A common problem in black and white photography is that certain colours look very similar when converted into greyscale.
This can cause objects in a black and white image to blend into one another, leaving you with a photo which is flat and lifeless, and lacking in contrast and definition. There are 5 filter colours that are commonly used in black and white photography - red, orange, yellow, green, and blue. The result is that colours matching the filter colour appear brighter in the final image, while other colours appear darker. Because of their different effects, each colour filter tends to be used in a different way. In landscape photography, a red filter will turn a blue sky almost black and make clouds really stand out, giving the scene a dramatic feel. Red filters produce such an extreme effect that they can make your photo look like it's been shot through an infrared filter.
Orange filters sit between red and yellow filters, giving a nice balance of each one's properties.
In portrait photography, an orange filter reduces the appearance of freckles and blemishes, giving the skin a healthy, smooth look.
When photographing buildings and cityscapes, they give bricks a pleasing tone, and increase contrast between different materials to add depth and texture to the image. Similarly to red filters, they can be used to reduce the appearance of fog and haze, and to darken skies and emphasise clouds.
When snapping landscapes a yellow filter darkens the sky slightly, helping to balance its exposure against the darker ground. In portrait photography, they produce warm, natural, pleasing flesh tones, like an orange filter but less intense. Yellow filters are good for separating shades of green, and can be used whe photographing plants to increase the contrast of foliage.
A green filter is mainly used for photographing plants as it helps separate the green foliage from the brightly-coloured flowers and buds. They can also be used in landscape photography to boost the appearance of grass and trees, but they also lighten the sky so you need to be careful not to lose detail there.
When used correctly, this reduced contrast can be useful for giving a shot a calm, soothing atmosphere.


If you're serious about black and white photography then a selection of coloured filters is a great addition to your kit. There is a huge range of filters that can be used with black and white photography, but there are a few common ones that you may want to keep in your camera kit for all occasions. This article is mainly written for film users but it can also be useful for DSLR users when shooting black and white.
Before getting onto filters, a quick discussion on stepping rings is in order as they are a necessity for the filter user. Stepping rings save you having to buy the same filter over and over for different lens focal lengths.
The neutral density filter allows you to modify the intensity of light striking your film plane by reducing the amount of light entering the lens.
This filter corrects the color rendering of panchromatic emulsions to approximate that of human perception. The orange filter creates strong contrast for red and yellow, which are rendered lighter than with the naked eye. This filter will absorb ultraviolet, blue and yellow light, rendering red and yellow objects lighter.
It has historically also been used as a security filter for mainly color photography but also black & white.
Roo du Jardin is a photographer who runs an informational website about Online Photography Courses.
We are always looking for more interesting and insightful photography tips and techniques to share with our readers. For example, some shades of red, green, and blue look completely different in colour, but almost identical in black and white.
This allows you to control the way they appear in the final image, ensuring that objects are well separated and clearly defined.
In black and white photography this means that objects appear as lighter or darker shades of grey. This is particularly useful when shooting red flowers, as they have a similar tone to the surrounding leaves.
In some cases the difference is barely noticeable, but it can help to lift a photo just enough.


A blue filter also increases the appearance of haze and mist, making it handy for enhancing the mood of an early-morning scene.
They'll give you much more control over the way your photos appear, helping you to create mood, balance contrast, and emphasise the most important parts of a scene. Of course, the Yellow-Green is not valid with digital photography and manipulation may also be done in the camera or with your photo editing software. This is a useful filter in black and white for lens protection as well as haze penetration. The filters original use was for increasing the warmth to film which was considered to be slightly cold (blue). Security meaning the filter was attached to keep anything from coming in contact with the lens and also protected against damage and grime. Carry a selection for all your needs and also appropriate stepping rings to fit all your favorite lenses.
They're a popular choice for beginners as they can be used in virtually any type of photography.
Be careful of stepping rings with a wide-angle lens as with very wide lenses you can see the stepping ring and filter in your frame.
This is the filter generally chosen for general black and white photography for lens protection, color rendering and optimum contrast (particularly for landscapes). The addition of this filter was to balance the result to a more natural looking photograph. The red filter is commonly used for creating dramatic skies in landscapes and used in studio portraiture for lightening skin tones considerably. The neutral density filter effect can be seen in water photographs (e.g waterfall) where the water appears mist like.



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