I’ll be honest, I’ve not been a big fan of black and white for a while. I used to think that it was just a way to look “retro” and earn hipster points, that it took away from some of the skill of balancing the colours in a scene and was one of those dumb things that people might use to make any old picture magically transform into a “street” picture (well I know it’s a portrait but it’s in black and white, so it’s street right?) However, recently I’ve been experimenting a bit more after being challenge a bit by Eric Kim’s recent (not really that recent) post on why he loves black and white, and the realisation that a few of my favourite photographers seem to shoot in black and white.
With that in mind I’ve tried setting my Fuji x100t to black and white to experiment with shooting in Black and white only. However, I quickly came across an issue that I’m sure many beginners will face. What is the difference between the Fuji x100t’s black and white, black and white with a yellow filter, black and white with a red filter and black and white with a green filter presets? Well I did some research and experiments and I can now tell you with the help of some very basic test shots. I have a series of images in both colour, black and white, and the various black and white filters. Here is a gallery of the images, and I’ll have the filter specific images below each item.
Black and White
Let’s start at the beginning with the standard Black and white filter. As you might expect, this turns your images into black and white ones. If you shoot in RAW and edit in Lightroom, you’ll have a Fujifilm preset applied which you can change back to a colour filter if you so wish. However, if you shoot in JPEG, you’re stuck with your Black and white image.
The standard settings aren’t very high contrast but instead are low contrast and smooth.
What do filters do to black and white images?
In black and white images, a filter will help to draw out details in certain colours and obscure other colours depending on the filter chosen. This means you can produce more dramatic skies, bring more attention to someone’s skin or the leaves of a flower. Depending on your filter, you can produce very different effects, even if when you test them out at home, you don’t see that much difference (probably due to the low presence of the colour you are interested in.)
Fuji X100t Black and white with a Red filter
A red filter makes red (and some yellow) tones lighter and green and blues tones (the opposite end of the light spectrum) darker. This is the type of filter Ansel Adams used when he took pictures of Yellowstone. It’s great for getting dark field, dramatic skies and brightening then reds in an image. This means that it can lead to red’s being less noticeable with people’s lips for example. Seeing as red is a very common colour on the street, this may make it not the best choice for you.
So if you want to take a landscape like Ansel Adams, use the red filter, for street be careful.
Fuji X100t Black and white with a Yellow filter
Yellow filters brighten yellow and darken reds and purples. Their effect is pretty subtle but they can help to darken skies and show clouds more clearly as well as helping to make warm skin tones when taking a portrait and hiding blemishes as well. Seeing as it doesn’t brighten lips and reds this makes it a pretty good choice for street shooting. Plus you’ll still get your dark skies.
Fuji X100t Black and white with a Green filter
Green filters darken reds and purples but lighten greens. This makes them good for taking pictures of plants so that details can be drawn out, but it can make the sky brighter and lose details. A side note, I noticed that my wife’s freckles were more apparent when I used the black and white with green filter in my Fuji x100t. Something to note for portraits.
How to Activate Black and white filters on the Fuji x100t
If you want to set up the black and white filters in your Fuji, there are a couple of options. Of course, you can edit after the fact and use the lightroom fuji settings to change things. However, if you want to go around with your Fuji x100t set to black and white only and use the EVF to see in Black and white. You can do this in a couple of ways. One is to go into the Q menu and select the filter there. The second is to click on the menu, go to section one, click on the film simulation and set it to the filter you want.
A final trick you might want to try is setting your Fuji to film simulation bracketing so that you take a picture with a colour filter (Chrome is my favourite) and a black and white filter (or even multiple filters).
All of this is great in theory but really you just need to get out and shoot and see for yourself. Personally, I really like the black and white and red filter. It makes a lot of very dramatic images causing the sky to be darker and highlighting reds (lots of people in Poland like and wear red). However, the yellow filter works well too and I have used that for some images too. I haven’t found the green as useful for myself but that’s just me. I really recommend you get out, look at a scene, predict which filter will work best, then use all three settings and compare.
Also published on Medium.