Film Questions about filters and film


Jul 24, 2017
What would be a good choice for a overall filter that I could use for BW photography in say a very sunny place? I like my BW pictures that I took in Tula, but felt I could have done with something to lessen the bright light a bit. It was a very sunny and open space with only wispy clouds in the sky. Or should I have pushed or pulled the ISO? Sorry, I have read a few articles about pushing/pulling but I still don't understand it at all! I am dense sometimes, what can I say!

My other question is, I find colour film, even my beloved Portra 160 does not do well for dark skin tones, anyone else have an opinion on this? I feel it leaves the darker skin tones a bit too red, it works beautifully for fair and yellowish skin tones. So if I have a dark/fair person in a scene, it is a bit odd. Just an observation.


Hall of Famer
Jun 20, 2012
Hood River, OR
B&W Filter: I hate answers that start with "it depends," but ... it depends on what you want to accomplish. You mention light being “too bright” or harsh, so besides metering really carefully (I’ll babble some on that below), a word about filters. Filters can only remove light, right? So the question then becomes, "which kind(s) of light would you like to lessen?" ND filters get all of it, just darkening the scene. That’s not what you want here, you could just stop the aperture down and/or crank the shutter speed to take normal photos. So all the OTHER kinds of filters selectively dim certain kinds of light. Polarizing filters reduce light coming in at specific angles, which (if done right) can have the effect of getting rid of glare, and of darkening blues in the sky if you’re facing the right direction. Red, Green, or Yellow filters selectively reduce everything but those colors, and there are tons of links out there showing the results with B&W film. I like red, myself. Here’s good old T-Max 35mm with a red filter on it. Note the dramatic clouds, the increased contrast. Might not be your look, but here’s what it does:

MF037 by gordopuggy, on Flickr

MF044 by gordopuggy, on Flickr

MF040 by gordopuggy, on Flickr

“Push or Pull?”: These refer to developing your film after it’s been exposed. Pushing your film means coming out with “brighter” pictures than you would’ve gotten otherwise, and Pulling is of course the opposite. The usual reasons people try to do this, that I know of, are either artistic… “I want prints that have whatever interesting look that comes from pushing this particular kind of film (more saturated, blown out, contrasty, whatever it does), so I set my camera’s meter 1 or 2 stops higher ISO than the film really is, metered and shot it that way (too dim), then had the developer push it that many stops to get the levels back to ‘normal.’” Or, it could be a practical solution… “I’m shooting the fastest film I can find, indoors at a dim concert, but it’s still pretty dark, so the developer can push the film 1 or 2 stops to brighten the final images, even though it comes with some quality tradeoffs.” The gist here is that you really shouldn’t need to do this, based on your setup. You should be able to just expose it correctly, and develop normally. If it’s really harsh out, and your highlights are blowing out (shiny foreheads on peoples’ faces, no details in the sky), then just expose 1 or 2 thirds down from what you normally would for that shot.


Jul 24, 2017
Thanks, this helps. I love the skies in your pictures, lovely images! I will read your reply on pushing/pulling a few times to get it, it takes me awhile.


Jul 7, 2010
A "Medium Yellow" Y2 or Y48 filter is a good general purpose filter for outdoor B&W. This will reduce the exposure by about 1 stop, a Deep Yellow, Y3, Y52- a little more.
Last edited:

Steve Moorhouse

New Member
Mar 13, 2018
Milton Keynes UK
Dr Steve Moorhouse
When I was shooting B&W (many years ago now) I almost always had a yellow x2 filter as a permanent fixture on my lens. This helps to darken skies and differentiate between tones. On occasions I would use a red (x4) filter to get a more dramatic sky.

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