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Digital Black and White

Our specialist black and white digital photography page

We've lots of articles on this site covering black and white digital photography and other monochrome issues. There are also many Black and White Photos in the Gallery

If you are just starting out with digital black and white, then this particular article may be of interest:

Black & White digital photography- an Introduction

This page is a reference point for all our digital black and white photography related articles and reviews. It covers all aspects from taking photos for b&w use, processing and editing them (converting colour to b&w) and producing black and white prints. Articles listed here are those with significant sections dealing with aspects of black and white photography.

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We are happy to consider guest articles and reviews - if you are interested, please have a look at our article submission guidelines.
Keith gets our all his UK used camera equipment and lenses from: mpb lenses
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Why Black and White

There is a resurgence in interest in black and white photography. I'm reminded of this quote from someone who's original work, and ability to explore new techniques I admire:

  • "I eagerly await new concepts and processes. I believe that the electronic image will be the next major advance. Such systems will have their own inherent and inescapable structural characteristics, and the artist and functional practitioner will again strive to comprehend and control them."
  • - Ansel Adams
    forward to his book "the Negative", published January, 1980

specialist BW test imageBlack and White Photography

The image to the right is a special black and white printer test image.

Keith Cooper has created it to test the quality of black and white printing.

This is the latest (2014) version of our standard black and white printer test image (below), first published in 2005

The new test image incorprates a number of features designed to make it more useful in testing and then improving monochrome print output.

Many features are also directly copied from the old version so as to maintain compatibility with exisiting test prints.

Black and white printer test imageIt's quite a harsh test, but covers most areas where printers have difficulties, such as shadow detail, colour casts, and linearity.

All the various parts are explained and an A4 300ppi sized version is freely available for download.

There are versions with a 51 and 21 step greyscale ramp available for creating QTR 'correction' profiles.

In 2016 an updated version, with a slightly different test strip was produced, to work directly with the X-Rite i1iO robot arm for the i1Pro/Pro2 spectrophotometers. This is available in 8 and 16 bit.

Black and White photography articles on this site

Making a large B&W print - Looking at the whole process, from photography to printing, Keith shows how he produced a 22" x 43" wide angle view of the harbour at Staithes in N. Yorkshire. Includes details on image stitching, B&W conversion and using masked adjustment layers. [September 2016]

Making a picture - from idea to print - A look back at all the stages of making a large black and white print. Includes all the other photos taken at the scene, and why one particular view 'worked'. Also covers the editing and print preparation techniques used. [February 2013]

Re-using the zone system? - Does the Zone System still have a place in today's digital black and white photography? Keith looks at aspects of his own approach to B&W photography and considers how some elements of a technique first developed over 70 years ago may still have relevance. [August 2012]

Choosing a basic printer for black and white - what are the options? [January 2012]

3 (9) quick tips for better B&W - Some brief thoughts after Keith was asked for some B&W photography tips [September 2011]

Black and white photography - thoughts and influences
From a specialist black and white photography magazine article, this extended version discusses some of Keith's thoughts about his approach to black and white landscape photography. [September 2010]

Black and white printer choices
From a short Summer 2010 magazine interview. Keith discusses some of his current choices when it comes to printers, paper and ink for digital black and white printing. [June 2010]

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Digital Black and White Photography.
In 2007, Keith was interviewed about digital black and white photography for a magazine article. We have an expanded version here covering some of his thoughts, techniques and tips for those thinking of trying out black and white. Hopefully also of interest to those with black and white film experience, still looking at moving to digital [September 2007]

Printing your black and white photos
In part two of the interview, Keith discusses his approach to printing his black and white photographs. Covering such things such as printer, ink and paper choices. [September 2007]

Jane Fonda and Me... A print from previously unseen photographs taken on the set of the making of Barbarella in 1967 - points out how producing prints from scanned film needs different techniques to images from digital cameras. [June 2009]

All Digital -Two years on
Keith has been back in Colorado, and has written a short article discussing some of the changes in his photographic technique over the years. It has examples of some new black and white prints, including details about how they were taken, and some of his thinking during the process of going from a colour raw camera file to an image for printing as a large black and white print.

A 35mm film based black and white landscape photographer tries digital
Keith moved from film to digital capture for his landscape work. This article was written at the time and gives some comparisons and results, along with some of his first impressions. Since writing it, he has not actually shot any more film at all...

A Digital only trip to Colorado
This second article covers Keith's first serious use of the Canon 1Ds for landscape work. It reference various pictures on this site and discusses how going digital has affected his photography, both black and white and colour.

A Wyoming landscape, showing how different methods for converting from colour to black and white give subtly different results.

Wyoming landscape

If you move your mouse over the image you can see some of the different effects produced by different B/W conversion methods. this is from Black and White digital photography - an Introduction

General Photography - with relevance to Black and White

Digital's Analogue
Robert Fisher looks at why HDR, the zone system for black an white and ETTR are actually rather similar.

Black and White image manipulation tools and techniques

MacPhun Tonality Presets
Keith's 'City Light' presets for the MacPhun Tonality Pro plugin. Developed for architectural images when converting from colour to B&W. Before and after examples, and how they differ from 'straight' B&W conversions. Also using them as a luminance adjustment for colour images. [June 2016]

Macphun Tonality Pro
A plugin and standalone application for producing black and white images from colour. Editing features include masked adjustments and layers. Tested in Photoshop. Layers work for Aperture and Lightroom. [July 2014]

Macphun Intensify Pro
A Mac application and plugin that gives a wide range of adjustments and enhancements for images, and includes maskable layers for additional refinement. Tested in Photoshop. Layers work for Aperture and Lightroom. [May 2014]

Topaz B&W Effects
A review of the B&W Effects plugin from Topaz Labs. Conversion of colour images to a range of black and white styles. Includes ability to fine tune and mask adjustments [November 2013]

Taming contrast enhancement halos with Silver Efex Pro - Although Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 is a great tool for creating black and white images, it's quite easy to generate halos and other artefacts around objects. Keith looks at how multiple applications of the plugin can help. [February 2013]

Nik Silver Efex Pro V2
Review of the latest specialist black and white conversion plugin from Nik Software.

Nik HDR Efex pro
Review of Nik's HDR image processing software. Examples concentrate on a realistic approach and use of HDR for night-time black and white shots.

Using the 7D at night
A short article written as part of Keith's testing of the Canon 7D. It includes some tips for optimising RAW conversion for noisy high ISO images.

Removing unwanted colour tints in monochrome printing
The effects of different lighting on some B/W prints [January 2011]

Producing a black and white print
An article describing the full process Keith went through in producing a black and white landscape print. From taking photographs, through editing the image and final printing. Includes a downloadable version of the original colour image as an example to work on. [May 09]

Nik Silver Efex Pro
Provides a wide range of colour to black and white conversion options and effects. Includes accurate film emulsion and grain simulations, and selective tools for enhancing different aspects of the resulting images. [December 08]

Power Retouche Black/white studio
Review of a Photoshop plugin giving a wide variety of effects when converting images from colour to black and white. Includes film types and the ability to selectively alter 'zones' of images.

Convert your 8 bit RGB images to 16 bit before converting to black and white?
If you are going to be doing much in the way of image manipulation (curves etc) to your black and white image, it may be better to convert your 8 bit colour images (such as JPEGs) into 16 bit colour first. Sometimes 8 bit RGB can be equivalent to 10 bit greyscale. It sounds a bit odd, but there are differences and they -might- make a difference to your final prints.

Black and White digital photography - an Introduction
The basics of producing high quality black and white photographs from your digital camera. Lots of examples give a feel for the different ways you can try, and some ideas for your own work. An extended version of an article that Keith first wrote for Canon in their CPS magazine (see picture above)

Converting Colour images to Black and White
A large collection of examples showing the many different ways of converting a colour image into Black and White. There are lots of subtle differences that can produce more satisfying results than simple desaturation (turning the colour down :-)) As yet, there are no true black and white digital cameras, so for best results you need to do the conversion yourself. The good news is that this gives you many more creative possibilities, and you can use any camera for digital black and white.

Photoshop Elements - removing colour casts and converting to black and white
Two more examples from Keith's free tutorials and introductory courses. These examples cover correcting colour casts caused by bad lighting and an introduction to getting black and white from colour. Although written for PS Elements, they are relevant for many other image editing applications.

Convert to BW Pro 3
A review of the latest black and white conversion photoshop plugin from 'TheImagingFactory' The software allows you to simulate many conventional black and white darkroom techniques, including different film stocks and grades of print papers.

line them up - drinks at a bar EF14mm 1DsMk3

1Ds Mk3, EF 14mm 2.8L II, ISO 3200

Black and White Printing - articles and reviews with B/W related content

Most printer reviews below have significant sections devoted to B/W print quality and techniques.




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B/W related links on our main photo info page

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Many thanks to anyone who has helped our site - Keith


digital black and white logoKeith runs a LinkedIn group (~7900 members) for people interested in any aspects of modern Black and White photography: Digital Black and White


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street scene in Seattle

Keith Cooper with Canon iPF6300 printer

Keith Cooper with a test print, created during our review of the Canon iPF6300 printer

display calibration and profiling

Print on viewing stand from Keith's
'Making a black and white print' tutorial

colorchecker passport

Measuring black and white print linearity

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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.

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