B&W digital & film processing & printing questions

Discussion in 'Beginner Questions' started by mary_harrington, Jan 5, 2010.

  1. After shooting b&w film for years and developing and printing in my home darkroom, I've been shooting digital since my son was born. I'm a single mother and getting into the darkroom is currently not an option. I'm progressing slowly in the digital work too, due to time constraints, but I'm happy to be shooting, and as he grows older I'll have more time.
    I'm looking for suggestions on the best way to print my b&w film negatives and digital images, and also need some information on learning Photoshop b&w conversion. I love the texture and depth of traditional fiber based prints.
    For digital: I'm a beginner with Photoshop, and am looking for some good tutorials on b&w conversion in PS. Also, what are the best options for printing (see also next question)?
    For film: I have a number of good negatives I'm interested in printing, that I didn't get to before my son arrived. Does it make sense (given time constraints) to have the negatives scanned, work them in PS, then send them out to be printed? I understand there are traditional printing methods available for digital negatives - where can I find a primer on how that works? Any suggestions on quality labs?
    Thanks in advance for your help!
  2. I take old black and white negatives to our local WalMart who print enlargements for me without any problem. I got rid of my darkroom equipment several years ago and this is much simpler. Perhaps local shop could do the same for you.
  3. Mary, I gave away my enlargers several years ago--printing is a joy but it's too much work and bother for me, these days.
    I still shoot B&W and develop my own film, though. I scan anything I want to print, and send the scans out to be printed. I've been using Adorama for that, mostly. Previously my B&W negs were printed on color paper, which was OK but not great--you know how beautiful a good print on fiber paper looks? The last series I sent to Adorama, though, were printed on a new option, "real B&W paper." I'm not sure what the process is, and the prints are a little warm-toned for my tastes, but they're really good-looking. Prices seem very reasonable to me, though I don't know much about it, and probably don't get more than 3 dozen prints a year, all told.
    Oh, Adorama has produced very nice 16x20 prints for me, from medium-format negs; I like that, too. I never tried to print that big at home. (Despite the old joke: "If you can't make a GOOD print, make a BIG print.) ;-)
    Anyway, a decent scanner can be had for the cost of a dinner for two; sending the scans to Adorama for prints is less than you'd wind up spending on paper and chemicals at home, and the results are quite good IMO.
    One other comment: I used Photoshop for years, but that got fairly expensive. Now I use a free graphics editor, "GIMP," which you can download for nothing. The interface is rather different from PS, so there's a bit of a learning curve, getting used to GIMP, but I like GIMP a lot, it's perfectly free to use, and I can use it on my linux and my windows computers--very convenient.
    Good luck! --Ken
  4. You have some options. There are some Epson printers that have multiple gray cartridges that you can use to get good B&W prints. You can also get your hands on a used printer that can take a Piezography ink set, but that has some logistical disadvantages. You can also send out prints - some labs that do digital-to-wet-process can do a decent job on B&W, and Adoramapix.com and a few others have dedicated digital-to-B&W machines that do wet process with real Ilford B&W paper.
    Scanning - I do my own but surely somebody's going to suggest a lab that does a good job on B&W scanning.
    Software - the best thing for going from digital raw to B&W is Silver Efex, though newer versions of Photoshop have a channel mixer that does a respectable job and Lightroom has some decent B&W tools as well.
  5. Adding to Ken's response, you can also download a version of GIMP that is supposed to replicate the format of Photoshop. You'd have to check out the website though--I've downloaded GIMP and toyed with some snapshots, but I've never owned or used Photoshop. So I guess someone else would have to make that call. A useless tidbit, unless you haven't already purchased the software.
  6. Thanks all for the responses.
    Andrew, most helfpul. After lots of internet reading, this site and more, I'm quite interested in the digital to wet process and will look further at that. I'm also checking out Silver Efex, I came across that elsewhere.
    Anyone else with comments along this line, I am most appreciative.

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