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02-13-2009, 07:02 PM   #1
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Filters for B&W photography

I started out in digital but now I am going to film just to try it. I am taking a class on film photography with bw.

I understand that when shooting bw, you can use color filters to change the contrast of the picture. Like if you want to darken the color of the sky you use the Yellow if you want to darken it a little or you can use the orange if you want a more darker sky. Red would be even darker and sometimes a black sky.

I know those are the effects when you shoot with film bw.

The question that I have is will this have any effect if I shoot with digital? I know with digital, I can change the effects with photoshop. But will it look any different if I use a real add on filter instead of digital?

The reason why I am asking is because I want to get some color filters to use for the class. But I don't want to spend too much on it if I can't use it for digital. I was thinking of just getting the cheap filters from ritz camera. For the class I will print 8x10 only so I doubt I will need a high quality filter.

02-13-2009, 08:15 PM   #2
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I might be wrong about this, but I think that b&w filters are pointless on digital because all that may be controlled more precisely during post processing (in PS or LR or aperture)
02-13-2009, 10:21 PM   #3
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I agree with mhoy- it seems like it'd be easier to mess with the channels in photoshop rather than use filters when using digital. However, if you're shooting B&W film, you definitely should use filters. The Ritz filters will do if you're just doing small prints while you're learning.
02-14-2009, 04:52 AM   #4
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I tried this with my K100d, because, you know, with digital it's easy to see for yourself.

The results weren't good. And the b&w conversions sucked.

For fun and a good way to "try" out filters is to download a free program "virtual photographer"
Welcome to optikVerve Labs - Home of virtualPhotographer

If you just need the filters to play with, I suggest buying used - many an old time camera store will have stacks of them, and if there's a regular camera show near you, you can get tons of them very cheap.

02-14-2009, 08:55 AM   #5
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At least with the K20d, btw, you can select 'filters' in monochrome mode, so you can see what they'll do right there in your Jpegs.

You'd still have to alter any RAW files, but this way you can see what they do before buying.

Generally, the most useful will be the yellow and red: the former is usually enough to give you a bit of sky, and pop the contrast up a bit... The red's going to look dramatic, and is also very useful when you're photographing people with visible acne or anything: combining with a little diffusion often is a nice way to make people happy with portraits.
02-14-2009, 09:25 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by SuperAkuma Quote
The reason why I am asking is because I want to get some color filters to use for the class. But I don't want to spend too much on it if I can't use it for digital. I was thinking of just getting the cheap filters from ritz camera. For the class I will print 8x10 only so I doubt I will need a high quality filter.
I'd have to agree with this approach. Though I am a die hard film user and have a full range of very nice B&W filters, when it comes to digital, I use post processing software that specifically emulates the behaviors of B&W filters. These work quite nicely. Hope this helps.

For a decent free product please see: Cybia - Plug-In Filters - BW-Plus

Quoting:

A single Photoshop compatible plug-in filter for quickly turning your colour images into greyscale, but with the added option of using a coloured optical lens filter as you would in traditional B&W photography.

The different colours will change the tonal range during the greyscale conversion : for example, a red filter will lighten the red, magenta and yellow areas plus darken the green, blue and cyan in the photo.

There are 6 preset effects to choose from using a simple drop-down menu (Windows only - Mac versions come as 6 individual filters without dialog boxes).
02-14-2009, 07:04 PM   #7
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Original Poster
Thanks for the tip. I will just use the cheap filter from ritz for experimenting bw shots with color filter. I will also look for used filter as well.

Besides yellow, orange and red, any other filters i should get to play around with in bw film? I have cp(circular polarizer) filter already.

Since I started the topics on filters on bw, I have some more questions. Is the Red filter like a CP filter, it deepens the color of the sky? How will this be different compared to a cp filter?

Last edited by SuperAkuma; 02-14-2009 at 07:21 PM.
02-14-2009, 07:34 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by SuperAkuma Quote
Besides yellow, orange and red, any other filters i should get to play around with in bw film? I have cp(circular polarizer) filter already.

Since I started the topics on filters on bw, I have some more questions. Is the Red filter like a CP filter, it deepens the color of the sky? How will this be different compared to a cp filter?
You might want to consider one or two neautral density filters. These are useful if you find yourself outside on a sunny day with a fast film and you're running out of f stops for the shots you want to take. A ND filter will give you one or two more stops to play with and you can stack them up.

A polarizing filter will give you more control than a red, because you can dial up how much effect you want (to a degree) and it will also give you control over reflections from water, shiny leaves, glass etc. But a red will control a wider tonal range. (Think I've got that right). Anyway, they're cheap enough that it's worthwhile having one to experiment with. If you get a Cokin or similar setup (I got mine with several filters second hand for $20AUS) you can play around and cut your own from sheets of coloured transparent plastic, cellophane, mylar, whatever. Make friends with a stage lighting technician or a primary school teacher and score some throwaway material. Lots of fun.

02-15-2009, 05:41 AM   #9
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The polarizer has maximum effect 90 degrees from the sun, and its sky darkening becomes progressively less when the sun is further from this 90 degrees.

The red filter has the sky darkening effect all around, but also shifts tonality in colors - which the polarizer does not.
02-15-2009, 05:51 AM   #10
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The BW colour filters are pointless for digital. Not only can achive the contrast changes in postprocessing, but White Balance (if set to Auto) will anyway try to counter the colour shift, the electronics notices.

Filters you can sensibly use for both, film and digital, include:
- Polarizers
- Graduated Grey filters (to bring down sky brightness and reduce overall contrast)
- Neutral Density filters, which allow to use a wider aperture under bright light

and that's about it. For pure BW photography a Yellow, Orange and Green filter should usually all you need. Perhaps you add a Red, but the sky darkening with that really is so dramatic (provided the sky is blue), that it often looks completely overdone.

Ben
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