Introduction:

The digital workflow is pretty much ubiquitous in the world of fine art color photography these days. The technology has gotten so good that we are now able to produce prints with a vibrancy and clarity never before possible. Modern scanning and printing technologies have gotten so good, in fact, that for the first time since slide film has been available, prints are actually starting to rival transparencies. While reflected media will never look exactly like transmitted media, the digital workflow of today is enabling photographers to produce prints closer to their originals than ever before.

After seeing what was possible with the new digital darkroom, I quickly embraced the workflow for my color printing. Initially, however, I was less enthusiastic about making black and white prints using these same technologies. To my eye, I still preferred prints made in a traditional darkroom. However, after recently seeing black and white prints from the latest in digital printing, I feel like that gap has been bridged considerably, and set out to determine how best to scan black and white negatives using my Microtek Artixscan 1800F.

To gather a list of best practices, I spoke to several photographers whose work I admire and who are printing black and white images from digital files made from film. While most are using the same scanner as I, their individual methodologies shared little else. I therefore decided to start from square one, consider every possibility I could think of, and let the results speak for themselves. It should be noted that there will always be sources of variation that can not be controlled, and my findings are specific to the equipment, myself included, in my personal workflow. In other words, your mileage may vary.


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