Improving my black and whites

I had quite a day today, improving my black and white editing skills and dealing with some fabulous paper.

It’s only recently been clear to me how important the choice of paper and printing skills can be.

We tend to think, buy a good enough printer and that side of it is done. But this past week I have been focused on improving how I edit black and white as distinct from editing colour photos, in preparation for learning how to print.

There’s quite a few photos Ive printed and thought afterwards that something is letting them down. That’s partly because we see the image on a backlit screen rather than on a pice of paper.

I’m trying to learn how to envision the image when it is sat on a coasted piece of white paper and edit accordingly.

I have to admit I rely on presets, or what Capture One is calling Styles, to set me off. That’s my start point for then thinking about how an image will look on, say a Somerset satin paper. 

I have also been learning about luminosity and really about the infinite malleability of light.

However, really good printers have only 3 or 4  grey and black ink wells. They do really good deep blacks but average transitions between greys and shades. 

I found when I was printing some not so deep blacks that my Epson was throwing the wrong amount of other colours into the mix to try to get the tone right. They looked purple.

There’s also something about paper that I am finding utterly fascinating.

Ilford have papers that allow you to reproduce the look and feel of older non-digital printing. The papers have a glorious velvet texture and a wonderful way with detail.

The pictures above, however, are  just try-outs with a regular Baryta paper from Marrutt. I use these at A4 for proofing before I print with the Ilford paper at A3+ (19 inches x 13 inches).

On the next part of my journey I hope to be moving away from pigment inks to carbon. but before I get there I am going on a training course in black and white printing.

I’ve edited these photographs to take out highlights. I find a white flower easily burns out and you need to reclaim some texture by reducing the highlighting. 

I’ve also masked variation in the background so that the flowers just stand out on their own. There is a boldness in the gesture of the flowers that I wanted not just to capture but really to enhance.

Anyway, above, the top one on the two over on the left is a warm tone while the lower is a cold tone. The next one is neutral and the one on the right is warm again.

Amazing what a difference it makes. But better printing is the next stage of the journey.



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