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Monochrome Effect Filters

For monochrome photography, often called black and white photography, a range of Filters could be used to improve the contrast in some situations and change the tonal representation of colours, allowing you to create a scene or images with more contrast between grey shades than you would without them.

The effect is to lighten colours that are the same or similar to the filter and darken opposites. 

Its easier to look at this by developing an example and exploring the effects.

First, by simply changing the contrast of one colour, we can the control of contrast in the sky. For example using a yellow filter darkens the blue, orange has a greater effect and a red gives it a near storm like effect. Making the blue sky darker also makes the clouds stand out, they have just enough blue to give them more detail and shape but are still white puffy clouds.

However there is always a second opposite effect, sometimes a benefit, sometimes not. The yellow filter also lightens yellow items, as well as darkening blue, useful on some occasions for coastal work, where perhaps you would like a light sandy beach with contrasting sky.  Now we have the holiday brochure shot, clean looking sand, summer sky, but without the filters, perhaps a muddy looking beach and sky that lacks anything of note.

In addition each of these colours yellow, orange and red, also helps progressively to see through mist. 

Lets take a different example to show how we can overcome a specific problem that is encountered in monochrome photography often, two completely different colours that produce about the same shade of grey.

A good example is that of a red rose, often it presents as about the same shade of grey as the green leaves around and behind it, making them all but disappear. So with no filter we have a mid grey background with mid grey items in it, not very exciting.

The solution for me is to use a green filter to make the greens lighter, and reds darker and now the rose will stand out. We could if we wished do the opposite and use a red filter to lighten the red and darken the tone of the green.

The green filter can also be used to improve skin tone in some situations.

Filters can be the same all over or graduated, from one side to the other, allowing you to selectively control the effects within your image. Filters also come in different strengths, and other variations, allowing you to mix and match what you have available to get the desired results.

This technique can be applied to anything, sky, woodland, flowers, beaches, cliffs, buildings, portraits etc....

Today you can still use filters on your camera to get these effects, but you may find that your camera has this built in. Examples that do include the Nikon D80 and D300 cameras, in these cases you can just select the filter that you want and it is applied digitally when the camera is in black and white mode. When shooting in Raw, you can turn this off afterwards and even get back to a colour photograph if you wish.  This is applied to the whole image, and cannot be used in a graduated fashion (yet).

Some editing packages allow you to apply the digital equivalent of the monochrome effect filters digitally to the image, and used in combination with masks, graduations and more this can provide many opportunities to refine the image further. These are likely to start with a colour image and create a monochrome one, while applying the filter.

Digital effect filters added in editing

(Minimal editing)

These images were produced using Nikon Capture NX2, further editing would normally be done to complete the image, but I wanted to just show the effect. Notice that the red in the skin is effected by the filter as well as the dress.

Left - Original colour photo

Below left - conversion to black and white with red digital fitter (lightens red).

Below right - conversion to black and white with green digital fitter, lightens green and darkens red.

See Also:

Filters Section

Filters and the Digital Camera

Effect filters   - special effects like stars, soft effects , netting and more.

Creating Vintage Images - Old Look Photos 

Monochrome Photography




Soft Images 



By: Keith Park Section: Filters Key:
Page Ref: Monochrome_filters Topic: Filters Last Updated: 03/2012

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