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Printing Papers

Lesson 20 from: Introduction to Black & White Film Photography

Daniel Gregory

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Lesson Info

20. Printing Papers

Next Lesson: How Film Develops

Lesson Info

Printing Papers

The next piece I just wanted to touch on real quick was the paper. So this is the 800-pound gorilla in the room 'cause there's a thousand papers, and the question I always get asked is, so, I'm just gettin' started in black and white, and so I really just need to know, uh, which paper do I buy? I'm like, ummmm, one in a box? So, there's a number of things that truly affect the look and feel of a photograph around the paper. We have to decide do we want glossy or matte? And then in between there is luster. If I had my druthers and my own bias, there would be no such thing as glossy glossy paper. There would luster and down. And the reason for that is, glossy papers have so much contrast that we're initially drawn to the sex appeal of the contrast of the glossy paper. Our eye and our sensibility of photography is sensitive enough that we actually exhaust with contrast, and what we enjoy is more subtle color, more sophisticated color and shifts. Those are more engineered into the luster m...

atte papers. Just in the difference in purpose. But, over time, if you hang a glossy and a luster side by side, most people would drift to the luster over time because of the exhaustion factor of dealing with the glossy. So, for black and white, though, we're drawn to that glossy because we were trained by Ansel Adams to have killer whites and killer blacks, and that's what the glossy gives us. Most of the high end, what are the papers we'll talk about in a second, they're luster. That's about as high as they'll go in the gloss factor, is on the luster side. The matte papers produce stunningly gorgeous black and white images. It's a softer black, though. In the analog dark room, we had, we don't have as many now, but we used to have dozens and dozens and dozens of papers to choose from, that went from creamy blacks to deep jet blacks and everything in between. So the digital world's actually finally catching up with the analog world in terms of how we think about our prints. So what we ultimately wanted to try to pull out of all of that was what prints give us kind of the look of the traditional analog world? That was always the hallmark that we measured everything against. The latest set of Epson printers actually have a dmax for the first time on the new Epson Legacy Paper that exceeds the analog dark room's dmax. The dmax was the maximum black value, and Ansel Adam's print was 2.2, 2.3, that was kinda the hallmark standard, the new Epson paper's about a 2.5, 2.6. There's a deeper black now than we could get before. So, we've crossed the big threshold, which is the purity of the black, so now we move into the other pieces. So we got the gloss piece, then we also have the color of the paper. So, papers will move from a bright bright white to a white, to a neutral white, to almost a yellow. Your highlight is the color. Your brightest highlight is the color of your paper base. Printers don't print white, so if you have kind of a yellow cream base, your highlight is a yellow cream. That actually creates more of a warm tone image, so if you want a warmth into your black and whites, a matte paper that's more of a natural white would be a better paper. So what you're kinda thinking about is how warm do you want it, how cool do you want it, how bright do you want things to be in terms of the purity of white? Then the texture of the paper is also critical. The smoother the paper, the more easy the gradations are, the more easy the transitions are. The little bit of texture in the paper, though, actually increases perceived sharpness. And so if you're a person who's like, oh I kind of like the grain sharpness of film and the texture element, a little bit of texture in the paper will help accentuate that, and people will feel like it's got more pop and more grit to it. So, kinda what you photograph kinda determines the paper. Starting out, though, Hahnemuhle's Photo Rag is a gorgeous generic all-around paper, but a gorgeous paper. Museo Silver Rag is a beretta paper with no optical brighteners, it's one of our oldest digital papers, and it was one of the close, when that paper first came out, people started to talk about that as if it were comparable to a silver gelatin print. The Exhibition Fiber from Epson is another one that people judge as one of the best black and white images, and it's closer to kind of more of the traditional Ansel higher contrast, deep black element. Epson just released its new line of papers, legacy papers. There's a fiber in there, and a beretta that's in there. One of the key words is beretta, it's the film base, the [Inaudible] Base we put in the original silver gelatin papers, so you'll see that as they started to incorporate that paper stock in. So if I was starting out with beretta paper as kind of the place to start, if you're not quite sure of a certain look. So you just go, and everybody's making those, I mean from Red River to Hahnemuhle to Canson. Canson makes a photographic rag paper that is stunning in black and white. It's got more texture than I would like, but every time I print on it I'm like, oh my gosh, why am I not printing on this more? Um, a beautiful paper. But really, it's brightness, texture, and kind of color.

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I am really fond of Daniel Gregory as a teacher. He does a great job. To me, his enthousiasm, his passion for and his dedication to film photography are infectuous. It's great that CreativeLive makes place for film photography and for such a pro teaching it. It can never do so enough for me. Thanks. I am a fan.

Texas Beauty Photography

Great class!! It's jam packed with usable information for anyone wanting to shoot, process, and print black and white images. There is so much detail presented in this class, I can practically guarantee you'll come back to it again and again. I successfully used this class to capture b/w photographs, process the negatives, capture them digitally, and finally, produce beautiful prints that I'm proud to show my friends and clients. This may well be one of the best classes on all of CreativeLive. Highly recommended!


This is an excellent course and Daniel is a great teacher! I'm coming back to shooting film and darkroom work after 20 years away. I have some wonderful film cameras sitting in my cabinet and I decided I wanted to use them--so I have decided to shoot BW with film, and shoot color with my digital cameras. I will develop the BW film myself and scan and print digitally. This class is perfect for me!

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