Filters for Sky Effects in Black and White Photography

Filters for Sky Effects in Black and White Photography

  • In black and white photography, obtaining suitable sky effects requires using filters that absorb blue light, since the unclouded sky is blue. By absorbing blue light, the filter causes the sky areas to print darker than they otherwise would. Filters suitable for this purpose include the various shades of yellow, orange, and red. The effect is moderate with yellow, more obvious with orange, and very strong with the reds.

  • It is not always necessary to use filters to show a satisfactory gradation of sky tones, or a dramatic and detailed rendering of clouds. If the atmosphere is very clear, the blue of the sky will probably be deep enough to reproduce as a pleasing shade of gray, without any filter. Also, if there are large and significant areas of white or brilliantly reflective surfaces in the general scene, the blue sky portion will be relatively less bright. The sky will then be printed as a light or middle gray simply because the negative has received less exposure than the lightest areas of the scene. In this instance, the use of filters might then render the existing shades of blue too dark in the print for the pictorial purpose.

  • On the other hand, should the blue sky appear very pale and full of glare, a deep red filter might be required to produce significant change of gray tone in the sky areas of the print. You might then expect that areas of green vegetation in the foreground of such a scene would photograph very dark under strong red filtration, were it not for the Wood effect. With most such vegetation, the deeper red the filter, the lighter the vegetation will appear in print, relative to other tones. However, the effect is not equally strong in all types of vegetation, so anyone intending to do serious outdoor photography should test for the effect on various types of foliage common to the area.

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