Depending on your own shooting habits and preference, you may perform more steps to optimize, or maybe less, but before any image goes out the door at my studio, I apply this 10-step process.
PRINTERS & INKSThe printer you choose can have a big impact on the quality of your black-and-white prints. While most of today's inkjet printers will produce acceptable-quality monochrome prints, printers that offer multiple monochrome inks in the set are desirable if pro quality is your goal. Printers with just one black ink rely heavily on the color inks to produce gray tones, and this typically results in grays with some color cast and reduced subtleties of tone. For truly neutral grays and an expanded monochrome tonal range, we recommend printers that offer inksets with three or more shades of gray.
Canon's PIXMA PRO printers are all capable of producing stunning black-and-white prints. The PIXMA PRO-100 uses ChromaLife 100+ dye-based inks, with three monochrome inks: Photo Black, Gray and Light Gray. Stepping up to the PIXMA PRO-10 or PIXMA PRO-1 will get you LUCIA pigment inks, with the PRO-10 offering three monochrome inks—Photo Black, Matte Black and Gray—and the PRO-1 expanding the inkset to 12 in total, with five dedicated to monochrome printing, adding Dark Gray and Light Gray to those found in the PRO-10. All three PIXMA PRO models can make prints up to 13x19 inches. List Price: $499 (PIXMA PRO-100); $699 (PIXMA PRO-10); $999 (PIXMA PRO-1).
The Epson printers that employ their UltraChrome K3 pigment inkset—currently, the Stylus Photo R2880, Stylus Photo R3000 and Stylus Pro 3880—produce excellent black-and-white prints, with three levels of black ink (Photo Black, Light Black and Light Light Black). There's also an additional Matte Black ink for increased black density when using matte and fine-art papers. The Stylus Photo R3000 and Stylus Pro 3880 even automatically switch between Photo Black or Matte Black, depending on your print settings. The Stylus Photo R2880 and Stylus Photo R3000 can make prints up to 13x19 inches; the Stylus Pro 3880 can go up to 17x22 inches. List Price: $599 (Stylus Photo R2880); $799 (Stylus Photo R3000); $1,295 (Stylus Pro 3880).