Filters in B&W Photography

We at Keyphoto like to still use ‘traditional’ methods of Photography. We hate calling it ‘traditional’ though as it should very much still be deemed a fundamental part of photography

We pride ourselves in supplying chemistry and film to higher education, and we love watching students use film and chemistry. They are the future of photography after all

Today, we want to teach you as to why and how you should filters in B&W photography. What they do and how they can alter your images before you even develop them yourself

Coloured filters can be used on both film and digital technologies, as well as B&W and colour photography. Coloured filters can be blue, green, yellow, orange, red etc and they alter particular tones within your image. Coloured filters alter the amount of light that reaches the film from particular colours.

For example: a yellow filter will let through more yellow light and less blue light. Therefore meaning less light from a blue sky reaches the film which makes the sky look darker, so white clouds against a blue sky appear more prominent within the photograph


When used in colour photography, they create strong colour casts

Image from David Kennard Photography

Using filters in digital photography is sometimes not needed as many digital cameras have menu options that enable you to replicate the effects of certain filters when your camera is in monochrome mode. Computer software now can also simulate the use of coloured filters in post production

We still think it is best to go out and have a play and experiment with the real thing however! Nothing helps you learn more than actually doing

Filters will help you think about tones and how you want them to appear within your final image. Most filters will also require exposure correction, so a ‘2x’ filter factor means increasing the exposure by one stop. ‘4x’ needs two stops, and so on. Cameras that have TTL (Through The Lens) exposure meters usually compensate automatically, but remember to correct manually if using a handheld meter

The most useful coloured filters for black and white photography:

  • Yellow-Green. Often used for outdoor portraiture. Will lighten foliage and darken reds. It helps tonally seperate different hues of green where much foliage is present
  • Green. Very useful for portraiture under tungsten lighting to give more natural tones
  • Yellow. Helps most panchromatic black and white films ‘see’ subjects more like the human eye does so you can generally use this filter most of the time outdoors
  • Orange. Ideal for landscape photography giving bolder blue skies with white clouds than a yellow filter, and useful for photographing trees in Autumn when there are more orange tones
  • Red. Makes blue skies very dark so dramatically emphasises white clouds. Can create an almost moonlit effect. Also used with some near infra-red films to give dramatic effects

Overexposure can reduce the effect of filters, but try experimenting with different filters on subjects as diverse as skies, foliage, skin tones, wood etc and see how filters affect the tones!


If you do have a play, or if you have any images taken using filters we’d love to see them on Twitter and we will RT our faves! You can find us at @Keyphotocom. If you do share your images with us, please use the hashtag #KeyShot. We want to see your Key Shots!


Published by


informative, competent and helpful about all things photography!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s