Returning to the topic on Black and White photography. As debated in At Edge, Shooting High Contrast Black and White, I set my camera to its mono mode for BW photography rather than just converting a regular colour in Photoshop. I argued that seeing the photo in Black and White was important to find the shadows, edges, and textures which is so important for the BW photo. The same argument is applicable to filters. Although not strictly needed coloured filters gives the photographer the edge, which he is looking for. When it comes to ND or polarizing filters, then the choice is far simpler, as the effect is not possible in the post process.
UV, Polarising and ND Filters
Felix Mana (Aka don’t shoot) convinced me why it is a good idea with an UV filter to protect the lens. Back in film days, Black and white film photography use to be more is sensitive to UV light, so to improve clarity UV filters was applied. To my knowledge is this argument no longer applicable.
Polarising filters eliminates or reduce reflections in surfaces such as glass and water. Also, use them to darken blue skies and penetrate haze. A typical polarising filter has a high filter factor; the manufacturer will supply the exact factor with the filter.
ND filters; the definition well described on this wiki, is awesome described by Peter Hill. His “The Ultimate Guide To Neutral Density Filters” is the best work I have read on the topic. Go look at the Lee filters.
Coloured Filters, Yellow, Red, Blue, Orange and Green.
The best explanation on filters and their effect I have read to this date is Photography Mad’s. His schema over filters and their effect colours and the resulting shade of grey is simply brilliant. I can strongly recommend reading his blog.
Red equals’ drama, it yields a dramatic effect to you photos, but if often comes on the expense of one or two f-stops. Strong contrasts in buildings, red by no means an easy filter to utilize.
Orange is the weaker cousin of red, less drama, less bold. Blueish colours darkened, this is especially desirable should you want a bold contrast between sky and clouds. Again, this comes with a cost in form of an f-stop.
Yellow filter has always been the “classic” first choice filter for the user of black and white film. It gives an excellent balance between photographic effect and ease of use. It brings out the clouds by darkening blueish colours, giving much more contrast between the white clouds and the blue sky. Moreover is the effect of yellow filter noticeable in foggy landscapes with haze, while it improves penetration of haze and fog.
Green is the gentle love of black and white photographers. It will lighten green foliage, which is particularly important with dark green leaves which can record very dark without a filter giving a more natural, lighter feel to the photograph.
Blue filter is sadly and mistakenly not often associated with black and white photography. It can yield a hazed look to the photos.