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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
Papers For B&W
All inkjet papers can produce color or monochrome prints; it's not like film, where you needed color papers to make color prints, black-and-white papers to make black-and-white prints and special panchromatic black-and-white papers to make black-and-white prints from color negatives. With inkjet printing, you just choose a paper whose surface and weight suit your project. High-gloss surfaces work well for some subjects, while others look best on matte surfaces. Textured surfaces hide fine details, so they aren't the best choices when fine detail is required.

Red River; Moab By Legion Colorado Fiber Gloss; Ilford Galerie Gold Fibre Silk; Epson Exhibition Fiber

Of course, you should select a paper suited to your printer's inkset. If your printer uses pigment inks, get papers suited to pigment inks; if the printer uses dye-based inks, use a paper suited to those. Some papers work well with both ink types. Some paper/ink combinations provide longer life than others. Check the specs for those you're considering, and if several papers look good to you, pick the one that produces the longest-lasting prints (keeping in mind that manufacturer's specs might be somewhat optimistic). Wilhelm Imaging Research (wilhelm-research.com) offers objective appraisals of print life with many ink/paper combinations and other information of print longevity.

A collection of B+W filters
Black-and-white film shooters use color filters to adjust the relative brightness of color items in the scene. Color filters transmit light of their own color and absorb light of complementary color, so a color filter will render objects of its own color lighter and objects of complementary color darker in a black-and-white image. If you photograph red roses against green leaves in black-and-white without a filter, you'll likely get a dull gray image because the flowers and leaves both reflect about the same amount of light. But if you shoot through a red filter, the red flowers will photograph lighter and the green leaves darker, providing a more dynamic rendering. A yellow or red filter will darken a blue sky so white clouds will really stand out. You can also use color filters to adjust skin tones—green to darken them, yellow or light red to lighten them—and make blemishes fade away.

Singh-Ray Rectangular Graduated NDs
Most DSLRs have a monochrome mode, and in it you can apply in-camera color filter effects, but with many cameras these are applied only to JPEGs, not RAW files. And, if you use a monochrome digital camera (see the article in this issue), there are no built-in color filter effects, so you'll have to use real color filters if you want those effects.

Of course, polarizing filters work in black-and-white as they do in color, reducing or eliminating reflections from nonmetallic surfaces and darkening blue skies. Neutral-density (ND) filters reduce the amount of light reaching the sensor without otherwise altering it, handy when you want to make very long exposures in bright light. Graduated ND filters can reduce sky brightness so you can hold detail in both sky and dark foreground in landscapes.

Good filter sources include Adorama, B+W, Cokin, Heliopan, Hoya, Kenko, Pro-Optic, Singh-Ray and Tiffen.

Hoya 16-Stop ND; Adorama Polarizer; B+W Red Enhancer; Kenko Variable ND; Heliopan Graduated ND; Tiffen Graduated Blue


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