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Black & White Filters

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To most of you starting out in Film Photography you will often come across the use of colour filters for black and white photography and it can be a little confusing without trying them out for yourself and even then you can still be left a bit miffed as to when to use them.

The only filters I use often are Orange and Red but only to enhance my sky. So in this post I use a Leica Q2 Monochrome Camera to show the filters in use. The Q2 is a pure black and white camera so the filters work perfect to show examples.

The only difference is that some films can vary on the spectral sensitivity chart and react differently to some filters. Such as an Orthochromatic film won’t be ideal for a Red or Orange Filter as those films are not sensitive towards the end of the spectral chart and sensitivity dips off around 550nm. Other than that I am quite free to use this camera for a comparison.

I use Cokin Filters that come in a set of 4. I also have the lens attachments for my cameras.

The most common filter is the Yellow Filter. If you want to read what these filters do I don’t need to ramble on you can read ILFORDS post here

Here are my examples for you to see. Because of the density of each filter you need to over expose your images by a certain amount. You can see how many stops I over exposed to compensate for the filter in the images below.

Also it is worth noting that a colour filter will lighten its own colour. So a red rose using a red filter will appear a lot lighter. Green Grass with a Green Filter will lighten the grass. And so on.


I don’t have a professional colour palette so I used my LED controller. Cheap I know but still shows colours. The top right image is with no filter.

You can see how the Greens are lighter. So is the Blue.

On the portrait you can see the differences. Green Filter appears to lighten the skin tones as well as lighten the blue eyes.

And here is a landscape. (Top being no filter) You can see how the greens are lighter.


Not a great deal of change. Just appear a bit lighter whilst deepening the Blues very slightly.


Notice how there is now a dramatic change in the Blues and Reds. The Blues are a lot darker.

Not so nice fir a portrait.

Check out the blue sky on the landscape. The clouds have popped where the filter has darkened the blue sky.


The Red filter gives a more dramatic change than the Orange.

The Portrait is really not nice at all with a Red Filter.

But the scape looks really dramatic.

I hope this has helped anyone with these examples but really the best way is to get some filters or one at a time and see what it does to your photography in different scenarios and lighting as well as using it with different films or your favourite films.

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