Post & Photo by Joe Farace – Follow Joe on Twitter

Many cameras that have direct monochrome capture options also let you apply digital filters to make it seen as if you had placed a filter in front of your lens when shooting black and white film. If you’re new to the world of traditional filters for black and white photography, here’s a quick primer:

A Yellow filter slightly darkens the sky, emphasizing clouds, and is primarily used for landscape photography but when shooting in snow, it can produce brilliant, dynamic textures. An orange filter produces effects similar to the yellow filter, but skies are darker and clouds more defined. While useful for landscapes, it can be also used for higher contrast in architectural photography. An orange filter can be used in glamour photographs outdoors or under warm household light sources to produce smooth skin tones but I most often use the yellow filter for the same reasons. The red filter produces dramatic landscapes. Skies turn almost black and contrast is maximized but in portrait or glamour work the subject’s lips can seem washed out. On the other hand, using this filter can almost eliminate freckles and blemishes. A green filter is useful for landscape photography as it lightens vegetation but doesn’t darken the sky as much as the red filter. Depending on your model, her skin tones may be more pleasing, but freckles and blemishes will be much more apparent.

While you could always use real color filters on your camera’s lens to archive the same effects there are major advantages of using digital filters: While most in-camera metering systems automatically take “filter factors” into consideration, you still have to look through and compose through a colored filter whose factor might range from three and five. In addition, a purely digital solution is an easier one to live because the exposure for no filter is identical to one with the dark red filter.

In the world of traditional photography, the light loss caused by a filter’s absorption and color density is expressed as a filter factor. A 2X factor means the exposure should be increased by one stop, 3X means one and one-half stops, etc. When using several filters at once, filter factors, aren’t added together but instead are multiplied reducing depth of field or slowing shutter speeds.

The above photograph of my muse Tia was shot with a Canon EOS D50 and fill from a 550EX speedlite. Exposure was 1/200 sec at f/5.6 and ISO 400 and was captured directly in monochrome mode with a green digital filter applied to dramatically punch up the model’s make-up.

Joe Farace is the author of Digital Monochrome Special Effects


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