Filter selection for black and white photography

Discussion in '35mm Cameras' started by Carl Gilbert, Jun 29, 2005.

  1. Carl Gilbert

    Carl Gilbert Guest


    I am looking to take some black and white portrait photos at the weekend.
    The photos are to be taken either outdoors or in a hall indoors and I will
    be using Ilford FP4 film.

    I would like gather some advice on which type of filter to use. I have read
    that a yellow filter could be a good option but I would like to see what
    other people think as I do not have a luxury of trying out different filters
    before the weekend and don't want to end up with a load of over contrasted

    Regards, Carl Gilbert
    Carl Gilbert, Jun 29, 2005
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  2. Carl Gilbert

    Nick Zentena Guest

    Men? Women? What are you looking for?

    #8 [yellow] is safe.

    #11 [yellow/green] for men if you want that look.

    Nick Zentena, Jun 29, 2005
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  3. Carl Gilbert

    Peter Guest

    Filters for black and white are customarily divided into two

    Correction filters - filters designed to make the colour rendering
    of film more natural. Examples are light or medium yellow and
    yellow-green filters.

    Contrast filters- filters which make strong colours show up
    as contrast differences. Examples are the tricolour red, green
    and blue filters, and deep yellow and orange filters. You do
    not normally want a contrast filter for pictures of people.

    The most common correction filter is the medium yellow
    (Kodak Wratten #8 / old Wratten K2). B&W film without a filter
    records blue and violet as brigher than the eye sees them.
    The medium yellow filter corrects this so that strong blues
    and violets are recorded correctly as darker colours than
    yellows and greens. In most cases this is a fairly subtle
    effect unless there are strong blues present in the scene.
    The most obvious effect is a slight darkening of blue sky
    which makes clouds show up better. A #8 filer cuts out about
    half of the light that the film sees under daylight even
    though the filter is visually quite light.

    Another common correction filter is the yellowish-green
    (Kodak Wratten #11 / old Wratten X1). It has about the
    same effect on the blue-violet end as the #8 filter,
    but also filters out some of the red. It was originally
    designed for films with excess red sensitivity. It is
    useful if you want to make reds a bit darker than they
    normally appear, or if you want to lighten the colour
    of green leaves without being too dramatic. On a portrait
    it will tend to make freckles and facial blemishes show
    up more than they would with no filter or with a yellow
    filter. The #11 filter has a filter factor of 4 with
    most films: it filters out 3/4 of the light that the
    film sees. There are weaker versions available from
    some filter manufacturers: Hoya calls their weak version
    the X0. I find the colour rendering with the weak
    yellow-green filter to be very natural looking.

    Incandescent light is rich in red and deficient in blue.
    This is also true of daylight around sunrise and sunset.
    This means that film shot under incandescent light makes
    red appear too light. The #11(X1) filter is also useful
    for this, but it requires an exposure increase of four
    times (two stops) under conditions where there isn't much
    light to begin with.

    One thing to keep in mind is that if you do not know
    why you need a filter, it is probably safest to use
    no filter at all. The colour rendering of modern black
    and white films is pretty good without a filter. Going
    filterless has the additional advantage that it allows
    you to use a higher shutter speed than you could use
    with a filter.

    Nick's advice is very good. The yellow filter is a very
    safe choice, but if you are starved for light (as sometimes
    happens) don't be afraid to shoot without a filter.

    Peter, Jun 30, 2005
  4. Carl Gilbert

    Carl Gilbert Guest


    Thanks for the replies. I am looking for a more natural look. I will
    be photographing both men and women. I think I will for for a light
    yellow filter and use this if I have sufficient light. In the event of
    poor lighting conditions or shooting inside, I will opt for no filter.

    Regards, Carl
    Carl Gilbert, Jun 30, 2005
  5. Carl Gilbert

    Don Stauffer Guest

    Yes, a yellow filter can discriminate against freckles and some
    blemishes. This is an old trick. Also, a soft focus filter is another
    good thing to use for portraits.
    Don Stauffer, Jun 30, 2005
  6. You don't need any filters for portraits, unless there are some skin
    problems (redness, pimples). In that case, a yellow filter can be of
    some value.
    uraniumcommittee, Jun 30, 2005
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