Help needed please

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I am looking for alternative versions of the description for ultimate black and white print quality.

To put the criteria  of ultimate black and white print qualities in to words is a difficult task.

Here are a few that I have extracted out of my library.

B&W Printing, Creating the digital master print –  George de Wolfe – 2009 The master print displays a certain luminosity – prints that have an inner glow and presence.

The Print – Ansel Adams 1982 – The fine print is an expressive object of beauty, excellence and satisfaction. Assumed to have a full range of tones, clear delineation of tones and textures. It would be a catastrophe if all prints only met these criteria.

Silver Footprint – Robin Bell 2009  – British Fine Art Silver Printer see

A fine art Silver Print has a special quality which embodies a rich, tactile, atmospheric and sumptuous feeling.

John Blakemore’s Black and white Photography Workshop 2005  – The classic traditional fine print has a full range of tones and textures from white to black. The print will have a sense of brilliance that emanates from the print its self.

If you have come across any other descriptions of ultimate black and white print quality I would like you to share it with me please.

I am struggling with sRGB color space used on all websites. I am now lightening and reducing my pictures in contrast to show detail that I can very easily print on paper. Having been a darkroom printer then I transferred to digital but for the first five years only made prints without the need to post on the web.

Here below is the file created in Lr4 without sRGB soft proofing.

Detail is completely lost in the shadows next to the jetty.

A big hello to all the new followers of my little blog this week.

(c) Andy Beel FRPS 2012

15 responses to Help needed please

  1. I can’t help you in your quest Andy, but I just wanted to say that is one very beautiful photograph. I adore the pure blacks of the trees based around the outer edges of the horizon. There is something very beautiful about a pure black in a photograph.


  2. Andy
    I’m struggling to find something profound to say here. My only thoughts would be the very imperfections inherent in film and paper are its strongest appeal. Digital has proved itself for colour by surpassing film. But for monochrome the ability to be too perfect, is its downfall, in doing so it often becoming far too sterile. I have seen many superb creamy smooth grain free prints, that are totally lacking in mood and atmosphere. On numerous occasions I have been shown examples of the latest digital paper that is supposed to emulate the physical appearance of a fibre b&w print, but to my eye nothing can compare. The ink just sits on the surface of the paper, whereas a toned fibre print will exhibit a depth that is almost three dimensional. They are also examples of a handmade craft and I can connect with that.

    David Lingham


    • andybeel says:

      Hi David I completely agree that digital B&W can be very sterile because its too – everything – sharp, contrasty etc you know what I mean. This is why in a lot of my photography I strive to get away from this syndrome by using pin hole, IR, Lensbaby etc. Regarding digital fibre papers we are only in the first generation lets see what happens in the next five years. Thanks for commenting. Andy


  3. Monochrome is a substitute for colour by tone. An emotional response to the scene in front of you.
    Interesting comparison in the two images.


    • andybeel says:

      Hi thanks for commenting, Monochrome would appear to me to be a much more complex medium than colour due to its flexibility. I may not be saying that if I was really in to colour as well as B&W photography, a little knowledge being a dangerous thing etc. Andy


  4. A truly expressive black and white print allows the viewer to see through the heart of the photographer. To feel what he felt, to see what he saw and to experience the image in a sensual and complete way.


  5. “When looking at a high-quality black-and-white print, we want to see a smooth gradation to the highlight areas. This means that the diffuse highlights, those with some detail, have a tonal separation from the specular highlights, which will print paper-white. The middle gray tones must also have a definite separation between each tone; the shadow areas must be broken down into one black area with some detail and another area of total black. The darkest shadow area is the foundation upon which we will base all of our other tones. We need that area of true, saturated black to help define our tonal range.” – Bob Casagrande, “Better Black-and-White Darkroom Techniques” Blandford Press, Poole 1982. Picked the book up in a charity shop. Seems a simple objective description to me so may not be what you want.


    • andybeel says:

      Hi Stephen thanks for taking the time to comment. This quote raises a very interesting question – where do you draw the line between technical perfection and artistic vision? I feel to answer that question you first need to have the ability to produce technical perfection and have the vision to see beyond what everybody else sees to gaze in to the heart of the photographer and their personality. Andy


      • An interesting question. As to the quote, I don’t think it recognises any artistic qualities, the sort of thing a judge of a photographic competition would love – does the print meet these criteria? Yes! Then it must be good.
        I can see both sides of the argument and tend to think of ‘technical perfection’ and ‘artistic vision’ as two separate sliding scales that somewhere along the line cross, each relying on the other to produce a final outcome – and that mix doesn’t have to equal 1 (if you get my drift). I’m sure you’ve seen many technically superb pictures which provide absolutely no depth of vision, no artist input – essentially a technical exercise. On the other hand, there may be many an artistic vision realised without an iota of technical deliberation (accidental it might seem). Does either have more worth than the other?
        On balance, would I rather look at a technically perfect picture which doesn’t move me, or a one that does move me yet isn’t technically perfect? Well, in my case, I am drawn to the technically perfect, because I recognise the skill/craft and dedication that would have gone into the making of it. And non-level ocean horizons do my head in!
        On a personal level, I wonder if I strive for technical expertise because I lack the real vision a true artist has – though, in part, that’s probably down to lack of focus (if you pardon the pun).
        If you visit a church and see a beautiful flower arrangement, and the light from the stained glass is lighting it subtly, softly – caressing the petals and leaves with a gentle light and you decide to photograph it. Does it have any more or less value if I go to the florist for flowers and return to my carefully controlled studio environment, there I make a beautiful flower arrangement and light it in such a way as to show similar characteristics to yours and photograph it?
        I would suggest my photograph shows both artistic and technical skills – and yours, simply being in the right place at the right time. But to a third party, which is ‘better’?
        Sorry, I go on.


        • andybeel says:

          Hi Stephen my feeling is that I would rather be and work with people who have artistic vision. Those who seek technical competence will be able to learn it. The flip side of my last sentence is a much more challenging endeavour for those seeking creative awareness, perception and judgement.


        • ” I would rather be and work with people who have artistic vision.” – it’s unwise to work just with people who you cannot learn from – what a boring life that would be. Whilst I strive for technical perfection (as I see it), my major input nowadays tends to be artistic. Since I did an HE course a few years back, I’ve not visited so many galleries, installations and read so many ‘arty’ books in my life – I even watch the BBC’s ‘Culture Show’ – which would have been a real No No in my telecomms days.


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