Simply B&W Tutorial #1 - Using coloured filters / by James Moore

Simply B&W Colored Filters

Simply B&W has recently received a (long overdue) update in the App Store. For many of you who have used the app before, you may already know about the coloured digital filters available to manipulate your images. It's long been standard practice for many Black and White photographers to shoot with coloured filters over the end of the lens. This may seem odd to those of you new to the idea of adding a coloured filter when shooting in Black and White. However such filters can dramatically change or enhance an image as the filtration has effect on certain parts of the image, and the filters too generally are dependent on the subject being photographed.

Within Simply B&W there are simulations of such filters, without the need to process film so you can instantly see how the various colours can have an effect on your images. It's a great way to experiment and find the best filter effect that suits the tone you wish to create. Dependent on subject the variation can be quite dramatic, as can be seen in the image as shown above.

Original image showing vivid colours and texture.
Original image showing vivid colours and texture.

For detail in this particular tutorial, I will use a simple image shot much closer to home here in Scotland. Simple in composition, the palette is limited but there is a variety of textures which will serve well to illustrate the effects of the coloured filters. Shot on a sunny day it has hight contrast, vivid colour with striking white jetstream clouds in the sky.

Yellow filter applied
Yellow filter applied
Orange filter applied
Orange filter applied

Yellow and orange filters

The primary filter of choice when shooting in black and white as it is generally useful for darkening skies and emphasising clouds with increased contrast. Whilst yellow filters darken blues, they will lighten greens, yellows, red and oranges. Orange filters render similar visual effects although slightly stronger yet not as bold and dramatic as those given by a red filter.

Red filter applied
Red filter applied

Red filters

A red filter will markedly increase contrast between certain colours such as blues and greens in relation to lighter tones and highlights. Blue skies will be rendered almost in black with bright white clouds, adding instant drama to skies and landscape images. This increased contrast emphasises texture and detail in buildings and undulating surfaces where there is a degree of tonal variation. Reds too are lightened significantly, so interesting effects can be achieved when photographing strongly red coloured objects such as post boxes here in the UK or red flowers, making them appear lighter in tone.

Green filter applied
Green filter applied

Green filters

Green filters are great for capturing detail in foliage, as they lighten the overall scene and enhance surface details. This is particularly useful for example, on organic structures such as buds and leaves. They make great enhancers to macro photographs picking out subjects such as insects from a natural green backdrop. Portraits too make good subjects for the use of green filters. Blemishes and skin tones are flattened out making for more flattering images.

Blue filter applied
Blue filter applied

Blue filters

Limited in application, blue filters can be used to inverse effect of red and yellow/orange filters. Lightening skies and darkening natural tones they can be used to effect to separate layers of water, sky and foliage in complex landscapes. The darkening effect too can vividly increase contrast in certain scenes or add an interesting effect to a portrait.

Experiment

There is no right or wrong; and while there are recommendations for application above, there are no hard and fast rules on where you should use coloured filters. Don't be afraid to try the range of colours on your images and decide for yourself which enhances to the atmosphere of your image.

The option to create presets or 'Bookmarked Edits' which allow you to enhance images with one-touch has been added, so you can try out a range of tonal manipulations in conjunction to the filters to experiment with interesting effects.

Of course filtration alone won't automatically make a poorly composed photograph better, but the awareness of how light reacts in varying conditions will help you to see shade, texture and tone in a new light (pun intended).  In upcoming posts we can look at ideas for shooting with black and white photography; and essentially explore the ways we can use tone and shape to define our images.

Great points of reference for Black and White photography, where I have drawn inspiration from include the works of  Ansel AdamsHenri Cartier-Bresson, Diane ArbusMan Ray, Don McCullin, Harry Benson, Helmut Newton although there are many more on Magnum Photos

SimplyB&W is FREE on the App Store for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad.

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