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.
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