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Book Review – Mastering Digital Black and White by Amadou Diallo

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Mastering Digital Black and White; subtitled "A Photographer's Guide to High Quality Black-and-White Imaging and Printing," was written to fill a need for a comprehensive reference guide that is geared toward high quality black-and-white image processing. The author's goal is to provide a reference that will prevent you from having to struggle with the same hurdles that he had to generate great images.

Mastering Digital Black and White is divided into nine chapters and two appendices. You will need to have a recent version of Photoshop to follow along, and the basic skills to work with Photoshop comfortably. You will need a moderate level of confidence in your camera exposure technique, and the desire to translate your photographic vision into the printed image.

Chapter one is an image gallery. According to the author, to try to master a new technique involves the viewing of as many examples of the process as possible. Here he offers 30 images, many of which he will use as examples in his discussions.

Chapter two, "Building the Digital Darkroom," addresses one of the daunting tasks for any digital photographer; "what tools do I need?" Simply stated, digital equipment can be costly. By clearly identifying your needs, you can purchase the appropriate tools, and minimize costs. The author discusses the pros and cons of the equipment that you will need.

Chapter three, "Color Management for the Black-and-White Photographer," explains why it is important to understand color management if you are to generate black-and-white images. Here you will learn about profiling your equipment, what the problems with digital color are, as well as finding the solution for digital color problems. You will also learn of grayscale management as well.

Chapter four, "Digital Capture," revolves around the fact that to get a good image out, you must first capture a good image. You will learn how to evaluate an image by evaluating its content. You will learn about working with RAW files and film scans, as well as how to work the some of the different kinds of software that is used to process your files.

Chapter five, "Photoshop in Black-and-White," examines what techniques are available in the latest version of Photoshop; CS3, for working with Black-and-White images. You will learn what are the benefits of 16-bit images, how to use layers, curves, blending modes, and selections to bring out the best in your images.

Chapter six, "Black-and-White Inkjet Printing," debunks the myths that inkjet printing is nothing more than pressing a print button and your image appears. There is a lot that goes into creating a high quality print not withstanding the printer itself. Again, to get great results, you must first match features to needs. That will include paper, ink, and practice to result in quality images.

Chapter seven, "The Imaging Workflow," now ties the prior chapters together into what it takes not only to go from capture to print, but how to do it efficiently. This begins with Adobe Camera Raw (ACR), and flows through Photoshop and concludes with a final image.
Chapter eight, "The Limited Edition," is one of the things that make Mastering Digital Black and White so unique is the fact that it doesn't stop at the final image. Now that you have your image, if it is good enough, why not sell it as a limited edition. Here the author explains what is required for you to take this next step.

Chapter nine, "The Portfolio," is another unique chapter in that, as the prior chapter shows you what it takes to sell your images, this chapter shows you how to sell yourself as a photographer. Here you focus on research, planning and presentation.

Mastering Digital Black and White is a great book on a number of different levels. First it is very easy to read. The explanations are clear and concise, and the illustrations are many. Within the chapters are five case studies that explore some of the work that the author has done for other artists.

If I had only one complaint it would be that the images in the book are not included so you will have to create your own images to work with. If you are looking to increase your skill and techniques, you want to learn the ins and outs of digital Black-and-White, then Mastering Digital Black and White is a must have. To the best of my knowledge, there is no other book covering Black-and-White photography in such a complete manner on the market today.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.