Thursday, November 8, 2012

Recreating Classic Black and White

Early Eastman Kodak Camera
It has been 120 years since the Eastman Kodak Company introduced the first consumer cameras and film. For the first half of that period, most consumer photography was limited to black and white. Classic black and white prints have a crisp, clear quality that is seldom matched by contemporary printing methods.

A classic black and white photographic print is produced by exposing an image on a sheet of paper coated with a light-sensitive silver halide emulsion. Where light reaches the silver halide crystals, they are converted to metallic silver. Chemical processing then develops the metallic silver into the dark areas of the print and washes the unconverted silver halide away.  The silver that remains in the image generates the crisp image that we expect in classic black and white prints.

In the 1960s, consumers began capturing images on color film and receiving color prints from their labs. While the color photographic process is also based upon exposure of silver halide into metallic silver, the final result is different. Color print processing activates color dyes that are coupled with the silver. Once the dyes are activated, the silver is washed completely out of the color print. Initially, the dyes in color prints were not very stable which is why color prints from the 1960s and 70s are often faded and off-color.

In the early years of color photography, consumer labs offered both color and black and white processing. During the 1990s however, black and white had become such a niche product that many consumer labs began printing black and white images using color materials. Now, instead of one layer of crisp metallic silver, the black and white image was reproduced using cyan, magenta and yellow dye. The black areas were seldom black.

I am excited about a new method for printing wall decor that recreates the crisp clear quality of a classic black and white print. The metal prints offered by Black River Imaging and other professional labs are made with black ink and the metallic background brings out the timeless character of black and white photography.
Black and White Metal Print from Black River Imaging

Would some of your images be more interesting in black and white?  Have you tried having them printed on metal?

You might also be interested in:

Five Trends in Professional Photography

Trends in Professional Portraits at Imaging USA

Hartsburg, St. Augustine and Daytona in 3D

The Creativity Paradox is sponsored in part by Convertible Solutions which supplies specialty paper substrates to digital printersdirect marketing companies and photo book fulfillment companies.