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Colour Filters for Black and White Film

I’m not one for using filters very much. I do have the usual suspects of Red, Orange, Green and Yellow but I don’t use them as much as maybe I should! Why? Well, for one, I have got so used to taking photographs without the aid of filters and, two, I don’t really have a trained eye for them. Apart from Orange and Red for darkening blue Skys and popping white fluffy clouds! I can read the description of the effects until I am blue in the face but I am one of those that really do need to train myself and see from my own results.

Take this online write up for example “When photographing foliage in black and white, a green filter is used almost exclusively. It lightens green foliage, which is particularly important with dark greenleaves which can record very dark without a filter. It therefore gives a more natural, lighter feel to the photograph”

I could go into the forest with a Green Filter all day and still not really see how the filter is going to affect my negative. Unless I shot Forest Photography extensively using a Green and No Filter. Then maybe I would get a trained eye for that environment and filter use. But for most of us we say what we read and slap a green filter on for the foliage in the forest.

Same with the Yellow Filter. It is supposed to add a bit of brightness to otherwise contrasty scenes but who am I to tell the tale. I hardly use one! But I can confidently say that an Orange and Red Filter enhances Blue Skys with white cloud. I’ve done it and do it regularly.

So to see for myself I pulled up a colour palette online and took five photographs of it using my DSLR. One without a filter and four more using each filter I have. I did this just to study the various colours and black and white tones.

The real test of course is outside with various films but for now this gives me a clearer idea of what the filters are doing.

The middle image is NO FILTER.

Another comparison I did was overlooking this field.

No Filter
No Filter
Yellow Filter (Lightened the scene and and gave separation in the trees at the back and the bushes in the front)
Green Filter ( I CAN’T SEE ANY DIFFERENCE)
Orange Filter (Slightly lighter scene. Some separation in the trees. Sky similar to No Filter)
Red Filter (Darkened the whole scene. Lost detail in the trees but sky darker)

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