In this video …

I describe what motivates me to make my images.

I celebrate the power of prints.

And I discuss why I choose to print with Epson printers, inks, and papers.

Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.

Find out more about Epson’s new Legacy papers here.

Alignment XXIII

Alignment XXIII

There are many ways to convert color images to black and white.

Here’s my preferred method.

1       Optimize Color

Start with an optimized color original; set black point, white point, and lightness; clear color casts; boost saturation to reasonably high levels; avoid clipping. Use Lightroom or Camera Raw.

2       Establish a Tonal Structure

Establish a tonal structure – the relative lightness and darkness of diverse image areas. For basic global conversions use Lightroom or Camera Raw. For advanced local conversions use dual adjustment layers – Hue/Saturation below Black & White.

(The primary goal of a black and white conversion is to set the overall structure of the tonal relationship in an image. During color to black and white conversions, you’ll be tempted to perfect the lightness and contrast of an image. Resist this temptation, if it leads you to creating too much contrast, loss of shadow and highlight detail.)

3       Enhance Global Lightness and Contrast

Enhance global lightness and contrast, the relative relationships of tone, after you establish the tonal structure, the fundamental tonal relationships. Use Curves.

4       Enhance Local Lightness and Contrast

Enhance local lightness and contrast after fine-tuning global lightness and contrast. globally enhancing lightness and contrast. Use a black and/or white soft-edged brush on an empty layer set to a blend mode of Overlay. Or, for more precision, make a selection, create a Curves adjustment layer and refine the mask.

5       Add Color

Optionally, add new color or restore some of the original color, subtly or dramatically. Use a Curves adjustment layer set to a blend mode of Color. Alternately, fill globally and/or paint on locally a layer set to a blend mode of Color.

Artistic License

How light or dark should an image be? How light or dark should a specific area of an image be? How complex should a toning solution be? While there are things to watch for, shadows that are too dark, highlights that are too light, posterization and solarization ­–­ there’s no right answer. It’s a matter of interpretation. Each image will require a different treatment and each individual will generate different results depending on their objectives and personal taste. And, those may change over time. And, that may be good. Here’s where the art of imaging enters. Once you master your craft, you can more easily express the things you want to express.

Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.

Learn more in my Black & White Mastery workshop.

Read more about Black & White here.


Looking for great books on digital printing? Browse this collection of my favorites.

From state-of-the-art inkjet pure and simple to hybrids that incorporate historic processes, these books cover a wide range of topics, offering a wealth of valuable information.


Find more great books here.


Half of the battle is knowing how to do something. The other half is knowing what to do. When it comes to making fine photographic prints, the road has been well mapped by our predecessors. One of the best ways to educate yourself about great print quality is to look at a number of great prints (directly rather than through reproduction). And, to keep on looking. Education, or enrichment, is a dynamic, evolving, lifelong process. Every time you look, sensitively with awareness, your vision grows. There’s always something more to learn.

A combination of elements (and their relationships to one another) is often evaluated when assessing print quality. Speaking very broadly, you could say, it’s all about believably reproducing detail. Focus, depth of field, high dynamic range, tonality, color balance, elimination of process artifacts all play a role. So do the selection of appropriate materials, scale, presentation and contextualization. There’s a lot more to it than you might think at first and though there are no hard and fast rules there are conventions everyone should be mindful of. There’s also a lot of room for creativity.

All of this is expanded and detailed in this free PDF – The Aesthetics Of Print.

Subscribe to Insights enews and download it free.

Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.

Why Make Prints ?

October 22, 2013 | Leave a Comment |


This is an excerpt from my article on Digital Photo Pro.

Why Make Prints ?

Making prints does so many things for your images. How many things? Let me count the ways …

They’re …


Prints enhance your images with material qualities and the associations they bring with them.


Prints define the scale of your images.


Historically, it’s the images that were printed that survived.


Because they’re physical, prints are easily bought and sold.


Images in print are more rare, as well as less accessible.


Prints encourage images to be viewed in different ways.

What Making Prints Can Do For You

When you make a print, you consider your images more carefully for a longer period of time and often multiple times. This adds up. It’s quite likely that along the way you’ll find many ways to improve your images. Repeat this process many times, and you’ll find that your vision as a whole will improve.

Read more on Digital Photo Pro.

Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.


Ansel Adams’ Clearing Winter Storm, 1944 is a particularly interesting photograph to me because of its complexity. It’s a specific kind of complexity. Like many other complex images, it’s made of a lot of separate elements but is still unified. Unlike many other complex images, it can be broken into many separate images, each complete compositions in themselves; four peaks in clouds, one vertical monolith in clouds, shadowed valley between monolith and peak, waterfall and peak, waterfall and two trees, etc. (Try finding as many separate compositions in this single image like this as you can.)

When you look at prints of Ansel Adams’ Clearing Winter Storm many assumptions about the medium, the man, and his work are confirmed and challenged. It’s neutral, perhaps even slightly cold in tone, which is appropriate for the subject. The tonal scale is high contrast and full scale, perhaps heavier than expected with very full highlights and it may be surprising that some shadow detail is not preserved. The large format original renders detail well, though there are traces of visible grain in light smooth areas. There’s detail throughout the image (deep depth of field, sharp focus, full scale printing); when it was printed this may have been the sharpest image quality possible while today it looks classically smooth in comparison to new high resolution digitally sharpened images. At 16×20” it’s a medium scale enlargement, not a contact, and could have been printed larger; that it wasn’t is an interesting reflection on both the man and his times. Print quality becomes not only a window into the past of the subject but also into the medium, which this man above all others epitomized for his time.

There’s a lot to be learned from looking at originals, which is why we look at masterworks from my collection in all of my  digital printing workshops.

Find my comments on other Masterworks In My Collection here.

Kim Weston shares insights from his life in the arts steeped in the history of black and white photography.

Read more in my black and white resources.

Learn more in my Black & White Mastery digital printing workshop.

John Sexton shares insights from his distinguished career in black and white photography.

View more in my conversation with John Sexton.

Read more in my black and white resources.

Learn more in my Black & White Mastery digital printing workshop.

Dan Steinhardt and Tony Corbell discuss their black and white workflows from input to output.

Read more in my black and white resources.

Learn more in my Black & White Mastery digital printing workshop.

Making prints does many things for you. To make a print you have to answer many questions. You learn a lot when you make a print. Realizing your vision in print means more than just making it real, it also means you’ll make many realizations about your vision along the way.

The new opportunities making prints presents challenge you to clarify and declare your intentions. What do you want to accomplish with your images? If your goal is to make an historic record you may be content with making a few, perhaps only one, possibly quite small, highly durable print that is stored and preserved very carefully for the future appreciation of only a few. On the other hand, if your goal is to expose the largest number of people possible to your imagery, you may want to consider creating an international billboard campaign now. How do you want people to interact with your images? Do you want to present your images as casual, everyday, highly accessible, utilitarian artifacts or scarce, highly refined, collectibles? The way you choose to print (or not to print) your images will get people to look at, interact with, share, and value them in entirely different ways. When you choose one thing you often have to let another go. If you choose many things simultaneously take steps to make the comparisons meaningful or you run the risk of creating confusing mixed messages. The things you make your images into will guide the viewer on a reenactment of your journey of discovery – and part of that journey of discovery lies in making and appreciating prints.

Printing your images also challenges you to clarify and declare your sensibilities. How do you prefer your images to look? What is the appropriate scale for an image – miniature, life-sized, or larger-than-life? Scale changes the physical and psychological reactions people have to images. They draw close to small prints and sometimes hold them or even carry them with them wherever they go; large prints immerse people in images that may fill their entire visual field until they pull back to view them from a distance. You can change a space or even create new space with prints. How will materials enhance your visual statements? Synthetic or organic? Smooth or textured? Uniform or irregular? Sharp or soft? Reflective or non-reflective? White, cream, or another colored base? All of these factors will have not just a technical impact on detail and color in your image but also on the psychological reactions their associations produce within the viewer. Inevitably, when making a print some things are gained and others are sacrificed. The sacrifices you are willing to make offer an opportunity to clarify your priorities. What do you want people to appreciate most about your images? Let this question be your guide as you first explore possibilities and later make decisions about how to present your images.

To answer the many questions making prints raises you have to pay attention to many details. When you make prints you are called to carefully consider your images and what you want to say and do with them. Prints also offer invitations for others to carefully consider not only your images but also your vision. Once you’ve made prints, you’ll not only understand your vision better, by extension you’ll understand other people’s vision better too.

Sure you can let others make prints for you. But you’ll be missing out on the opportunities they present to further clarify and resolve your vision. Even if you do it, really do it, just once, you’ll learn a lot.

Find out about my prints here.

Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.

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