Using Color Filters in Monochrome Conversions

by | Apr 21, 2020

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

Monochrome Month on the blog continues with…

Many Photoshop plug-ins that let you convert color photographs to black & white, such as Silver Efex Pro, also give you the option to apply the effect of applying colored filters to the monochrome conversation to make it seem as if you had placed a colored filter in front of your camera’s lens. If you’re new to the world of traditional filters for black and white photography, here’s a quick primer:

A yellow filter slightly darkens the sky, emphasizing clouds and is primarily used for landscape photography and when shooting in snow, can produce dynamic textures. An orange filter produces similar effects but skies are darker and clouds more defined. An orange filter can also be used in glamour photographs to produce smooth skin tones.

Look at the example: On the left is the original color image, on the right a green filter was applied during the monochrome conversion and it completely changes the subtext of the image. Using a red filter would have had a completely opposite effect.

The red filter produces dramatic landscapes with black skies and maximum contrast but in portrait or glamour work a subject’s lips may appear washed out. On the other hand, this filter can almost eliminate freckles and blemishes. A green filter lightens vegetation in landscape photography but doesn’t darken the sky as much as the red filter. With some portrait subjects, skin tones may be more pleasing but freckles and blemishes are more apparent. A blue filter darkens most colors and reduces contrast.

How I made this shot: I photographed this hot rod at the ColoRODans of Longmont’s annual car show a few years ago. Camera used was a Canon EOS 50D with the EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM lens. Exposure was 1/125 sec at f/7.1 and ISO 200. Image was converted to monochrome using Silver Efex Pro with a blue filter applied. The black and white image was then tweaked with the Glamour Glow filter that’s part of Color Efex Pro.


My book Creative Digital Monochrome Effects is still available from Amazon and (I think, anyway) is a fun read. There’s even a chapter on infrared photography. It’s available from them for $33.65 but bargain shoppers can pick up used copies starting at $2.07 as I write this. No Kindle version is available at this time, sorry to say.