Is there a general filter recommended for B&W?

Discussion in 'Black and White' started by drjedsmith, Dec 21, 2005.

  1. I was just wondering if there was a general filter recommended to use
    almost all the time with B&W film, such as a UV or warming filter? I
    know some people will laugh at the futility of this, but I'm trying
    to keep the scenery from being altered too much - by filters or
    otherwise. So I guess I need lens protection, but don't want to
    change the "look" of the photo.<BR>
  2. I never use UV filters. The real good ones (top of the line B+W, Nikon, Leica, etc...) are too
    darn expensive and lenses have too many different front diameters. I am just very careful,
    I always have a hood on for protection and I put the cap back in place as soon as I have a
    chance. I do use B&W filters like yellow, orange and red, but this is only to enhance the
    contrast when needed.
  3. For B&W I keep a yellow filter on for all outside photography. The yellow filter doesn't alter the scene, it minimizes the white sky look that is realized if a filter is not used, and thus creates a more accurate representation of the sky as I see it. There is a good filter FAQ in photonet which explains all the filters and their exposure compensation.
  4. SCL


    Typically a K2 (yellow filter) for outdoor shots to enhance the sky slightly, if I want more contrast a light red to really differentiate the clouds. That's it.
  5. I suggest just protect your lenses with hoods. It will help your image quality (as long as no vignetting) instead of hurting it like most UV filters.

    Well that's my preference anyway. I have all my UV filters sitting in a pile on my desk while I try to use a hood whenever I can. It keeps snow and rain off the glass and helps contrast without altering anything.
  6. If you just want protection, a coated UV filter will alter almost nothing and a good one won't affect quality by much, if anything. It used to be that a light yellow filter was recommended for more realistic rendering of tones with most b&w films, but I don't know if that's still true, especially with films like TMX. IMO, a light yellow filter is usually beneficial, but you lose a bit of light. That's the reason I wouldn't leave one on all the time. IMO, the best filter for enhancing skies is orange, because it doesn't increase the contrast and destroy the tonal relationships of the rest of the scene as much as red. When you want more drama, use red, but it sounds like you want minimal changes. A skylight or warming filter is slightly salmon colored, and benefits color film (if you like that sort of thing); it won't have any different affect on b&w as does the UV filter. I've also never been in a situation where UV was a problem, so I use them strictly for protection. Back in "the day" one of the reasons you'd buy a Nikon system was that most of the common lenses were standardized to 52mm filters, unless the front element had to be larger for optical reasons. Now it seems like every lens is different.
  7. Modern black and white films look fine without routine filtration.

    If I had to choose two filters, they would be a light yellow-green (lightens leaves, darkens sky, darkens skin) and an orange (darker sky, dark shadows). YMMV. Use a hood for every shot.
  8. I used to like a red filter. Nice dramatic skys. Make for an exposure "hit" tho.
  9. Dear Jed,

    I'm absolutely with Conrad:

    1 Don't worry about quality losses. All reputable experiments of which I am aware (including those by Ctein, a far better experimentalist than I) indicate no detectable problems, let alone significant ones.

    2 Orange adds a LOT of drama: check how many Ansel Adams shots used orange. I prefer light orange or deep yellow, which are pretty close. As you already know there are several light orange shots (with a 72mm 2,8x light orange Soviet-era filter on a 200/3 Vivitar) on


  10. Jedidiah,

    As stated above, the general filter for B&W is the yellow (K2) filter. All filters pass their own color and with hold their opposite. The yellows, greens, oranges and reds reduce the blue componet in the sceen. Shadows are largely blue light and the harsher the filter the less shadow detail will appear. I use harsh filters sparingly because of the reduction of shadow detail. I do use the yellow filter and polarizer in combination to keep shadow detail and increase drama between clouds and sky. When combining filters, multiply the filter factors, do not add them. A yellow filter (2.0) and a polarizer (2.5) has a filter factor of 5.0 when combined.

  11. I generally recommend not using a filter for B&W. I shoot a lot of 5x4 Tri-X, and seldom find a filter necessary.

    As to using a filter for lens protection, I recommend against that too. Use a lens cap for protection.

    A filter has to, has to, degrade the image somewhat. No matter how good, it's another couple of surfaces that will be imperfect, and a piece of glass (or whatever) that has two surfaces that aren't perfectly parallel and aren't perfectly parallel to the centerline of the lens. And the coating, no matter how good, is going to scatter some light.
  12. It really depends on the film you're using. TMX doesn't need the yellow filter to enhance the sky/cloud contrast. The film is capable of doing that with unfiltered light, but if you do use it the effect will be more pronounced than it would be for something less red sensitive. The yellow filter will not change the tonal relationships in the rest of the scene all that much. Orange is more dramatic, red even more so.

    Do I use UV/skylight/whatever filters on my lenses? Not unless I'm in a particularly hostile environment of blowing sand, dust, salt spray, etc. Then I use cheap skylight filters. If they get messed up, oh well, them's the breaks. No sense exposing a filter that costs a significant portion of the price of the protected lens to a damaging environment.
  13. david_henderson


    Most of the time I don't use anything with the occasional use of a polariser or an iorange filter if there is sky in the photograph and conditions dictate.

    I think I'd make more use of yellow/green if I photographed people much. A lens cap provides all the protection you need.
  14. Thank you for the tips here. I am glad that I purchased all my lenses with hoods - I have never really used the hoods before, but no time like the present to start, right? I was just asking about the UV filter because one of my lenses came with a Hoya HMC UV filter on it; I was wondering: take it off or leave it on . . . guess I will take it off.<BR><BR>
    I will have to do a little experiementing with the color filters you all mentioned. Guess there is a difference between adding a little "pep" to the image or completely altering it.<BR>
    This leads me to another question, though - how much of that can be added in the enlarging - like enhancing the contrast or the sky or something? Or does it not work like that, and once it's on the film, there it is?<BR>
    Most of my darkroom work so far has been simple elarging of B&W negatives, with occasional dodging / burning when absolutely necessary - I've just always perferred to say look, "this is the way it was" - but sometimes that leads to a rather flat image for me.<BR>
  15. I use a UV filter all the time to protect the front element of the lens. Other than that I occasionally use a yellow or yellow-green filter.
  16. I'd leave the HMC on; it's a decent filter. If you start looking at lenses under bright light, and with a magnifier, you'll find that most people are leaving cleaning marks (aka scratches and coating damage) without even knowing it. I keep filters on my lenses, clean maybe every couple years, and have flawless lenses. My photos haven't suffered in any way. Your call. You can certainly accomplish much in the darkroom. Skies can be burned in, and other tonal relationships altered, but a filter can change relationships in small areas you can't easily do otherwise. A filter can also enhance or subdue things like wood grain, stains, blemishes, and can bring a subject out of the background. A polarizer can remove reflections that otherwise would have to be done in PS or a similar program. Someone did bring up the very important point about shadow detail outdoors. Shadows are illuminated by skylight, which is bluish. When you filter to darken the skies, you also darken the shadows (same color). That can increase the contrast of the scene. It's why photos taken with deep red filters often have such black shadows and such an extreme look. Sometimes the filter factors and TTL meter readings aren't sufficient- bracket important shots. The deep filters are to be avoided if you don't want to alter the look of things, but I wouldn't get too hung up on that- use whatever you need to use to get the image you want.
  17. The reason yellow is traditional for BW is that BW films are more sensitive to blue light than to red, and the yellow filter was intended to get the final spectral response more like what we see. This was more of an issue with earlier films, which were more orthochromatic than current films. In the end, use what you see fit, and don't worry about what you're supposed to use.
  18. Jedidiah,

    Contrast can be controlled in the darkroom up to a point. The use of contrast (color) filters in B&W photopraphy help separate shades of gray on the neagative. Many objects that appear to be very different in color can merge in the negative; that is have the same density. Using the yellow filter to reduce the density of the sky to make more separation between the clouds and the sky is useful if they merge in the negative without the use of the filter. Most natural objects are very low in color saturation and tend to have similar reflective values that become similar densities in the neagative. Using color filters can make the red apple appear "brighter" or "darker" depending upon the filter selected. Most basic B&W technical books have photographs of how a sceen can be manipulated with different filters. A bowl of fruit, with fruit of different colors, is a usual visual expample of the use of contrast filters.

  19. Appreciate the explanation. Paul, (or anyone else) do you have a book to recommend that shows the same picture multiple times with the different filters on? I'm lacking knowledge in these areas, as I am completely self taught in photography so far (except for tips from here) - my only high school photography class was actually a year book class, and the teacher wasn't a photographer - just kind of said, "here you go" keys to the brother and I practically did everything for the class.<BR>
  20. UV filters will not alter the look of the photograph and they offer protection. Be sure to remove the filter if you're shooting against the light source. It doesn't matter if you're using a non-coated or a super mutlti-coated filter, it can still cause flare if you shoot into the light.

    I don't use colored filters that often but my instinct and my experience says I should. I am amazed at the difference in the tonality of my prints when I shoot with filters. Simply put, filters improve the hell out of black and white photography in most situations. Most of us, myself included, are usually too lazy to use them.
  21. Jedidiah,

    In the 1950's(?) Ansel Adams wrote a basic photo series that had 5 volumes and was revised in the 1970's in to 3 volumes. The original series (out of print) is available used on e-bay and I recommend volume 4, Natural Light. Adams discusses B&W filters and their application in various settings. He will take a "subject" like Snow or Desert and give you a good discussion about the "quality of light" and how different filters will can help or destroy your image. I have not seen a technical book that covers the use of filters as completely as Volume 4, Natural Light. I still refer to my copy that I bought in the 1960's when I know I am going to be in settings that I have not visited in years to refresh my memory.

    You mention you are self taught, I do recommend in the revised series, Book 2, The Negative & Book 3, The Print. The revised series is in-print and available at most book stores in the Photo section.

  22. I agree with Paul here. "The Negative" is probably one of the most helpful books on topics of filters with black and white that will also give an extensive amount of information on other topics of black and white film and processing. Ansel Adams gives many examples of different filters which I think would aid you greatly.
  23. Does this [revised] book #2 cover all the same material as #4 in the original set? If so, it seems easier to find, just by doing a quick browse here. I really enjoy looking at those books and calenders made of Ansel Adams prints - I'm sure I would enjoy reading his work.<BR>
    Just curious if #2 revised edition is good enough, or should I hold out for an original #4 to come along?

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