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Could someone explain the difference in using colored filters for black and white photos? What is the best practice using these filters for portraits, landscapes, macro? For different types of weather: sunny, foggy, morning, evening, and so on?

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possible duplicate of How can using a color filter help to improve a black and white photo? –  mattdm Mar 17 '12 at 13:38

3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

If you are using a digital camera, there is little need to use colored filters, as you can apply their effects in post processing when you do the black and white conversion.

See Are there reasons to use colour filters with digital cameras?

Also How can using a color filter help to improve a black and white photo?

If you are shooting film, then

  • Red is commonly used in landscapes. It will darken foilage, and will dramatically increase the constrast in cloudy skies. It will lighten skin if used in portraiture.
  • Orange behaves like red, but effects are less.
  • Yellow has a subtle effect - will darken skin slightly.
  • Green will lighten foilage. It can be used in portraits to darken the skin
  • Blue will lighten skies, and lower contrast if you want a hazy effect
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thank you, Mike –  garik Mar 17 '12 at 9:03

The easiest way to remember the effect of a filter is this: A filter lightens its own color and darkens the complementary color. Here is a link to a color wheel that illustrates the concept. Colors 180 degrees opposite are the complements.

So, from the color wheel, we can learn that a green filter will lighten some foliage (foliage does not read completely green, but green-yellow), and darken reds (some complexion contains red -- be careful because this may make skin complexions a bit blotchy for people with ruddy complexions).

The red filter is the "landscape filter" because it tends to produce dramatic skies -- the dark sky against white cloud or snowy peak effect that is so appealing in black & white images. It lends a slightly ghostly effect to green foliage, particularly evergreens.

I've attached some simulated B&W effects on an image that includes sky, foliage, and clouds. This is simulated using NIK Silver Efex, so it's not exactly like using glass, but it's darn close:

Original As Shot in Color Original As Shot in Color

Blue Filter Blue Filter

Green Filter Green Filter

Orange Filter Orange Filter

Red Filter Red Filter

Yellow Filter Yellow Filter

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Different filters will change the threshold of black and white. For example, a yellow filter will make the more yellow colors black. You can use these filters to enhance different parts of a B&W image.

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In black and white photography, a yellow filter won't make yellow colors black. A yellow color filter will make yellow colors white. –  Julian Jul 20 at 10:47

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