Printing Fine Art Black-and-White Images

This is the ninth publication of a series in which I’m addressing the topic of black-and-white. The series include posts and videos that can be easily located by using the tag “learning-black-and-white” either in the search box above, or by directly clicking on the tag name at the bottom of this post.  Also, here is a link to the entire series so far.

I will start this post emphasizing the importance of printing in fine art photography. For me and for many galleries and collector out there fine art photographs have to be printed. You can’t aspire to sell your art as a bunch of electronic pixels to be seen in a computer monitor, or any other electronic device at least not now, and in my opinion not in any foreseeable future. The point is that the piece of art you sell is a print, from that perspective, you need to make sure that your prints adhere to the highest standards of durability, and visual quality given that it’s going to be an intrinsic part of the fine art piece you’re selling.

For example, in the case of black-and-white photography, nobody is going to pay thousands (not even hundreds) of dollars for an image that is printed with an inkjet printer on commercial color paper, and with probably some color cast (usually green or blue) on it, even if it’s a good image.

Fine art black-and-white images are generally printed using a fiber-based gelatin silver print process which is the industry standard. As a matter of fact, this timeless, classic process was used to print virtually all black-and-white photographs until the advent of color photography in the early 1970s. In terms of archival quality, there is nothing superior to this process, and contrary to digital printing, silver gelatin printing is a way to obtain a completely neutral image tone, without color cast.

The problem that many fine art digital black-and-white photographers have nowadays is that silver gelatin is a film process, so if you shoot film it is quite natural to use it, as a matter of fact there are many laboratories out there that will make the print for you, or if you shoot film chances are that you do the print yourself.

Now, if you shoot digital the problem is to find a laboratory that is able to expose Ilford silver gelatin papers directly from a digital image.  So, there are just a handful of laboratories out there (see links below) that can do this. My recommendation is that once you have an image that you consider a portfolio one, make first some testing printing in small sizes, see how it looks, make the adjustment you need to do, and then proceed to order the large sizes copies, as a matter of fact, some of these laboratories offer you small test prints when you order a large size print. Finally, when you get the large size gelatin print in your hands, I’m sure you will agree with me that there is nothing more rewarding that seeing your work on this beautiful true black-and-white, timeless, classic presentation.

Digital Silver Imaging


Thanks for staying with me during all this series, I do appreciate it. The next post of this series will be a video where I’ll show you how I crafted one my black-and-white images using the three-step process I described early in this series. Let’s keep in touch.

I do appreciate your comments and suggestions. If you are interested in more information regarding the making of my images, as well as general information about black-and-white photography, please subscribe to my blog to receive automatic notifications every time I publish a new post.

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