View Full Version : Important Filters for B & W Photography

neil poulsen
29-Oct-2017, 09:53
What do you consider to be the most important filter colors that you use for black and white photography, and what effect do you like that each produces?

Include polarizing filters, if it's a filter that's important for your black and white photography.

The most important color for my black and white work is a Wratten 12, medium dark yellow. I like the way that it darkens skies. The standard yellow K2 (a.k.a. Wratten 8) doesn't darken skies enough for my tastes. The Wratten 12 yellow was recommended by Ansel Adams in one of his books, so I gave it a try.

That's an important filter color for me; I'd like to learn more about others.

[Please note, I've checked the archives by searching for any title that includes "filter" in the Lens and Accessories forum.]

29-Oct-2017, 10:30
There are a lot of great books about filters -- too many for me to list here.

I use a K2, 25A, X1, and O2. I also use a polarizer, as well as NDs -- 1, 2, and 10 f-stops. If I could only choose one, it would be the O2. If I had to throw one out, it would be the X1. Luckily, I get to pack all of them along -- with a few others.

You will get a million responses to this question. In other words figure it out on your own. It's like asking if you prefer blondes or brunettes.

Emmanuel BIGLER
29-Oct-2017, 10:32
High Neil

Here is a recent discussion on a similar question, by John Kasaian: may be you'll find some info there ?


David Karp
29-Oct-2017, 11:51
I agree about the #12. I really like the #12 yellow when there are sky and clouds in my photo. If not, then I often like a #8 or no filter at all.

Lately, I was looking at some of my photos and thinking about using a #15 if the sky is dramatic. Not a big difference in number from the #12, but to my eye it looks a lot more orangey! There is also a big difference in filter factor, which may discourage its use if the clouds are moving quickly.

Yellow green and green are nice if you are photographing rock with red in it. The yellow green can lighten up foliage without it looking too infraredy.

I have, but rarely use, a darker orange and #25 red.

neil poulsen
29-Oct-2017, 13:00
Also found the following in a different forum . . .


29-Oct-2017, 16:23
Have been shooting LF since the 1970s and ULF since the 1980s and very rare is a time when I use a filter over my lens. A bellows lens hood though whenever I can. A 10 f stop filter being the exception. My type of photography rarely includes the sky in the images I shoot, so that might just be the reason for not using filters. Here in New England, almost always am shooting in the woods and overhead tree cover excludes the sky being in my imagery. When I was out west shooting landscapes, was very different... sky almost always included and an orange filter used regularly.

Doremus Scudder
30-Oct-2017, 02:50
All filters are "important" for one application or another... It really boils down to what you want to achieve from the situations you are in.

I carry a kit with six filters regularly: #8, #15, #11, #25, an 80B and a polarizer. I like the #12 too, but have it only in gel form, so it doesn't get into the field kit much. The ones in the kit are in a filter wallet and are B+W or Heliopan filters. When I'm not so concerned with weight, I'll toss in a 10-stop ND filter, and a #44 that I've mounted between glass. I've got a bunch more that I use only rarely; the 6-8 I normally carry do the job for me most of the time.

That said, I shoot mostly without a filter. It's sure nice to have them when I need them though. I use the polarizer a lot on the coast and for darkening skies when I need the shadow values to stay luminous. I use it partially polarized most of the time, especially around water and/or window glass. I also like to use it off-axis for darkening one side of the sky while leaving the other side much lighter for effect (think 90-75mm lens with a long horizon).

The #8 gets used mostly with architectural work to adjust contrast on painted surfaces, lettering on signs, etc., though I use it for a slight darkening of the sky from time-to-time as well.

Green, #44 and the 80B for foliage and for "orthochromatic" effects. The #44 is the true ortho filter, but the 80B does exceptionally well raising skylit shadows and darkening red/orange, giving a quasi-ortho look that I like, especially for shots in open shade. Green is often my filter of choice in the Red-Rock Country of the SW where the values in the rocks need a bit of separating; it brings the sky down too.

I'll use the #15 for times when I need more drama in the sky/shadows. The #25 gets used for extremes: abstract dune shots, darkening shadows cast from glancing light, getting some separation in the clouds on a very overcast day, etc.

I don't like stacking filters, but I will stack a polarizer with any of the above when needed.

Bottom line, you need to know what filters do and apply them for specific reasons when your desired rendering of a scene is different than what would be rendered with no filter. FWIW, I consider "no filter" to be a kind of filter too; the film has its specific spectral sensitivity and we just change that by adding filters.



neil poulsen
9-Nov-2017, 06:03
Thanks for all the responses. Thanks also for emphasizing the purpose for using this or that filter.

I've traditionally not used filters too much. But in doing more B&W, filters can be really useful. As mentioned, I like a 12 for skies. But skies are the obvious correction in black and white photos. I sense the need to look beyond skies to the more subtle effects that filters have on foliage, rocks, shadows, etc.

I agree, film makes a difference, especially the t-grain films like T-Max. I like the effect of T-Max 100 on skies that makes filtration almost unnecessary. I tried T-Max 400 and didn't care for it. I like HP5 much better.

I'm a strong advocate for, and use Ansel Adams zone system. I think that exposure/development strategies can also make a difference in filter selection, though I can't exactly say why. Probably just as well.

Jerry Bodine
9-Nov-2017, 12:44
I'm fond of the G (#15) filter for landscape work. In the northwest U.S. we have a lot of evergreens. The G will darken the blue skies (yes it happens here on occasion) to my taste but will also darken the evergreens. The G will moderate the darkening somewhat because of the red emitted from the foliage. I recall AA telling Yosemite workshop participants about this red in the foliage; it raised quite a few eyebrows.