.
    Did you do a search here on Photonet to find out about filters? I put "filters black & white" in the search function and came up with page after page of questions already asked and answered. You stated in post one that you have been doing B&W photography "vaguely for a while now." Perhaps it is time for a more disciplined approach.
     
  10. That's the idea, want to get into it more while i still have the chance to use my uni's darkroom. I'll get on to amazon and look at some more posts.
    Many thanks
    Adam
     
  11. For a basic set of filters I would suggest yellow, orange and red for various degrees of darkening blue skies to make clouds stand out and for landscapes with foliage, a yellow/green filter. A polariser may be useful too.
    If you have more than one lens, buy filters for the lens with the largest filter thread diameter and buy step up rings for the other lenses. This is much cheaper than buying a set of filters for each lens.
     
  12. Adam, you can use the freebie photo editing software Picasa to visualize the effects of various filters on photographs. It offers a very simple interface that helps preview the effects of yellow, orange, red, green, magenta, blue, and cyan filters in a way that very closely mimics the effects of those filters on b&w panchromatic films.
    Here's a link to a previous discussion on a related topic, including an animated GIF that approximates the effects of on-camera filters.
     
  13. Thanks Lex. I've got photoshop on my mac so i might take a few b+w photos and run them through the program to see what I like. Wouldn't have though of that, so thanks.
    Adam
     
  14. In regards to what I will be shooting, I want to get a few photos shot off in a night club so want strong, clear and contrasty images with strong black and whites. Will be shooting with Canon FD 50mm f1.4 lens. Any filter and film recommendations?
    Thanks again
    Adam
     
  15. Adam, you won't see the same effect by running b&w photos through digital software filters. Those b&w digital editing filters, whether in Picasa or other program, work best on color photos. Remember, that's what we're photographing in the real world. Our perception of an aesthetically pleasing b&w photo is based on seeing how panchromatic films render colors into shades of gray.
    Regarding taking photos in night clubs or other dim available light situations, I'd advise skipping the filters. You'll need all the light you can get passing through the lens. Even a light yellow filter robs light. You'll get more than enough contrast just shooting without a filter in dim lighting, plus any push processing during film development, magenta filter on the enlarger, etc.
    For dim available light shooting I'll choose between three basic approaches, depending on the effect I want: Tri-X pushed to around 1200 in Diafine; T-Max 400 pushed to 1600-3200 in Microphen; Delta 3200 at up to 6400 in Microphen. Of the three, Tri-X in Diafine is probably the easiest and most forgiving, but not necessarily desirable for all situations. The look is an acquired taste.
     
  16. Thanks Lex, not sure what we develop in at uni. I usually use hp5+ film, that would be ok pushed?
    Adam
     
  17. SCL

    SCL

    Adam - just a note from a different perspective. There are certain filters one uses specifically in a "wet" darkroom, for work with particular types of paper (such as polycontrast paper), in which the filters adjust B&W negative images on the paper to increase or decrease the contrast of the printed image. These filters, as best as I can recall (it's been quite a while since I worked with them) are all light shades of magenta.
    The other respondees have given you excellent advice on the use of the more common filters used on film cameras, and I also encourage you to get a good book from the library on filters, so you don't waste your money on filters you aren't going to really use. I typically only use a yellow or red filter on B&W films to give more drama to skies with a few clouds in them. On color films, the only ones I use are polarizing filters (primarily to reduce glare or give saturation to light blue skies), neutral density filters to cut the amount of light so that I can use wider apertures for certain shots, or gradient filters to reduce the range of tonal variations so that I can photograph a contrasty situation and not blow the highlights while still capturing the shadows.
     
  18. SCL

    SCL

    Adam - just a note from a different perspective. There are certain filters one uses specifically in a "wet" darkroom, for work with particular types of paper (such as polycontrast paper), in which the filters adjust B&W negative images on the paper to increase or decrease the contrast of the printed image. These filters, as best as I can recall (it's been quite a while since I worked with them) are all light shades of magenta.
    The other respondees have given you excellent advice on the use of the more common filters used on film cameras, and I also encourage you to get a good book from the library on filters, so you don't waste your money on filters you aren't going to really use. I typically only use a yellow or red filter on B&W films to give more drama to skies with a few clouds in them. On color films, the only ones I use are polarizing filters (primarily to reduce glare or give saturation to light blue skies), neutral density filters to cut the amount of light so that I can use wider apertures for certain shots, or gradient filters to reduce the range of tonal variations so that I can photograph a contrasty situation and not blow the highlights while still capturing the shadows.
     
  19. I'll see if i can get my hands on a book on filters thanks. So realistically I'm only looking at a red, a yellow and a neutral density filter? I'll do some more reading on the matter, but in the mean time thanks for all your help.
    Adam
     
  20. What would i need for candid and street photography?
    Thanks
    Adam
     
  21. I'd suggest sticking with one film for now, for just about everything. Since you're already using HP5+, stick with it. HP5+ is a very good film to use for a variety of purposes. It's excellent from EI 200-1600. At EI 200 in ID-11 1+1, it's excellent for landscapes, still lifes or any subject if you want fine grain, lovely tonality and negatives that are easy to enlarge or scan. And it pushes well up to around 1600.
    Nowadays I choose film speeds mostly based on the shutter speed I need. I can't handhold a camera as steady as I used to so I rarely dip below ISO 400 for any handheld or candid photography.
     
  22. Adam, a neutral density filter will simply reduce the amount of light reaching the film. It affects all wavelengths of light equally, hence the moniker "neutral density." I have only very rarely needed to use one of these. They come in handy if you have fast film and want to use a wide aperture to create a shallow depth of field. For photographing in might clubs, you definitely don't want one of these, and Lex is absolutely correct when he says you don't want any filters at all.
    See this link and scroll down to where it says "B & W filters and effects" for a description of the filters and their effects. Read the whole thing for a very good overview of all types of filters.

    I'd suggest going with the equivalent of the Kodak Wratten #8 or #12 (the #8 is a bit less strong than the #12) for the yellow filter, Wratten #21 for the orange filter, and the Wratten #25 for red. This will cover most of what you want to do outdoors. A light green Wratten #11 can also come in handy. This is pretty much the set I use, and it is really more than sufficient. Polarizers are good at cutting down reflections, but don't alter the relationships between colors. They can dramatically change a color photograph, but their effect with B&W photography is much more subtle.
     
  23. Filters on the enlarger (assuming using panchromatic paper) only work if you are printing color negatives with a panchromatic paper like Panalure. Since Panalure paper is now bye bye, the only filters of use at enlarging time are magenta/yellow filters in conjunction with multicontrast paper like Ilford Multigrade( in all its permutations)
     
  24. BTW it is a shame that panchromatic enlarging paper is gone-it gave you a chance to use a yellow or red filter after the fact if monochrome was your goal. You could apply the filters after shooting to darken a blue sky-oh well too late-yet another silver era product that has gone by the wayside. The question is-when do i get employed as an instructor for all the luddite workshops 20 years from now to tell people how we did it in the old days?:)
     
  25. Adam you need both, specially if you use multicontrast paper. Split filter printing is a very fine technique of printing and you can print very well, difficult negatives this way.Using filters during film exposure can produce more artistic negatives which can respond better your pre-visualisation.Even Ansel Adams in his "House and Fern,Maui Hawai" used two filters #1 and#4 during printing process.
     
  26. That's great thanks. I'll be taking a trip to the photographers when I get home!
     
  27. Frank, which of the two yellow filters would i find more versatile?
    Thanks again
    Adam
     
  28. Either one really. The one I use is very light, equivalent to the Wratten #8, and its effect is very subtle, but noticeable. I like it because it is very mild, and doesn't cost you more than about 1/2 stop of speed under almost all lighting conditions.
     
  29. Thanks, can get the Hoya yellow filter (K2) for a good price so i'm gonna go for that.
    Thanks again
    Adam
     
  30. Do i still need to use a UV filter with a colour filter?
    Thanks
    Adam
     
  31. Nope, a UV filter isn't necessary for much other than protecting the lens nowadays. Same with "skylight" filters. Lens optical elements and coatings already control UV adequately. Some filters are also coated to control UV. And it's usually not a good idea to stack filters other than to accomplish a specific effect.
     
  32. Thanks, I'm using the canon FD lenses.
     

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