October 2019

Color filters in black and white photography: An introduction and examples

When I was first into film photography and shooting a lot of black and white (which was about 35 years ago), I never explored the use of color filters for image enhancement — in part because I didn’t know anything about it, in part because we weren’t taught anything about it in high school photography class, and finally in part because I couldn’t have afforded the filters anyway. With my renewed interest in film, and in shooting a ton of black and white, I’ve become interested in ways to achieve better, more interesting photos — especially in situations where things seem washed out, or when subjects fail to “pop” in the image. That’s where color (and other) filters come-in.

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Edge fog: Oh, those smoky rebates…

We’ve all read the admonitions on the film boxes, the data sheets, and the manuals for our medium format cameras (you did read that, right?): load and unload in subdued light. So you do. And then you get a roll of film back from the lab, or you start to unspool a wet strip from your Paterson tank, and there it is… The dreaded edge fog, smoky little mountains emerging from the very edges of the film and extending well into the rebate, or perhaps even into your image area. In my case, I mutter a few choice words, and start to wonder if it’s just me.

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