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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Filters For B&W Photography

On-camera filters still give you the best results when shooting black-and-white

Labels: Gadget Bag

This Article Features Photo Zoom

gadget-bag gadget-bag
Every photographer who shoots black-and-white (digital or film) should own at least six filters for their SLR. The minimum six-pack includes Skylight (or UV), Polarizer, Red, Yellow, Orange and Green. A more complete set for monochrome would include Neutral Density (ND), Graduated ND and Dark Yellow.

You may think that since your D-SLR has digital filters built in, you don’t need to attach glass filters in front of your lens. While it’s true that many cameras have this feature, digital filters simply don’t work the same way as a physical filter and, consequently, you won’t get the same results.

Skylight/UV filters often are purchased to protect the front lens element, but in fact, they have another purpose: to help reduce the sharpness-robbing effects of atmospheric haze. Polarizers eliminate surface glare from most objects, of course, and make it much easier to photograph subjects that are in shallow water, behind museum glass, etc. They also darken a blue sky (even in monochrome images). This group of filters, along with the ND pair, is equally suited to color photography and therefore belongs in everyone’s bag.

Cokin Red/Yellow P-Series
Neutral-density filters reduce light transmission evenly without adding any color of their own. They allow you to shoot at a larger aperture without fear of overexposure and are particularly useful at the beach and in the snow. Graduated ND filters are dark on one end and gradually lighten until their gray color completely disappears. They hold back exposure selectively in part of a scene and are helpful when shooting sunsets, particularly
over water.

Hoya Yellow-Green
Solid-colored filters can be used when shooting in color, too, but the results will be generally unpleasant because they give everything one single, overpowering tint. On the other hand, use them when you shoot in black-and-white, and you’ll be amazed by the impact.

It’s easy to remember what filters do—they lighten their own color and darken their complement. So a red filter lightens reds and pinks while darkening greens and blues, for example. Yellow filters accentuate cloud structure by darkening the blue areas of the sky. Green filters lighten foliage and add ruddiness to reddish skin tones. Darker colors—dark yellow, for instance—produce stronger results than lighter colors. And if you really want to exaggerate the effect of any filter, underexpose the image slightly.

Because they absorb light, filters require increased exposure. Your camera’s automatic metering system should handle the compensation without a problem, but it’s something to be aware of. Another word of caution for those who regularly use the short zoom lens that came with their camera (typically in the 18-55mm range): Be aware of vignetting. If you buy a cheap filter that’s too thick, it can encroach on the extreme corners of your image and darken them. Imagine shooting through a peephole. Unless you like that effect, stick with the better brands, and if you use wide-angle lenses often, make sure you buy a filter that’s suitably thin.


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