Articles, reviews and tutorials about photography
Home About us Commercial Photography Print Gallery Articles/reviews/blog  
 Was our site of help?
Please buy though our links
Visit Keith's G+ page
Page contents

B&W printing - DeWolfeBook Review
Digital Masters: B&W printing
by George DeWolfe

Keith Cooper reviews a 'guide to producing exhibition quality black and white prints'

There are relatively few specialist books addressing advanced digital Black and White photography. It's more usually covered as just one aspect of learning digital, in the "why not try B/W for a change?" style.

I've been looking for books that will specifically address issues relating to black and white, so was pleased to see a title aimed squarely at producing B/W prints.

So, how does it do, and is it something you can learn from?

Digital Black and White

Looking back on my own photography, I can definitely say that moving to digital has worked wonders for both technical and artistic aspects of my photography.

There are plenty of related articles and reviews on this site, with significant B&W content, but I'm always looking to learn more.

digital black and white logoFYI: I've set up a LinkedIn group (~6800 members) for people interested in all aspects of Digital Black and White photography: Digital Black and White

What did I find in George DeWolfe's book?

Well, first up, relatively little about the mechanics of making high quality prints - a few pages about printer choices, ink and even paper.

What you do get is a thoughtful approach to creating the image files that will make your prints.

Starting with aspects of perception, the author moves through elements of image editing and processing to get to a point where you can print (and evaluate) your work.

The quality of illustrations and reproduction makes the book one that you can learn much from, even just looking through the pictures. It has a good selection of photographs from the author and others to illustrate various concepts and their execution.

If you use Adobe Lightroom, then the section on workflow will be particularly relevant, and even if like myself, you don't use it, then there are many important aspects of workflow design that transcend software choices.

I found it a little heavy handed in promoting particular software solutions in places (including one the author himself sells). For example, I'm nowhere near as enamoured of the expensive ImagePrint RIP he chooses for printing, but as someone who gets to review some of the latest printers, I realise how quickly such things can change and date.

However, with any book like this you need to be able to rise above the precise hammer that author chooses and think more about why a hammer is suggested.

I noted this in the 'How to design a workflow' sidebox (p.67) and would agree...

  • "Continue to change methods as technology changes without redesigning the basic concept of which features need to be addressed when: simply adjust the way you manipulate them with any new tools made available to you."

I currently like to use Nik Silver Efex Pro when producing my B&W prints - it's not changed what I'm trying to do, just made some aspects easier and (to me) more intuitive (it includes some aspects of localised contrast enhancement not dissimilar to the Perceptool software sold by the author).

You are reading a book by an excellent photographer about things that are important to him - this doesn't always make it an easy read. For myself, I could do without comments such as where the author describes an image as:

  • "...a masterpiece beyond many photographers comprehension" (p.73).

If you're looking for a 'cookbook' approach, then I suspect that many would be disappointed - this is a book where you have to think. There are, for example, a whole series of perceptual exercises that you should try, if only to help realise some of the limitations and capabilities of our own perception of monochrome images.

Fortunately this is not a vastly expensive book, so despite some of my personal gripes, I'm happy to recommend it, since it made me think - even if I didn't quite agree with it all.

Please feel free to add Comments/Questions below or via our blog

Buying the book

The book is listed at Amazon US and UK

We make a specific point of not selling hardware or software, but if you found our articles of help, please consider buying something (anything helps) from Amazon.
Amazon UK link / Amazon Fr / Amazon De
Amazon USA link / Amazon Canada link

Book details

Review History - first published July 2011

Some B&W info on this site

Add your comments and questions
comments powered by Disqus
The views in this article represent those of Keith Cooper.
Keith is always happy to discuss matters raised in his articles. You can Email Us Email Us
Northlight Images prides itself on its independence when giving advice. We do not sell hardware or software and have no direct commercial links with any of the software or hardware vendors that may be mentioned here. See our Review Policy for more information.

You can search all the many hundreds of articles and reviews on the site for more information

Have you found an article on the site useful or helpful?

If so, please consider sharing a link to the article or mentioning it on a forum or blog - Thanks to everyone who's helped the site become better known.

Explore our site... Digital Black and White photography and printing - some of Keiths thoughts, techniques and tips for those interested in a digital approach to black and white. There are many hundreds of entirely free articles and reviews on the site. New site content appears on the News, articles and reviews page.

Thanks to the visitors who've made Amazon purchases (any kinds of items whatosever)
via: Amazon UK/Amazon France/Amazon Germany/Amazon USA/Amazon Canada
It won't save extra money we're afraid, but it does help in the running of the site, and we really appreciate it...

Northlight Images is based in Leicester in the UK and supplies Commercial Photography services
Visiting Leicester or wondering where it is? We have views from the Leicester traffic cameras.