filters for digital black and white

Discussion in 'Photography Equipment & Products' started by talltexan, Jan 20, 2010.

  1. talltexan
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    talltexan New Member

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    If I were going to buy 3 to 4 filter's for digital black and white. What should they be.

    Thanks in advance , Brent
  2. Josh66
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    Josh66 Well-Known Member

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    For digital B&W, you don't really need any filters - you can do the same thing in Photoshop or any other photo editing software.

    The 3 main filters that you can't replicate in PS are:
    Polarizer
    Neutral density
    Infrared

    Those aren't B&W specific though...
  3. dxqcanada
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    dxqcanada Well-Known Member

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    Red, green, yellow ... PL, but that is not particular for B+W.

    Red darkens green ... leaves
    Green darkens red
    Yellow darkens blue ... sky

    < I am thinking in the B+W film mentality >
  4. talltexan
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    talltexan New Member

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    Thank you so much. I am very new to this whole digital thing. Yes I used to use the red , green , and yellow when I was shooting film. I almost always had a polarizer on. My thinking is that if I do more in camera then maybe I have les to do with the computer. That is my weak spot right now.
    Thanks again. Brent
  5. dxqcanada
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    dxqcanada Well-Known Member

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    Yeah, I have that same mentality also ... I actually avoid post-processing.

    If I didn't shoot it right the first time ... it wasn't done right ... well, I try to think that.
  6. Big Mike
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    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member

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    Don't fear the computer...embrace it.

    Look at it this way. When using a physical filter, you have two options. Filter on or filter off. Maybe you want to try a yellow one, then a red one...so have to change the filter, put the old one away etc.

    With digital, you just take the photo, allowing yourself to concentrate on the composition and the decisive moment. Then when you take the photo into a post processing program, you can apply all the same filter effects, but you have infinite flexibility as to what color effect, how much of that effect and even which parts of the photo you want to apply it to.
  7. Derrel
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    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    A few yeas ago, Dirk Vermiere did an experiment using traditional B&W filters on the lens,and compared the results to monochrome conversions done later in post processing. There is actually a **substantial** difference in the color relationships in the final conversions of RGB full-color captures which are then converted to monochrome in Photoshop.

    The difference is not slight, but substantial. Some things simply can NOT be done by rearranging pixels after the fact at the computer, like in-camera diffusion, in-camera soft-focus, and in-camera polarization. Any time there is an alteration of the actual *LIGHT* that comes into the camera lens and an alteration of the light that is used to create the "original" image data, there will be a different result between in-camera and pixel-rearranging methods. Far too much emphasis is placed on post-shot pixel-re-arranging in Photoshop these days. Many people have never even shot B&W film with any filters,and even fewer have ever attempted to conduct any experiments on the empirical results that will result if a filter is used over the lens when shooting digital captures. This would be a really good situation for some experimentation, I think.

    Red, orange, green,yellow are the traditional B&W filters of most common use with panchromatic films, along with polarizing filters. If one really wants to see the difference using filtration makes, it is probably best to conduct one's own experiments. B&W imaging is far,far different from color imaging. In B&W, the old axiom is, "A filter tends to lighten its own color."
  8. usayit
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    usayit Well-Known Member

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    I shot a lot of B&W over the years and leveraged filters to do so. Different B&W film are sensitive in different ways...

    The same is true for digital and thus the B&W filters do not always behave as you might expect. It is far easier and more effective to do B&W conversion post production in PS or lightroom.
  9. Antithesis
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    Antithesis New Member

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    Like others have said, colored glass filters are very easy to mimic, but polarizers and effect filters like derrel mentioned are close to impossible, if not impossible. I wouldn't bother spending the money on anything besides a polarizer and ND filters, but thats just me.
  10. talltexan
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    talltexan New Member

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    Thanks to you all. Definitely food for thought. I guess my next question would be. What is the best version of photoshop for a beginner? Without having to take out a loan:mrgreen:
    Thanks again ,Brent
  11. usayit
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    usayit Well-Known Member

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    Have you considered Photoshop elements?

    I don't have the latest version but even my old version was pretty effective.
  12. talltexan
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    talltexan New Member

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    Actually at this point I would consider anything since I don't have a program at all. Maybe I will start a new thread after I read up on the photoshop programs.
    Thanks everyone. Brent
  13. Dwig
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    Dwig New Member

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    There is far, far less need to use filters with digital than there was with film. Still, there are some filters that can't be replicated with digital post processing. Also, while there are a few situations where, even though digital pp can do the job, the results can be better when filters are used.

    There are many things to consider when making the decision. Filters always degrade image quality, period. Often, the degradation is trivial and not noticable, lost in the mix of other optical flaws (no lens is infinitely sharp nor completely flare free). The IQ loss from filters is most often at its worst when they are used on wide angle lenses. If you can replicated the effect in PP then its almost always better to do so, avoiding the optical filter.

    Some "filters" can't be replicated in PP. These are the non-filter lens attachements (commonly called "filters") such as polarizers, neutral density attenuators, diffusion and soft focus attachments, ... . To get these effects you must use the lens attachment.

    Some true filters can't be replicated. These are a group that have very narrow band pass spectra that are narrower than that of the filters on the individual photosites. The most commonly used such filters are the IR and near IR (e.g. Wratten #29) filters. The common light green, yellow, orange, and red (Wratten #25) can be replicated well enough to make using the optical filter a poor choice in almost all non-technical situations.

    With color images, the common range of light balancing filters can be easily replicated with the white balance adjustment in digital cameras. The only time that using an optical filter has an advantage is in severely low Kelvin temp lighting (2500K and lower) and you need complete color balancing, and then only if you can afford the 2-3 stop light loss of the filter. Digital WB adjustment in these situations requires extreme amplification of the blue channel, relative to the red and green, resulting is some nasty noise problems even at low ISO settings. This is because when shot at ISO 100 the blue channel must be "pushed" to the equivalent of ISO 800-3200, depending on how low the K temp, to balance the light. Balancing the light striking the sensor eliminates, or at least severely reduces, the need for electronic WB.
  14. talltexan
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    talltexan New Member

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    Thank you all for all the feedback. Dwig , I don't think that it could be explained any better. It all makes perfect sense.
    Thanks Again , Brent
  15. skieur
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    skieur New Member

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    Although I find that the black and white photos that I see on forums are usually poor quality, the absolute best work that I have seen is from using Silver FX, a nik software plug-in for Photoshop or Paintshop Pro. The tones, gradations, grey scale and contrast are outstanding, if the original photo has been exposed with reasonable accuracy.

    skieur
  16. NateS
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    NateS New Member

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    See this is a topic that confuses me a bit and the whole "you don't need color filters for digital black and white...just do it in post" is an argument I have a hard time siding with.

    I haven't done it yet, but might just place and order and do some tests, but here's my reasoning.

    I shoot a black and white landscape (with camera actually only capturing black and white). I shoot the scene and....of course, my camera exposes the scene which gets the foreground pretty accurate and ends up with the sky pretty blown. If I try to recover in post....I will be able to recover some since I shoot RAW, but there will still be a lot of data lost due to blown highlights in the sky due to exposing the foreground.

    Now, I throw on a .....let's say and orange filter. The camera exposes the foreground correctly and the orange filter is going to automatically darken the sky and let me have it exposed more correctly. I have less or no data lost from blown highlights in the sky and have much more detail throughout the image to work with in post...add a little selective contrast in post perhaps...maybe a tad of sharpening and I'm done with the image...and I have much more detail in the normally blown out areas.

    So I fail to understand how using a color filter when shooting pure B&W on digital wouldn't be beneficial just as it is on film.

    I'm planning to pick up a F100 and will be using color filters anyway, so I may go ahead and pick up a couple filters and test this theory out with my D90.
  17. skieur
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    skieur New Member

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    Actually you can replicate those filters using plug-ins for Photoshop or PaintShop Pro.

    By the way, a plug-in called Silver FX is the best for top quality black and white work.

    skieur
  18. Joves
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    Joves New Member

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    Well there is also Lightroom and, I believe that the Silver FX also works with that.
  19. Chris Stegner
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    Chris Stegner Member

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    Big Mike, I like the way you think. I understand people's emotional ties to "film" photography, and "I ALWAYS GET IT RIGHT in the camera, so I have no need for post processing" ideas. And I know that horse has been beaten to death here, but I just wanted to say I (and I'm sure others) respect your opinion and insights so it was nice to see you thoughts on computer editing.
  20. Dwig
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    Dwig New Member

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    No current digital camera can do this. All current models only shoot color; any option for "B&W" in the camera is merely an option to have the in-camera RAW converter reduce the image to B&W when converting the captured RAW into to a conventional RGB bitmap and then JPEG for saving to the card. This process is not different than saving the RAW image to the card and doing the RAW conversion and B&W conversion on a computer. A few cameras have a mated RAW conversion software package available for PCs (Mac or Win) that respects a B&W flag in a RAW files header and automatically defaults to B&W when performing the RAW conversion. Even so, the RAW file contains full color data.

    If, and only if, the camera's dynamic range in inadequate to capture the desired range of the scene and if, and only if, the filter's effect can adequately reduce the overall range to something that the camera can better handle would it be possible for the filter to be an advantage. Under such conditions the choice would need to be made whether the advantage of using the filter to reduce the range outweighs the possible image quality loss (chromatic aberation & flare, primarily) that can result from using the filter. In many cases using the filter would be preferable, but not all. Personally, I would avoid having the camera save as JPEG, opting to save the RAW, to avoid the loss inherent in the 8bit JPEG format before I would begin to consider the need for an optical filter.
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2010

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