Pro Black & White Printing

ICC stands for International Color Consortium. Every printing and viewing device has its own ICC profile, which maps out colors and tonality. In this way, a color from a monitor can be accurately correlated to a printer so the colors in your print are the same as what you saw on your monitor. (For more information about ICC profiles, visit the ICC website at

Larry Abitbol from Bay Photo agrees that monitor calibration is an important first step for the advanced photographer, but Bay Photo can use files in an sRGB or Adobe RGB viewing profile and typically don’t run into much of a problem. “We try to not overcomplicate it for people,” he says.

Abitbol points out that Bay Photo, like many pro labs, offers color-correction options, which around 60% of their customers utilize. “We actually have a human looking at them and adjusting the files before going to print,” notes Abitbol. “Our guys are incredibly experienced. Landscape photographers kind of like to do their own. Usually, they won’t have us do that because they’ve formulated what they need. But in wedding and portrait, many of those photographers will allow us to do it so they all match.”


The actual conversion process from color to black-and-white can trip up a print. It’s important to have a completely neutral-toned image (unless you’re going for a colorized monochrome). In fact, Abitbol says that it’s the most common problem Bay Photo runs into.

“They’ve left some color in there, and those are difficult because they can have variations and tones that they might not be expecting,” explains Abitbol. “Some photographers leave them in there to begin with as an effect. We have no idea. So we can’t pull out that remaining color because we don’t know what it’s supposed to be.”

Bay Photo’s ROES software offers a single button that will automatically convert the image to a true black-and-white. WhiteWall offers similar software that provides filters and basic editing so those less experienced in Photoshop can still have an easy and positive experience with printing.

Goethe says 300 dpi images are best for high-resolution printing, and WhiteWall uses an indicator within their upload software to ensure the image has a resolution necessary for the selected print size.

Abitbol says that the original file is usually the best file when it comes to image size. “Reducing file sizes or even increasing file sizes can basically damage the file or lose information rather than putting information in,” he says. “So you want to try to stay as true to your original file as possible. It could be a bit of sharpening or a little bit of retouching, a bit more dramatic special effects or whatever, but do that and do that once. Then use that file. Try not to oversize or change resolutions too much.”

Now that you’ve read some tips from the pros, are you ready to submit your images to the Black & White photo contest?

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