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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 a confession to make. I don't get all of this online photo stuff, Flickr and sending photos over Facebook, and all of that kind of stuff, but yeah, yeah, yeah I get that it's a great way to share your images with a lot of people, but I don't understand people who never print their images, because as far as I'm concerned, until trees have been killed and toxic chemicals have been squirted on them to produce a photographic print, until that's happened, your image isn't done. Now, that's not just me being old- fashioned and thinking in some quaint 20th-century idea of photography.
I believe that a well-crafted photographic print always looks better than an image on screen, for one simple reason, and that is the light that we're used to seeing, the light that we see in the everyday world, the light that our eyes are developed for, is reflected light. It's light that bounces off of things into our eyes, just like light bounces off of a photographic print into our eyes. When you look at an image onscreen, you are looking at transmissive light, light that's being shined from a light source directly into your eyes, and that light has very, very different quality.
We go out in the real world, we identify some light that we like, we take a picture of it, and to really recreate that reflected light that we see in the real world, we need to make a photographic print. If you've never seen one of your images printed, I would argue that you're selling yourself short. If you've only ever seen your images on a computer screen then you've only ever seen kind of a garish overwrought version of them that probably doesn't really look that much like what you had seen in the real world. There are a lot of different printers out there for making color prints.
When it comes to making black-and- white prints, things get a little more complicated because it turns out that black-and-white printing is actually a fairly complicated process, for a couple of reasons. The main one being it's very difficult to get a black-and-white print that's truly neutral, and by that I mean where the grays are really gray--they're not gray with a little bit of green cast or a little bit of a magenta cast. They don't have a colorcast of any kind. They simply look gray. While there are a lot of color inkjet printers out there, there are only a few that are capable of producing a truly neutral black-and-white print, and this is one of them.
This is the Epson R3000. It uses something called Epson's K3 Ink Set, and they make a few different printers with this ink set, and by the time you are watching this video, there may be more. What separates this printer from a non- black-and-white-capable printer has to do with the inks that Epson has chosen to put in here. So I am going to open this up here, so you can see the vast array of inks that this printer provides. You can see I have got a bunch of color inks. What makes this printer a good black and white though are these things here.
I've got two different blacks, one for printing on matte paper and the other for printing on photo paper, and I have two different grays. So these inks are combined to help me get a nice range of neutral tones. There's another thing this printer does though, that a less capable printer won't do when it comes to bring black and white, and that is that it produces prints that stay neutral no matter what type of light you're in. Whether I am looking at this under sunlight, tungsten light, fluorescent light, it will still always look neutral.
A less-capable printer will show a color shift as I move the print around from light source to light source. So again, there are only a few printers on the market that have these abilities, the ability to print a truly neutral print and the ability to print one that doesn't have a color shift, what's called a metamerit shift, as you move from light source to light source. Why do I need a black and white printer with all these extra color inks? Well, that's partly because I would like to be able to print color as well, but also it turns out that in a black-and-white print there's still a lot of color ink that's used. One of your concerns with any type of printing is longevity.
You want a print that's going to last a long time, that has archival qualities. This printer when you print on the right type of paper, you can get prints that will last a hundred years, maybe longer. And that has to do with the formulation of the inks. These inks are created from photo pigments rather than dyes, like a less archival printer would be. Also, for black-and-white prints, they will mix different colors in to get more archive-ability, to help reduce that color shift that can happen. So, black-and-white printing is a very complicated process, involving all of these different inks.
So when you are out shopping for a printer that's capable of doing good black and white, that's the first thing you want to look for is a printer that can printer truly neutral, without a color shift as you change light source. From there you move on to just the other things that you want to consider when you're looking for any type of printer. What size paper might you want-- how big might you want to go? This can go up to 13x19, and it can go borderless all the way to the edge of the paper. If you want bigger, you are going to need to go tot a larger-format printer. If you want smaller, that's okay. I can feed smaller paper in here. If you think well, I am never going to print 13x19, the fact is you are kind of out of luck.
All of the good black-and-white printers come in this larger size. There are also some networking concerns you might want to consider. This printers can be wireless, which is nice. They can be connected to your network through an ethernet connection, or you can go directly in through USB. Mac and Windows drivers are available, so it doesn't matter what platform you are using on. But again, when it comes to black-and- white printing, you need to be very careful that you're not just grabbing any old color inkjet printer off the shelf. You need one that's specifically capable of doing good black and white.
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