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In this Foundations of Photography, Ben Long shows photographers how to develop a black and white vocabulary and explains the considerations to take into account when shooting for this medium. The course follows Ben as he goes on location and explains what makes good black and white subject matter and how to visualize the scene in terms of tonal values and contrast rather than color. Along the way, he demonstrates some exposure strategies for getting the best images. Back at the computer, Ben demonstrates techniques for converting the resulting photos into black and white using Photoshop and other imaging tools, and offers tips on printing and output.
I have another confession to make. I hate messing with color management, and I think that's probably one reason I really like black and white, because I just don't have to mess with color management. One reason I hate messing with color management is I just don't have a monitor that's good enough to profile. So maybe I'm just bitter about that. But for black and white, even if I had a monitor that was good enough to profile, it still wouldn't matter, because the way that I am going to print this black-and-white image does not fit into any color management system, so we can just throw any of those concerns off the window. I have resized my image.
I have sharpened my image. I am now ready to print my image. As we've already seen, I am going to be printing to an Epson printer, because there are very, very few desktop inkjet printers that are capable of producing a really good black and white, and currently inkjet printing is really the best printing technology out there for the consumer, or professional. I am going to go up to File and choose Print. I have installed the printer driver for that Epson 3000 that you saw earlier, and this is just Photoshop's normal Print dialog box. So, looking okay on the paper, I've selected the printer that I want.
I am going to hit Print Settings now. There are a couple of things that I need to do that are critical, and you may be thinking, "Well, I don't have an Epson 3000. Why am I watching this?" The steps that I am taking here are going to be true for any printer that you use. You are going to have to find the specifics for your printer, but you're still going to need to look for with these particular steps. First thing I need to do is tell it what type of paper I am going to be using. I am not printing on photo glossy paper. I am going to be printing say on Epson Ultra Premium Presentation Matte paper.
And on this particular printer, I have to be sure that I am using the Matte Black Ink. Now the printer, by default, prints in color. If you want to print in black and white and get what is truly a neutral print, you have to change the Print mode to Advanced B&W Photo. That's what activates its internal mechanism for calculating neutral gray tones in a print. Once you've done that, you have an additional option to tone the print. Now this is not as extreme a toning necessarily as what we were doing by hand in Photoshop, but I can tell it that I want it a little cooler, a little warmer, or outright sepia.
I typically leave that Neutral. I am usually not trying to tone prints. Once that's done, if I wanted, I could go in and tweak the Color Toning by hand, but we're just talking about basic printing. If you're printing on another printer, such as the HP B9180, which is also a very good black-and-white printer, you will have a similar step where you have to activate the printer's black-and-white mode. This again is what's going to allow it to create a truly neutral print. Once I've done that, I hit Save. Now that black-and-white mode that I put it in, that is a driver-managed color scheme that the printer is doing.
I know it sounds strange to talk about color scheme when we are talking about black-and-white printing, but it's mixing the other those gray inks and some color inks and some other stuff to make this neutral print. That means that I have to, in Photoshop, be sure that Color Handling is left on Printer Manages Colors. If you normally do use a color- managed workflow and you are used to having Photoshop manage your color, you need to be sure that you do not do that when you're printing black and white on your black-and-white-capable printer, such as the Epson 3000, or 2880, or Epson 2400, or 2200, or 3880, or any of those printers, or the HP printers that are very good at black and white, or the Canon printers.
Again, there are just a handful of these. You've got to make sure that you let the printer take care of the black-and-white printing. Now I hit Print, the print rolls out, and I take a look at it. Probably I will find it needs an adjustment here or there, but once you learn the specifics of your monitor, the specifics of your printer, you are going to be able to get a good printout in just one or two test prints. And I hear a lot of people say, "Oh, it's ridiculous. Ink is so expensive, and it takes me three prints to get the print right." All I can think is, "Wow, you never worked in a darkroom, did you?" Because to get a print right in three prints in a darkroom is doing pretty good, or maybe I'm just lousy at darkroom printing. But anyway, I think the way to think about this is, your desktop inkjet printer is not a substitute for the cheap one-hour photo place or the corner drugstore.
Those are definitely going to be the cheapest way to knock out quick snapshots and 4x6s and things like that. Your desktop inkjet printer is a replacement for the darkroom that you used to have in your bathroom where you were paying for expensive chemicals and paper, where you were spending a lot of time doing test prints, and where you were having to deal with hazardous waste disposal when you were done. The desktop inkjet printer is a very easy-to-use replacement for that that also gives you color, something you probably didn't have in your obvious darkroom. So if you think about it that way, you begin to realize, wow, this is a really, really inexpensive way to get prints, and much better than the corner drugstore, I have got complete control over them.
So think of it that way. If you're a little worried about ink prices, and I am not just rationalizing that away. I think that really is the model for what your desktop inkjet is. But be sure that you configure Photoshop properly; otherwise, it's going to send that black-and-white print to the printer and try and print it as a color image, and you are going to end up with a black-and-white print that's got a nasty colorcast of some kind.
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