Filters in Black and White Photography

How to use colored filters to alter your recorded image.



Most film camera photographers use; UV, or yellow, orange, red, deep red color filters on their cameras with black and white film to increase contrast and cut out haze, you must do the opposite to get; fog, mist, haze, or clouds. You must reduce contrast.

     Allot of people try to photograph a low hanging fog, or a mist in the woods, a choreographed scene with smoke generators, etc. but many fail to capture what they originally saw. The problem is that most use by default a SKY-1B filter (strong UV cut), this eliminates the scattering of UV that causes HAZE in the first place. Stronger effects are achieved (in increasing order) when photographers use yellow,orange,red,dark red filters. The human eye, and photographic film both have a hard time focusing on blue light or UV. It actually defocuses the image, that why police, and hunters use yellow or orange sunglasses to eliminate blue light and UV so they get a sharper image down range at their target. 

     Most professional photographers probably do not even own a blue or dark blue filter in their supplies or equipment. Usually portrait photographers use either a SKY 1-B or no filter, or a light yellow filter to eliminate haze and sharpen the image, I have used black wedding veil over the lens the soften an image slightly without affecting contrast. I myself own SKY 1-B, and they are the default filter over on every lens in my equipment, simple because it sharpens the image, and protects the lens itself from dust or damage (i’d rather buy another 9$ Tiffen SKY 1-B, than a $200+ lens). As with most filters, you’ll have to adjust your exposure time (increase) or increase your aperture to compensate for the light loss.
     A TIFFEN BLUE #47 is a rather dark blue filter, you’ll have at least a 3 stop increase to compensate for light loss, but the effect is tremendous on fog, mist, smoke, haze, etc.
     To increase contrast and cut haze, mist, etc. you’ll have to eliminate blue light to varying degrees. a light yellow like a TIFFEN #8 will eliminate fog, and increase contrast a small ammount, it’s the most common one I use on sunny days with overcast skies. A Yellow #15 will have a stronger effect, and for more contrast you can go orange #16, orange #21, red #23a, red #25, or deep red #29.
     To photograph plants (green plants), you should use a light green (Tiffen#11) or a dark green (Tiffen#58), the green filters are also great for improving skin tone of models and subjects when outdoors. The Tiffen#11 will light lighten greens, and darken red blooms, the #58 will have an even more dramatic effect.


     Tiffen and other filter manufacturers make many other filters, for other effects; Smoke, haze, color gradients, etc. These add in effects where none exist, I prefer not to use them myself I dislike the effects. I prefer to use black or white or red wedding veil material to soften an image, with either increase (red) or a decrease(white) the contrast or neutral softening (black).

Here are some manufacturers of filters;
B&W Filters
HOYA Optics

Please take a look at my other KNOLS;