Diffusion filters have become very common in video production, it gives you a less digital look and is almost considered a must own. I owned a Tiffen Black Pro-Mist filter for video recording for some time, but only recently started using it for photography.
Winters are very grey and cold in Denmark, and this winter was even worse because of the covid-19 lockdown. I used the Tiffen Black Pro-Mist filter to get excited about going out and shooting night street photography again. I have added the photos I took to this article.
There are many alternative to Tiffen’s filter, more professional video people use Schneider Hollywood Black Magic (more expensive), and recently released Moment CineBloom which is cheaper. I haven’t compared them, so maybe look it up before buying.
Tiffen Black Pro-Mist comes in a 1/2, 1/4 and 1/8. The 1/8 is less intens and the 1/2 is the most intens. I bought 1/4 and it’s the one I would recommend to begin with, the others have either too much or too less of the diffusion effect in my taste.
So how does the filter affect your images? The biggest difference is when you get bright light coming towards you. The bright light would normally on a digital sensor have a very harsh look, going from 100% white to the sounding background color quickly. Black Pro Mist softens it up, the highlights has a soft transformation, and it also retains more of the highlight information.
I found it especially useful in night street photography, where you often have big contrasts, bright ligt from buildings or neon light and complete darkness. It just makes it more pleasant to look at.
It gives you a little bit of the same look you get when shooting in foggy weather, except the “fog” is only where you have bright light in your direction. I love the fog look, and normally wait for months for a foggy morning or evening, now I can get the same kind of effect any time. I’m not a big fan of using it in daylight, it gives too much of a vintage look.
Analog film can also give some of the same effect (especially Cinestill 800), and I think this filter is perfect for people that like the analog film look but prefer digital because of convenience.
What about loss of sharpness when using the filter? It does make it less sharp, but it’s at an acceptable level. If that’s something you care about, you could merge photos together, one photo with the filter and only the area with the blooming highlight, and one photo without the filter and the rest of the photo.
If you are a Flickr user: I created a Tiffen Black Pro-Mist Flickr group, join it!
I recommend buying the filter. If you love night street photography, it’s a must!