The information provided will help you get the very best quality from our service. It is essential reading.
Of all the information provided the single most important factor is monitor brightness level.
If you only read one section please read this one !
The Brightness and tonal calibration of your monitor is absolutely crucial to obtaining quality black and white prints. Virtually all screens especially LCD and Apple iMac monitors will display at much too high brightness levels for proofing photographic print work. Even if your display is calibrated you need to check the brightness level at which it has been calibrated.
e.g. We would recommend a display brightness in the region 90-120 candelas (cd/m2). 90 for a room with low level lighting up to 120 for brighter rooms or say near windows in daylight. By default many monitors will display in the region of 250 cd/m2 so more than twice the required brightness. Colour temperature 6500k, Gamma 2.2
If you don't reduce the brightness to a level suitable for proofing print work then the resulting prints will have low contrast and will appear too dark. Not a good recipe for a black and white print !
Monitor Calibration Print
We can supply a test print if you wish to check that your monitor matches the output from our printer and we only charge for postage if you need one.
To order a calibration print please download the test image on the right by clicking on it. Then upload it as an order via the uploader. Select calibration print from the menu. You will also be able to view this file in your graphics package and receive a Gloss and Pearl print of the same file to compare.
Click the image to the right to download the test image.
ILFORD Lab Direct recommend using a profiled monitor for preparing and viewing your black and white images. With a profiled set-up, we still recommend using a test print to fine tune your workflow. It is vital that what you see on your screen will closely match our output.
What if I don't have profiling equipment ?
Since we are only considering black and white files, it is still possible to achieve an excellent result even without expensive profiling equipment. Black and white is all about tonal range and contrast. By dialing in your monitor to match our test print and following some basic guidelines you will get great looking prints;
- Turn down the brightness and contrast levels (particularly on LCD monitors) Try 50% as a starting point. (this won't be so pleasing to the eye)
- Prepare your images on screen in a room with subtle lightling rather than bright light.
- Use a test print to assess on screen tonal range, contrast and black density.
By default we don't correct images in any way so it is important your images are optimised ready for printing. Modern LCD monitors are very high contrast and often make shadow arears apear blacker than they actually are. It is important to check your files feature a full range of tones and that blacks really are 100% K despite how they appear on the screen. If your blacks are only 90% K your prints will look flat.
Depending on the subject matter prints will also benefit from a degree of sharpening, particularly smaller format prints.
In order to reduce upload times it is a good idea to optimise the image sizes prior to upload. Our upload service allows you to print different sizes and quantities from the same file so you only need to upload each image once.
We print at 300dpi at the output size, so e.g. a 5”x7” image needs to be no bigger than 1500 x 2100 pixels (about 3 megapixel). Our upload facility will check your file sizes and offer a simple traffic light system based on a quality vs size check.
Where possible, you should use JPEG format to upload your files. A 5”x7” image saved using high quality compression will be around 500kb. The same file saved as a tiff will be approx 9mb i.e. x18 larger and take 18 times longer to upload!
If you prefer to use tiffs you might prefer to use our FREEPOST CD service.
Alternatively we can set-up an ftp account or you can use third party uploader such as "Wetransfer" www.wetransfer.com
If you have lots of files to resize you can set up a batch process in Adobe Photoshop and other imaging software that will resize and save all your files automatically.
Our preferred file format is GREYSCALE JPEG. However we can also accept RGB in both JPEG or TIFF format. Photoshop will normally default to the Grey Gamma 2.2 colourspace when working in Greyscale, which is fine for our service.
You can upload files from any location on your PC, Mac, iPad*, Network etc..
*Only IOS6 and upwards supported.
Our website detects which hardware you are using and runs a suitable uploader. This will either be HTML5 or Flash based depending upon your device.
The application will open an explorer box and allow you to browse for files or from your camera roll / gallery on iPad and Android devices. In the browser view, if you wish to see thumbnails, choose thumbnails from the view menu.
Once you have uploaded your files a temporary album is created. The album will remain active as long as your web browser session is active.
As most people tend to print a single size we have designed the site to make it easy to select a single size across several files. If you wish to print different sizes from your album you simply return to select more. In this way it is possible to select many different size, surface and style combinations.
Our Traffic Light system is designed to be a simple and effective guide to image quality.
The traffic light system is designed to offer guidance only, if your file shows red and you do not have a higher resolution version we can still print the file. Our hardware will interpolate the image and in many cases produce an acceptable result.
There are four options you can select which will affect the way your images are printed;
We always quote the overall size of the print, including any border. By default we will apply a small white border. This will vary in size and is approx 5mm for small prints up to 7mm for larger prints. This is ideal if you wish to frame your prints using a mount.
NB If you have already prepared your file with your own style border, please select borderless (edge to edge printing). This way you will not be adding a second border around this !
Cropping is important, because we need to know what to do if your image dimensions do not exactly match our sheet size.
There are two scenario’s
1. Your image aspect ratio matches exactly that of our sheet size.
In this instance cropping will have no effect.
2. Your image aspect ratio is different from the sheet size. See example below;
By selecting "Crop to fit" we will fill the available print area. This will result in cropping if the aspect ratio of the print does not match. So in the example below some off the left and right edges are cropped.
By selecting "Don't Crop" we will fit to one dimension only. This may result in wider borders on two sides if the aspect ratio does not match the print size. In the example below the image would be printed with even white borders at top and bottom.
Cropping Images and adding Borders
We always quote the overall size, so any border is within that. The image is then sized to fit inside the border.
If you ask us to add borders to the image the situation with cropping is similar, think of the printed area being inside the borders.
By selecting "Don't Crop" we will fit to one dimension only. This may result in wider borders on two sides if the aspect ratio does not match the print size.
If you are unsure about cropping, but do know that you want your image to fill the frame, select "Crop to fit". That way you will ensure edge to edge printing or even borders all around.
We offer two surface finishes;
Pearl - The classic ILFORD Pearl 44M Surface. A fine luster surface, low reflection, ideal for larger display prints.
Glossy - ILFORD 1M Gloss finish. High gloss, usually prefered for smaller prints. Prints appear slightly punchier, nice for smaller prints.
This option offers a simple auto-correction of density and contrast and is not recommended for advanced users. The results may improve poorly optimised images but will not offer any control over the final output.
Printing Direct From Colour Files
If you send us colour files for printing in Black and White we will apply an automatic conversion. This will achieve a good result in most cases. To achieve the best results we recommend converting your files beforehand so as to guarantee how they will appear in black and white.
Other print sizes
For print sizes 12"x16" and above we offer custom sizes. Please choose the next size up and send us instructions using the comments field at checkout. You may need to trim the finished print to the correct size. If you are in doubt about anything, please drop us an email.
If you have any special instructions, please use the comments boxes or email us with the details quoting your order reference.
There are many ways to produce your black and white digital files. The two most popular methods are;
- Scanning black and white film or prints
- Converting colour digital files
Our assumption is that our customers will be well versed in these methods as there is a wealth of information on the subject and much more than we could do justice to here, however we would recommend reading David Präkel's "Black and White" ISBN 2884791051, this book covers a range of techniques and concepts both analogue and digital and is a great starting point.