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Author Topic: ABW or Photoshop  (Read 7101 times)
nikonuser
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« on: May 27, 2013, 01:17:29 PM »
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I'm getting into more B+W images at the moment and use Silver EFEX Pro to do the B+W conversion before finally sharpening in Photoshop and printing on a 3880.
What are the advantages (or disadvantages) using ABW over just printing from Photoshop using the respective paper profile.
Thanks
Dave
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« Reply #1 on: May 27, 2013, 01:27:31 PM »
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Having used both first on a 3800 and now on a 4900, I find the differences are subtle, so my recommendation is that you should try both and see which you prefer. Of course if you are using the Epson driver in ABW mode, you should not use Silver Efex Pro. ABW does the conversion from RGB and handles the profiling under the hood. Make sure your paper selection in the Epson driver is correct.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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nikonuser
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« Reply #2 on: May 27, 2013, 01:58:59 PM »
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Many Thanks, Mark, I was not aware of the possible conflict so having just tried ABW will now have a bash at B&W through Photoshop.
Dave
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« Reply #3 on: May 27, 2013, 02:58:36 PM »
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And working with "Photoshop Manages Color" in the Epson driver, by all means do the conversion using SilverEfex Pro, (and select the correct printer profile for the paper you are using). It's a superb plug-in.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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Mac Mahon
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« Reply #4 on: May 27, 2013, 03:41:25 PM »
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... Of course if you are using the Epson driver in ABW mode, you should not use Silver Efex Pro. ....

Mark

I tend to use ABW after Silver Efex Pro.  It seems to me that the adjustments I make, for what I think is a pleasing B&W, will probably not reflect the relative tonality of the colour image.  I want to convert to B&W, work on the image, and see the B&W before printing!

Or are you suggesting that we should be using only PS (or in my case, LR) to make the B&W conversion and adjustments prior to using ABW?  If so can you explain why you think using Silver Efex is sub-optimal?

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« Reply #5 on: May 27, 2013, 04:23:09 PM »
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Mark

I tend to use ABW after Silver Efex Pro.  It seems to me that the adjustments I make, for what I think is a pleasing B&W, will probably not reflect the relative tonality of the colour image.  I want to convert to B&W, work on the image, and see the B&W before printing!

Or are you suggesting that we should be using only PS (or in my case, LR) to make the B&W conversion and adjustments prior to using ABW?  If so can you explain why you think using Silver Efex is sub-optimal?

Tim

Well, I suppose there are three options: (1) RGB>ABW; (2) RGB>SFEX>ABW; (3) RGB>SFEX>PhotoShop Manages Color (i.e. No ABW). I do know that ABW was designed for option (1). I don't know what SFEX does to the data and how whatever it does to the data would interact with whatever ABW does. So I suggested not compiling one conversion on top of another. There is no reason to believe that an ABW conversion from SFEX would produce a result identical to what you developed in SFEX, so it could be a waste of time. But you know, it's only a bit of time and several pieces of paper to try all three options and see what you like best.
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« Reply #6 on: May 27, 2013, 05:42:59 PM »
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Most of my prints end up as black and white. I have used Silver Efex Pro, and now prefer to make the conversion in Lightroom. Both S EFex and LR let you control how each color is translated to gray, and I cannot imagine ever wanting to leave the conversion to ABW (which is probably similar to blindly desaturating everything).

These days I always print using the Epson ABW driver on my 3800, but after I have done the conversion to grayscale.

So I'm in agreement with Mac Mahon about this. I want to see my conversion to B&W before I print. ABW does a beautiful job on grayscale images, IMHO.

Eric M.

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« Reply #7 on: May 27, 2013, 05:46:17 PM »
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So Eric, is it your experience that once you've used SFEX or LR grayscale conversion, ABW reproduces what you did in SFEX or LR accurately? Because if that's the case it would seem to overcome the limitation of ABW that unless you use Eric Chan's profiles for the Epson 3800 you cannot softproof an ABW conversion.

(edited)
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« Reply #8 on: May 27, 2013, 07:28:17 PM »
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So Eric, is it your experience that once you've used SFEX or LR grayscale conversion, ABW reproduces what you did in SFEX or LR accurately? Because if that's the case it would seem to overcome the limitation of ABW that unless you use Eric Chan's profiles for the Epson 3800 you cannot softproof an ABW conversion.

(edited)
Hi Mark,

Yes, subject to a few disclaimers:

1.   I used Eric Chan's profiles for quite some time after I got the 3800.
2.   I have settled on a small number of papers that I like (primarily Ilford Gold Fibre Silk and Canson Baryta Photographique).
3.   More recently I have used the manufacturers' profiles with good results, and what I see on my calibrated screen, even without soft-proofing, looks very close to what the print looks like.
4.   Point (3) of course depends on having a fair amount of experience comparing screen with prints, and learning to understand the differences.
5.   I am "color blind" with the commonest red-green variety, so I have a good eye for gray scale differences, but not so with color. At one time I tried making some "subtle" (to me) adjustments in the ABW driver to try to simulate the look of a very slightly Selenium-toned darkroom print, and my photographer friends immediately complained about the ugly purple color, so I now use the totally neutral ABW settings.

I agree that it is perhaps impossible to soft-proof ABW images, but what Lightroom shows in the develop or print module is much easier to interpret than trying to visualize how a color image will appear as a B&W print.

Cheers,

Eric M.
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« Reply #9 on: May 27, 2013, 07:47:07 PM »
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Hi Eric,

Yes indeed, I would never dream of trying to visualize a B&W print by looking at a full-colour version. I was asking more about the relationship between an LR-converted or an SFEX-converted print on your monitor, compared with what comes out of your printer using ABW, and that you answered in your point 3. That makes sense to me given the experience you have accumulated and the papers you are using. If you were doing this with matte papers I believe the proximity between monitor and print would be not nearly so close, hence calling for some kind of reasonably reliable softproofing.
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« Reply #10 on: May 27, 2013, 08:40:46 PM »
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If one is still using WinOS (and there are some of us who still do  Grin) you can use ABW profiles and soft proof B/W images.  The principal advantage of the ABW driver is that it gives you an increased DMax and uses lesser amounts of color inks than printing B/W via the normal driver.  The advantage of using profiles is to improve the linearity of the B/W response from the printer.  There is a lot in the LuLa archives and elsewhere on this.  For those using MacOS it's a different story and unless one wants to do a fair amount of trial and error work on images, it's probably best to use the normal driver.  That being said, one can prepare a profile in the normal way and include a good B/W stepwedge set of patches which should help smooth out the printer response (I use 51 patches when doing my normal ICC profiles for just this purpose).  The only way of preparing ABW profiles is to use Roy Harrington's QTR system under WinOS.
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« Reply #11 on: May 27, 2013, 09:07:20 PM »
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Yes indeed, I would never dream of trying to visualize a B&W print by looking at a full-colour version.

Yet that is basically what a b&w photographer does every time he looks a scene and imagines what it would look like in B&W. Smiley
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« Reply #12 on: May 27, 2013, 09:44:30 PM »
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If one is still using WinOS (and there are some of us who still do  Grin) you can use ABW profiles and soft proof B/W images.  The principal advantage of the ABW driver is that it gives you an increased DMax and uses lesser amounts of color inks than printing B/W via the normal driver.  The advantage of using profiles is to improve the linearity of the B/W response from the printer.  There is a lot in the LuLa archives and elsewhere on this.  For those using MacOS it's a different story and unless one wants to do a fair amount of trial and error work on images, it's probably best to use the normal driver.  That being said, one can prepare a profile in the normal way and include a good B/W stepwedge set of patches which should help smooth out the printer response (I use 51 patches when doing my normal ICC profiles for just this purpose).  The only way of preparing ABW profiles is to use Roy Harrington's QTR system under WinOS.

Hi Alan,

I have not been able to compare results obtained printing with QTR profiles under ABW because I don't have access to that option. However, drawing on issues raised from the Ilford paper review, I have done further comparison work with the tonal settings in the ABW driver, and compared them with "Photoshop Manages Color" using the normal driver and Ilford's profile for GMS paper. Let us recall I am using Mac OSX 10.6.8 and an Epson 4900, with Epson driver version 8.64, the most recent for this combination of OSX and printer.

I made four prints of the Northlight Images B&W printer test target (1) Photoshop Manages with the GMS profile, (2) ABW-Normal; (3) ABW dark and (4) ABW Darker.

Firstly, contrary to what I thought, I discovered that every time the Epson driver is re-opened and ABW selected, the tone setting defaults to Darker. Hence the result we reported in the recent article on the Ilford paper is with the Darker setting (I hadn't noticed this nicety at the time). OK, so now we have results for all of them but Darkest, which wasn't necessary in terms of what I was looking for. I was interested in seeing differences of maximum black and tonal neutrality between the four settings, both visually and by the numbers. Outcomes are truly only moderately interesting - i.e. I find the differences subtle and the arguments for one or the other of these approaches somewhat academic. But for what it's worth, here goes:

For maximum black, L* is 4.9 for (1), 2.06 for (2), 2.05 for (3) and 2.93 for (4). I found this last result counter-intuitive so I repeated the reading and it was within 0.03 the same. Practically speaking however, when you look at these prints side by side close-up under a Solux bulb you see no difference in the blackness of maximum black.

For 50% gray, none of them reported 50% gray. (1) is 51.8, (2) is 55.9, (3) is 52.6 and (4) is 49.22. The really interesting observation from this result is that "50% gray" is considerably brighter in (2) than in (4), and the impact of this result is visible in the prints. I think it explains why the shadow detail is visually better reproduced in the ABW "normal" setting than in the ABW "Darker" setting once you emerge from the very lowest end of the tonal range in orderf to see any differentiation of anything under any setting. Between (1) and (2), I would give a slight edge to the deep shadow detail rendition of (2), and this is consistent with the numbers for L* in the gray readings (51.8 vs 55.9), but seeing the visual difference here requires a trained eye if you hadn't been pre-advised.

In respect of neutrality, none of them are truly neutral, a* and b* values never being zero, but some come pretty close. On the whole, not surprisingly, Photoshop Manages Color is the least neutral with a* and b* values of 0.54 and 1.17 respectively. It must be said - these are small differences, and it isn't until you look at this print compared to the others that the slight difference in hue becomes visible - this print is ever so slightly warmer to the eye, as the number confirm. All the results with the ABW driver are below zero, indicating a slightly cooler hue bias, again which only becomes noticeable compared with the warmer one. None of these results look intentionally "toned" when you see them in isolation. Print (2), ABW-Normal won the neutrality prize with a* and b* values of -0.26 and -0.77. The others were off by slightly larger absolute amounts, but the differences are trivial. hence the real winner from all four, if you like maximum shadow detail and neutrality is the ABW driver at the normal tone setting - I remind, for this combination of OS, printer and paper.

Then I compared what I saw on my display with each of the four prints, and given how my display is calibrated and profiled, (NEC PA271W, BasicColor 4, luminance at 110 cd/m3), the tonal alignment is closest to print (1) - Photoshop Manages Color, but also very close to # (2) - ABW Normal, because results (1) and (2) are really close for overall luminance above the very bottom of the tone scale. This coheres with Eric Myrvaagnes' finding #3 in his post above.

So going back to my first response to Dave, the OP, differences between the approaches are there but subtle, and much depends on the starting point you prefer, once you've run the tests. I would defer to you Alan on the numerical perspective for the linearity factor, as I cannot replicate your work on this point. I would say from a visual perspective however, that tonal representations between the display and the prints are very close in any of these results, save for what is going on at the very low end of tonal scale, as mentioned above.
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« Reply #13 on: May 27, 2013, 09:50:36 PM »
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Yet that is basically what a b&w photographer does every time he looks a scene and imagines what it would look like in B&W. Smiley


Yes indeed, and so do I - at that level of basic appreciation - "is this the kind of scene or image that has the lines and contrasts that would make an impacting B&W print, or even more important, is this a scene or photo where colour dilutes the strength of the image". My remark was directed at a more detailed appreciation of the myriad of specific hues to grayscale. The latter - at least for me - is a tough judgment unless I make the conversion and try variations.
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« Reply #14 on: May 27, 2013, 10:19:39 PM »
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Yet that is basically what a b&w photographer does every time he looks a scene and imagines what it would look like in B&W. Smiley

Some forty or so years ago I was in the habit of carrying two Pentaxes with me whenever I was out photographing, one with Kodachrome in it and the other with Panatomic X. My photographer buddies were amazed that I could go back and forth between color and black-and-white so rapidly. Of course in those days most of my previsualization was for monochrome anyway, since Mother Kodak had complete control of my color renditions.

Eric M.
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« Reply #15 on: May 27, 2013, 10:25:12 PM »
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Hi Eric,

Yes indeed, I would never dream of trying to visualize a B&W print by looking at a full-colour version. I was asking more about the relationship between an LR-converted or an SFEX-converted print on your monitor, compared with what comes out of your printer using ABW, and that you answered in your point 3. That makes sense to me given the experience you have accumulated and the papers you are using. If you were doing this with matte papers I believe the proximity between monitor and print would be not nearly so close, hence calling for some kind of reasonably reliable softproofing.
Hi Mark,

First of all, thanks for your excellent reviews of the new Ilford papers.

And second,
Quote
If you were doing this with matte papers I believe the proximity between monitor and print would be not nearly so close, hence calling for some kind of reasonably reliable softproofing.
is one of the reasons I stopped using most matte papers some time ago. The visual difference between monitor and print was always too great to judge without soft-proofing.

Eric M.

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« Reply #16 on: May 28, 2013, 06:10:02 AM »
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Hi Mark,

First of all, thanks for your excellent reviews of the new Ilford papers.

And second,  is one of the reasons I stopped using most matte papers some time ago. The visual difference between monitor and print was always too great to judge without soft-proofing.

Eric M.

Hi Eric, thanks - glad you found the papers review useful. And yes, as soon as Ilford and several other paper manufacturers came out with gloss/luster papers that bested Epson Premium Luster, whose surface, brittleness and hue tint never appealed to me, I made a definitive switch to Gold Fibre Silk as my preferred medium, because whether for B&W or colour, the DMax and gamut are much superior to any matte paper I've tried, and it handles well provided one is careful not to scratch the surface. To me these intrinsic qualities of the print are far more important than the surface feel of the paper, though I also believe that for some kinds of images matte texture and limited gamut can work very well, so no "hard and fast" rules. I have seen very rich-looking, beautiful B&W photographs printed on Epson Velvet or Moab, Hahn, etc. matte media, and of the latest Ilford offerings we reviewed, if I had to select one as my own preferred for matte printing whether colour or B&W it would be the Gold Cotton Smooth. 
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« Reply #17 on: May 28, 2013, 06:16:24 AM »
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.......... I would defer to you Alan on the numerical perspective for the linearity factor, as I cannot replicate your work on this point. I would say from a visual perspective however, that tonal representations between the display and the prints are very close in any of these results, save for what is going on at the very low end of tonal scale, as mentioned above.

Alan, me again, just taking up where I left off from last night, what I meant in the above sentence is that I cannot replicate the tests you did with QTR, and would see no need even if I could, because you've done it. What I can do, however, is either find or create a step wedge in known values of L* (I think 20 sections would be sufficient), print it on GMS using both ABW-Normal and Photoshop Manages Colour with the appropriate profile, read the patches from each and see which path deviates the least with respect to L* along the tonal scale. That could be moderately interesting and I may do it during the course of the week if time permits. There are some constraints here, but if I can get it done I'll report back.
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« Reply #18 on: May 28, 2013, 08:05:24 AM »
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I'm getting into more B+W images at the moment and use Silver EFEX Pro to do the B+W conversion before finally sharpening in Photoshop and printing on a 3880.
What are the advantages (or disadvantages) using ABW over just printing from Photoshop using the respective paper profile.

ABW is a processing black box, does a very good job converting color images to B&W with limited control and no true way to see what you're doing. It uses less ink and is said to be more archival due to this process. You send a color image to ABW, fiddle with sliders on a preview that isn't your image and you're done. Those are the basic advantages.

IF you use another product to convert the color to B&W, viewing your image as you do so and producing a look you desire, sending it through ABW will re-convert it, you'll lose what you did. So you'll need to print that data without ABW using a good ICC profile. More control (more ink use, less archival, possibly color shifting and non neutrality issues due to profile, driver etc).

Both have advantages and disadvantages based on your goals and workflow.
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« Reply #19 on: May 28, 2013, 08:40:05 AM »
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ABW is a processing black box, does a very good job converting color images to B&W with limited control and no true way to see what you're doing. It uses less ink and is said to be more archival due to this process. You send a color image to ABW, fiddle with sliders on a preview that isn't your image and you're done. Those are the basic advantages.

IF you use another product to convert the color to B&W, viewing your image as you do so and producing a look you desire, sending it through ABW will re-convert it, you'll lose what you did. So you'll need to print that data without ABW using a good ICC profile. More control (more ink use, less archival, possibly color shifting and non neutrality issues due to profile, driver etc).

Both have advantages and disadvantages based on your goals and workflow.

Andrew,

Several questions arise from this:
(1) I'd be curious to know whether any objective testing has been done to confirm the view that the ABW process is more archival, or is this a logical deduction based on views of the longevity of the individual inks involved in both processes?
(2) You are of course correct that ABW does its own conversion regardless of what one sends to it, but the discussion here, especially from Eric Myrvaagnes, seems to suggest interesting experience to the effect that at least with the two papers he mentioned, the empirical outcomes have adequate similarity between what he sees on his display converting and adjusting in LR or SFEX, and what comes out of the printer using ABW. I think that is a significant empirically supported finding of an experienced practitioner, even though for the reason you state, in principle it need not be that way.
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