Monday, December 17, 2012

Master B&W Printing

Making a great black-and-white print starts with successful exposure and processing, but it doesn't end there.
DPMag Published in Printing
Master B&W Printing
This Article Features Photo Zoom
A safe bet is to use papers from your printer manufacturer, but there are some excellent options from companies that specialize in photo papers, such as Hahnemühle, Ilford and Moab, that you ought to explore. Most sources offer a sample of their papers you can try to see which you prefer.

Here's something you might have overlooked. Setting a printer driver may not be the pinnacle of photographic excitement, but it's really important, especially if your printer offers specialized settings for black-and-white.

Here's an example of a very basic, but useful test print technique. We divided the image into five equal zones. We chose vertical strips rather than horizontal so that each zone would have similar, comparable content. (For some images, depending on the subject and composition, horizontal strips may work better.) Then we adjusted the Brightness of each zone as follows, from left to right: +150, +75, 0, -75, -150. Printing this image lets us see what the final result will be with our ink and paper combination. You can work this technique on a gradient, meaning if you prefer -75 Brightness, but think it's maybe a little too dark, repeat the process with settings like -25, -35, -45, -55 and -65 until you feel like you've dialed in the right setting.

At the most basic, you should check that you've set your printer to its highest-quality setting and selected a paper type that most closely matches the paper you're using. Photo printers designed for enthusiasts and professionals usually will have even more controls to fine-tune their output. It's worth your time to review your printer's user manual to be sure you're taking full advantage of the printer driver.

Even with a well-calibrated system, what you see on screen is going to be different from what you see in print. A backlit screen is always going to have more pop than a print. The adjustments you've made to your image to prepare for printing—brightness, contrast, shadows, highlights and the like—may look great on screen, but not translate as well in print.

Make some test prints. One of our favorite techniques is to divide an image into sections, apply different adjustments to each section and then compare the results in the final print. This does add an extra step to the workflow, but it's worth it. It may end up actually saving you time, as well as ink and paper. You'll want to do this for every combination of image, ink and paper.

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