In one of my previous posts, I shared with you how you could set your camera to shoot in monochrome and raw. By doing this you could see the black white image in the LCD screen. If you can't, or do not want to use this mode, an alternative is to use the Tiffen B&W viewing filter.
What is the Tiffen B&W Viewing Filter?
Photographers use the Tiffan Black and White Viewing Filter when shooting for black-and-white photography. This is because the naked eye has a color bias and color makes it harder to distinguish tonal contrast. The colors that blend together when viewed through the filter will, likewise, show no separation when photographed. To a certain degree, the filter helps remove this bias and allows the photographers to better determine the contrast in a scene.
A little bit of history
Back in the day, photographers received a filter, called the Wratten #90 filter, as part of their course materials, when they attended workshops by Ansel Adam's. The Wratten #90 filter was a dark amber filter that handicaps the eye. This filter material is still available today. The filter removes all color information and leaves you with an image of just one color. This enables you to easily judge the effects of light and dark tonality within a scene. It is essentially a training aid to pre-visualising black and white images. The filter wasn't to be used on the camera lens but as an actual viewing aid held up to the eye.
How to use the Tiffen Viewing Filter?
With this device, you hold the filter up to your eye for about five seconds and then pull it away and then repeat. If you leave the filter at your eye for a longer period it becomes less effective. Your eyes automatically start to adjust for the effect and you see color again. With a little practice, it gives a reasonably good idea of what to expect in the way of gray tone values.
What you see.
You don't see the scene in black and white or grayscale. Instead, it gives you a yellowish, orange tone which filters out the color. You can then predict what your shot will look like as a monochrome image.
This may not be a great example, but this is what I saw when I left the filter in front of your eye (or the lens) too long. Hopefully, this image gives you an idea of what you might see in the way of tone values with this filter. I think the highlights were a bit brighter and the shadows a bit darker.
The jury is still out.
I feel like a newbie to black and white photography and bought this viewing filter to accelerate my learning curve. I read that once you start shooting for black and white, you only use them in the beginning and I have already started to see monochrome much easier without this filter.
I took a pair of my glasses with photochromatic lenses that darkened in bright sunlight the day I went out to use this filter. Surprisingly, these glasses actually worked about as well as the filter. On a sunny day, I would probably use these instead of the filter.
In the meantime, the jury is still out. I was not all that impressed, but I will continue to play with this filter and post a followup in a few weeks.