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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Gear Up For B&W

Quick guide to the essential equipment you need for taking and printing the best black & white photos

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Epson Stylus Pro 4900
You can print color images in black-and-white, letting the printer driver do the conversion, but will likely get better results by converting the image to monochrome yourself and fine-tuning it as desired, then printing the resulting image. You can always try it both ways to see which works best with your printer; today's printer drivers are very good.

Big prints do take some time, so printing speed is a consideration. Note that the printing times given in printer specs are sometimes somewhat optimistic. For example, a lower-quality setting will result in a much faster printing time (and a lower-quality print), so make sure you check the time for the highest-quality print. And the printing time is generally measured from the time the printer starts to print, not from the moment you click the on-screen "print" button—with large image files and slower computers, there can be quite a delay between clicking "print" and the printer actually starting to print.

Tiffen Dfx 3
As with color digital photography, for monochrome digital, you'll need your RAW converter and image-editing software, and you can use the same ones you use for color. If you shoot RAW with a conventional digital camera, you can process the files into color or monochrome as desired. And you can adjust each color channel—red, green and blue—independently, providing a lot of control over tones in the image—way more than you can get by merely placing a color filter over the lens when shooting the image. If you use a monochrome camera, your images will be monochrome only, and you won't have the three color channels to play with.

DxO Optics Pro 4
There are a number of software programs dedicated to monochrome, and these provide even more control, even if you shoot with a monochrome camera. These include DxO FilmPack 4, Nik Silver Efex Pro 2, onOne Software Perfect B&W 8 and Topaz B&W Effects 2, and for filters, Tiffen Dfx v3.

Nik Silver Efex Pro 2
A large part of black-and-white photography is contrast control, and digital provides great control through HDR (high dynamic range). Some cameras have HDR built in, but postprocessing HDR software provides much more control and capability. HDR can produce some creative, but unreal artistic effects, but it also can be used to produce images with detail from darkest area through brightest—far beyond what film can do. With HDR, you shoot several bracketed frames, then use the HDR software to combine the best of each—highlight detail from the underexposed image(s), midtones from the "properly" exposed one, shadow detail from the overexposed image(s). Many recent cameras have in-camera HDR; if yours does, try it, but combining the bracketed images in postproduction provides much more capability and control. Nik HDR Efex Pro, Photomatix Pro and Unified Color HDR Expose 3 are effective HDR programs.


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