Best Practices for Printing Black & White Photography

Best Practices for Printing Black & White Photography with Graeme Purdy

In today’s world, most of our images are captured digitally and remain digital. This is the modern way and there is absolutely nothing wrong with this. It avoids the cost of printing, is instantaneous and it’s great to share your photos. So why go to the trouble of printing when viewing on screens is so convenient?

It avoids the cost of printing, is instantaneous and it’s great to share your photos. So why go to the trouble of printing when viewing on screens is so convenient?

If I’ve taken images from a family event or any occasion shared with others, I often prefer to share the memories in the form of printed photographs. I’m not looking for technical perfection. Often a low-cost online printing service does a great job. These prints end up on fridges, beside the family PC or in a proud mother’s handbag. If your black & white images are crafted to stir a reaction from the recipient, to drive emotion, then what better medium is there than a black & white print?

First of all, I would steer clear of the mindset of “digital vs. print.” Printing Black & White is simply one presentation option. The better question is: “What am I trying to achieve with my black & white photography?” The wonderful thing is that printing can be both the end result in mind as well as a tool to create your final image.

One small warning: When you start printing, you might need to go through a learning curve. I certainly did. There are so many choices in printing processes and materials. There is the technical jargon to learn and then after all of that there are the inevitable surprises when you see an image printed out. To be honest, at first I found the process tedious, time-consuming and full of frustrations. I wondered why my lab kept asking me so many questions. I wondered why they couldn’t just print it like we can both see it on the screen.

After a long and eventful journey of discovery, I now shoot differently, I certainly edit differently, and I have a clearer sense of what “good” looks like (for my tastes).

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To read the full article, launch the digital version of the September 2021 magazine.