Sound Advice: Black-and-white photos require extra work

  • Article by: DON LINDICH , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 3, 2010 - 2:47 PM

The key is to use a lab to produce them, rather than your inkjet printer.

Q I would like to make black-and-white portraits with my digital camera. I am using the camera's B&W setting and using my inkjet to print them, but they just do not have the right "look" to them. Any ideas how to get good black-and-white images that look as if they were taken with black-and-white film and printed on black-and-white paper?

A Although they might not have the Ansel Adams look that you can only get with real black-and-white film and paper, it is easy to get good black-and-white prints from a digital camera. The key is to use a lab to produce them, rather than your inkjet. Some inkjet printers do make good black-and-white prints, but they are usually high-end models used by professional and fine-art photographers.

Although many cameras have a B&W mode to take pictures in black- and-white, your best option is to take them in color and convert to black-and-white with software. Contrast and brightness can then be adjusted to give you the look you want. If you have an advanced image-editing program such as Adobe Photoshop, you can apply filters for different creative effects. If you do not have an editing program, a free one can be found at www.gimp.org.

Once you have the picture looking the way you want, save it to a USB drive or burn it to a CD, then take it to the photo processor. I recommend labs that use Fuji Frontier machines, such as Wal-Mart and Ritz Camera, because I have found that they produce excellent black-and-white prints. I recommend a matte finish.

I have used this method for years with excellent results and am confident you will be pleased with the prints. The ability to create both black-and-white and color images from any picture is one of the nicest perks of digital photography.

Finding a good receiver

Q I have a 20-year-old stereo receiver to replace, and I don't know where to start. I just need something to operate two pairs of good-quality speakers with a CD player and turntable, and maybe pick up a radio station sometime.

A For less than $200, the Onkyo TX-8255 is a good performer and will drive two pairs of speakers. If you have more to spend, the Harman/Kardon HK3490 is one of the best values in audio. Long recommended by audiophile magazines for its abundant, clean power and good sound, the HK3490 sells for less than $300 online and is capable of producing excellent results, even with exotic, expensive speakers. I've used it with power-hungry high-end speakers selling for $3,000 a pair, and it was fully up to the task. Searching under the model numbers should yield several vendors selling the receivers at those prices.

Submit questions and read past columns at www.soundadviceblog.com.

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