How to master black and white printing

Helen Bartlett stands next to a Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 printer looking at an A2 black and white photo print.
Family photographer Helen Bartlett explored the process of making professional black and white photo prints with a Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 and guidance from a Canon expert.

Helen Bartlett is passionate about family photography and shoots entirely in black and white for its timeless appeal. "It's all about longevity and pictures not just looking good when children are small, but when they're 20, 40 or 60," she says. "Black and white takes out the distractions of clothes and it becomes more about people, emotions, relationships and the story rather than about what they're wearing."

Printed images have always been an integral part of Helen's work. "At the end of the shoot, I want the family to have something tangible, whether it's an album or framed prints to go on the wall," she explains. "Having a physical print is hugely important. I want people to look at the pictures and use them. If I just gave clients a disc, even the most tech-savvy parents would probably just put it in a drawer and forget about it."

Helen currently has her leather-bound albums and framed and unframed prints made at professional labs, but is keen to explore the process of making her own prints using Canon's range of professional printers. She was invited to experience one first-hand at Canon's west London office, with expert guidance from printing specialist Jay Sinclair. Helen brought along a selection of files from which to print, and got to work with Jay. Let's see what she learnt.

Helen Bartlett and Canon UK printing specialist Jay Sinclair watch closely as a print emerges from a Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 printer.
Canon UK's printing expert Jay Sinclair advised Helen on how to produce great monochrome prints.
Helen Bartlett securing her monochrome A2 prints of children and families to the wall.
High-quality, large A2 prints are a great way to showcase your shots and give your clients an impressive physical product.
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Next was selecting the correct ICC paper profile using Canon's free Professional Print & Layout plug-in, which works with Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom and other image editing software, so will slot easily into existing workflows. All photographic papers have their own individual paper profiles, and it's essential to select the correct one. On the day, Jay and Helen used a range of Canon papers: Canon Pro Luster, Pro Platinum, Premium Matte and Fine Art Smooth. All Canon's paper profiles are included when you download the printer driver.

Helen's image files had already had post-production work done on them, but Jay opened them in Adobe Photoshop to soft proof them. Using the Proof Setup > Custom options in the View menu, Jay was able to preview how Helen's image would look when printed on a particular type of paper. He then adjusted the image so that the preview matched Helen's file, and saved it as a separate file. This is vital to ensure that the final print will look as you want it, without you having to make numerous test prints and laboriously adjust the image each time.

The final step was adjusting the image using Canon's Professional Print & Layout plug-in, which he explained was the only tool you need to print your images after editing. Jay opened Professional Print & Layout via Canon's Digital Photo Professional software. Working through the menus, he selected the printer, the type of paper, paper size, paper tray and print quality, and set borders.

One feature Jay highlighted at this stage was Pattern Print, which is a great way to fine-tune your print settings. By clicking on Pattern Print, he brought up a work layout showing 49 variations of the image, all at slightly different brightness or contrast settings. He advised printing this out on the same type of paper Helen would be using, then selecting the image she most liked. Inputting the brightness and contrast settings beneath that image would ensure that the final print would match that image.

Printing the image at A2 size on a Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 took around six minutes. Jay advised that Helen should view it using a lamp fitted with a 5000K (daylight) bulb, so she would see the print's colours accurately. He then outputted a number of Helen's images for her to view.

Helen Bartlett with Canon Inkjet Specialist Suhaib Hussain looking through an A2 book of prints.
Canon Inkjet Specialist and printing expert Suhaib Hussain joined the session to show Helen why the Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 is ideal for creating quality prints, on papers up to A2 size.
Helen Bartlett and Jay Sinclair scrutinise a printed contact sheet with thumbnails of the same shot with different settings.
A contact sheet printed using the Pattern Print option in Canon's free Professional Print & Layout plug-in enables you to compare variations of an image and choose the best to print at full size.
A black and white photo of a boy climbing bare tree branches.

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What to look for in a photo printer

Which Canon printer should you choose if you want to produce museum-standard black and white prints with rich blacks and nuanced greys?

"If you're mainly doing colours, the Canon PIXMA PRO-100S and the Canon PIXMA PRO-10S are phenomenal for doing semi-professional colour prints," says Jay. "But if you want to print black and white, I'd suggest the imagePROGRAF PRO-1000. The extra inks it uses creates a greater range of grey tones and richer blacks. It prints up to A2 size, and the recent firmware update enables you to print panoramic images up to 1.2m long."

Printing on the Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 is also cost-effective – Jay estimates the paper and ink costs around €5.25 for each A2 print. Canon's free software also helps with cost management as it tells you exactly how much ink is being used per print.

If you want bigger prints than A2, the same technology is used in larger format printers such as the Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-2100, PRO-4100 and PRO-6100.

Helen Bartlett inspecting her A2 prints laid out on a table.
Helen was delighted by the vibrant monochrome prints she was able to produce.
Jay Sinclair and Helen Bartlett sit discussing a set of prints of Helen's photographs displayed on a wall.
Helen confessed that she isn't very technically-minded but felt confident that after Jay's advice she could take greater control and produce photo prints just as she wanted them.

Escrito por David Clark

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