I am thinking at the moment of the possibility to take a black and white picture with a color film.

I know that one can develop a color film as a black and white film (with varying results), and also that one can take a color negative and print it black and white.

My goal is really to have a color film, handle it as a color film, and have a black and white picture in the end. I mean, having on the same negative some pictures being black and white and some pictures being color. I am trying to have somehow a "black and white filter" for my analog color film, the same way one would have a "black and white filter" on a digital camera.

A quick search on the web did not yield any interesting results. Actually, at the moment, I am not even sure it is physically feasible. I know that there are many ways to achieve similar goal, but I am really wondering how feasible it is to mix black and white and color on the same film (no matter the result in the end and even if using dedicated films is better).


EDIT: Some extra infos about my final goal, so that the question may be clearer. You may know Times Square black-and-white with yellow cabs photos. I am wondering how I could take such a photo using only film camera techniques, which means never digitize the image at any time. I was thinking about techniques to actually have the photo on a negative, or to post-process it and get the result at print time. For now, my best bet is to take a black and white and a color picture and to print them carefully.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Possible duplicate of Is there a black and white physical filter? \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Apr 30, 2019 at 4:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ The obvious way to make such an image is: take the photo in B/W, print it traditionally in B/W, hand-colour the print. Very many early photographs had this done to them. \$\endgroup\$
    – user82065
    Apr 30, 2019 at 19:04

3 Answers 3


Doing this in camera seems impossible. If you really want to do it with film, your process should be something like:

  1. Take the photo with color film. Process the film normally.
  2. Make a black and white copy of the color negative. You'll want the copy to also be a negative, so you'll need a black and white positive image of the original negative, if you know what I mean. Your options here probably depend on the film format you're using, but could include black and white positive film, reverse processing, or just making a regular black and white copy and then copying that again.
  3. Create a pair of complementary masks: one which reveals the area that you want to print in color, and another which reveals the area you want to print in black and white.
  4. Create some way to register each mask during printing.
  5. Print using the color negative and color-revealing mask, and then again using the black and white negative and b&w-revealing mask.

That's a lot of work, with a lot of things that can easily go wrong. You've got at least three different development processes to deal with, registration issues, perhaps problems getting the exposure right for the two printing phases. You're copying the image several times, which inevitably means some loss of quality. Even with extreme care in registering the masks on the image, it's going to be very difficult to avoid getting a visible boundary between the color and black and white area. And the printing process doesn't allow for a lot of subtlety. In the taxicab image, for example, there are some colored areas aside from the taxi itself -- look at the turn signals on the other vehicles, the reflections in the wet street, the billboard. It's going to be hard to create a set of masks that provides that.

If your goal is to do things the hard way just for your own enjoyment or to show off, then go for it. If your goal is to produce the best image you can, and if you don't mind the fact that the process is much faster, cheaper, and better in every conceivable sense, use a digital image editor instead.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Ok, that's what I had in mind. I was wondering if something easier / in camera could be possible. Indeed, the main goal is for entertainment and just because it can be done (not to really achieve a high fidelity). Thanks! \$\endgroup\$
    – Phyks
    Nov 16, 2016 at 22:35

You can buy chromogenic black and white film. This is black and white film that can be developed using standard (C-41) colour processing. I have found the results with this to be rather flat, although you do get very little grain.

Your best option is probably to shoot with standard colour film and scan the developed negatives (or transparencies) in colour as normal. You will then have the three (RGB) colour channels to play around with before you convert the image to monochrome. This will give you much more control than you would have with black and white film.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the answer! However, it seems your solution means the whole film will be either black and white or color, if I understand correctly? My goal is really to know whether it is feasible to have color and black and white on the very same film. I agree what I am asking is something highly non standard, but I am not necessarily looking for the best way to do it, it's rather to know how feasible it could be, even if this is not the optimal way of doing it. Then, scanning is not an option. \$\endgroup\$
    – Phyks
    Nov 15, 2016 at 3:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ For some reason, I thought that you intended to scan your films and print them digitally. You used to be able to get panchromatic black & white paper that can be used for printing colour negatives. It's been too long since I did any film processing. Maybe others can advise you. However, I'm scanning my colour negatives to print digitally. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mick
    Nov 15, 2016 at 3:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ok. I edited the original question to add more infos about my goal. Hopefully, it is clearer :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Phyks
    Nov 15, 2016 at 14:37

In theory, you could try to put a Red, Green and Blue filter on the lens and take the picture that way (or Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow?). It won't let much light through but it should stop every color from entering and the final image should be B&W... right? I am also interested in taking a B&W picture on color film, let me know if you found a solution. In the meantime, I might try this. Let me know what you think.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I think if you stack color filters that filter out all the colors, you get a black and black image. \$\endgroup\$
    – Eric S
    Apr 9, 2017 at 15:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ if you use only for example a red filter (blocks everything exept red light), the image will still not be black and white, but black and red. Of course you could use such a picture and print/develop it as b/w, but that is not what you want. \$\endgroup\$
    – smow
    Apr 10, 2017 at 8:25

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