An A2 sized black and white print – Keith Cooper
by Dave Mobbs – February 19th, 2019
Over the years I’ve taken many landscape and architectural photos with the specific aim of making black and white prints from them. Sometimes I get to revisit an older image, such as when I was recently asked for a large printed version of a photo that I captured in 2004 with my 11MP Canon EOS 1Ds. To do so, I need to edit the picture and then print it on my choice of paper; even for black and white, my colour management choices matter.
Here’s the colour original, showing a glimpse of the Teton mountains showing through a break in the cloud:
One reason I’ve meticulously stored all of my RAW camera files since about 2001, is that I have always expected RAW processing and editing software to advance in its ability to extract picture information from my files. Of course, it helps if you carefully exposed your photos at the time and took all of the usual care with focus and composition. For images I wanted as black and white prints I’ve always adopted an ‘expose to the right’ or ETR approach, where you expose your shots to almost clip whites, but not quite. This pushes your image data into the brighter parts of the shot but has the advantage of avoiding underexposure and the risk of unwanted noise. Camera sensors have improved a lot since 2004, but it still helps to make images easier to edit for large prints.
Even though I’m going to be making a black and white print, I convert my image into the Prophoto colour space at 16 bit – I want to have as much of the image information available for my conversion to B&W as possible. For this image a simple black and white conversion sufficed. With old files such as this, be careful that your conversion to B&W doesn’t boost any of the channels too far, since it’s easy for noise to become intrusive on smooth, flat areas of the image. I’ve more detail about this in a blog that I wrote, about the whole camera to print process for a black and white image: http://www.northlight-images.co.uk/making-a-black-and-white-photograph/m
It turns out that the 11MP of the original file is more than I’ll get to work on, since I want to crop the image. To get good crisp detail on the Epson P5000 printer, I’m going to be making my print on, I want to print at 360ppi. The cropped image would make a 9”x6” print at that resolution, so to print at A2 I need a linear magnification of about 2.6x. This is enough that your choice of software for re-sizing is going to make a real difference. Here’s the difference in an area of detail between a simple upsizing and software such as Topaz AI Gigapixel (animated gif):
Once the file is edited and sharpened to a point I want to print, there’s a bit more than just hitting the print button.
To be sure about that tonality, I need to be happy that what I’m seeing on my monitor is reliable. That means profiling it with a system where I know deep shadow detail won’t be lost, so I use i1Profiler, with either my i1Pro 2 spectrophotometer or i1Display Pro colorimeter.
I also need to know that my printer will reproduce the tonality I want. With colour prints I’ll have created a custom ICC profile, but for B&W I want to use the printer driver’s ABW B&W print mode, where such profiles are not usable.
As part of my paper testing, I’ve a custom-built B&W printer test image. This has lots of features for checking B&W print quality, but I’m using a version with a greyscale test target in it. I can read this with my i1Pro 2 spectrophotometer mounted on an i1iO. You can use just a normal i1Pro if you want, but I’ve always been impressed by the i1iO robot arm in operation…
I’m testing a heavy 300gsm Baryta paper, which is a pretty neutral bright-ish white.
There’s more about linearising B&W prints and a free download of the test image at
The upshot of my testing was that for this paper, the print output was impressively linear, so I need make no adjustment before printing.
This time I really can just click print.
About Keith Cooper
Keith is an X-Rite Coloratti and commercial photographer and fine art printer based in Leicester, in the UK – covering advertising, architecture, interiors and industrial photography. His photos are often used in annual reports around the world.
The crucial element of his commercial work is a firm belief that photos should not only look good but, more importantly must communicate the message the client wants.
Keith also teaches, writes and lectures on photography, the business of photography, and colour management, to individuals and companies. One particular interest is bringing an appreciation of the latest print technology to high quality Black and White photography.
See more about Keith at – http://www.northlight-images.co.uk