In Camera Filters for Black & White Photography

Most cameras with 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. If you’re new to the world of traditional filters for black and white photography, here’s a quick primer:

A yellow filters slightly darkens the sky, emphasizing clouds and is primarily used for landscape photography and when shooting in snow, can produce dynamic textures. An orange filter produces similar effects but skies are darker and clouds more defined. An orange filter can be used in glamour photographs outdoors or under incandescent light sources to produce smooth skin tones. The red filter produces dramatic landscapes with black skies and maximum contrast but in portrait or glamour work a subject’s lips seem washed out. On the other hand, this filter can almost eliminate freckles and blemishes. A green filter lightens vegetation in landscape photography but doesn’t darken the sky as much as the red filter. With some portrait subjects, skin tones may be more pleasing but freckles and blemishes are more apparent.


While you could always use real color filters on your camera’s lens to archive the same effects there are major advantages to digital filters: Most in-camera metering systems automatically take “filter factors” into consideration but 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.

The above photograph of Tia was made during my Helmut Newton phase and was shot with a Canon EOS 5D and fill from a 550EX speedlite. Exposure was 1/160 sec at f/7.1 and ISO 400 and was captured directly in monochrome mode with a green digital filter to punch up the model’s make-up.

Joe Farace is the author of Digital Monochrome Special Effects that’s available from your friendly neighborhood book or camera store or

Author: Joe Farace

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