The first print comparison between Shutterfly and Snapfish resulted in a nod to Shutterfly. And since it was a photo to be used as a holiday card, professional printing wasn’t necessary.In the comparison color photo, the Shutterfly colors were vibrant and rich. “So”, I thought to myself, we need to do another Snapfish vs Shutterfly print comparison – this time for B&W. Over the holidays I took a family photo that begged to be printed in Black & White.
A perfectly printed and eye appealing B&W photo contains some pure black and pure white and everything in-between.
I often have more trouble getting the pure whites than the pure blacks – seems even more difficult with digital – so easy to blow out the highlights.
The Zone System, formulated and employed most famously by Ansel Adams, is an 11 zone system categorizing light. In the Snapfish photo you get the the characteristic lightening at the knees, the whiskers, and hem lines of the couple on the left. But even black jeans, unless they’re being worn for the first time, have discernible weave and wear marks. In the Shutterfly photo, their pants are almost pure black and without definition.
The system breaks down the continuous tonal gradation from the purest black to purest white into 11 equal sections. 7) Taking a look overall at the individuals’ expressions, in the Snapfish photo you can see what it is they’re squinting a bit at – the sun. The Snapfish photo is the superior Black & White image in this case. But in this comparison, the photo has the proper contrast and exposure.
Each section differs from the one next to it by one full stop. This simple “they got it right” translates to a photo absent the flat, mostly gray/green blah of the Shutterfly print. I’m a traveler, writer and photographer for whom the open road frequently summons.
It’s too much for this post, but it’s an almost flawless method for printing B&Ws. The Snapfish photo is sharper in detail, crisper in contrast. Adventurous solo road trips are a staple for me, and a curiosity.
And if you’re serious about B&Ws, I recommend you learn the technique. It has definition and depth that result from the right balance between the lights and darks within the scene. So I created this website to share them and inspire you to step out and give them a try.
Machine printed B&W prints however are not intended to be a professional end product. The photo has life because you can see details of clothing, faces, texture of the grass, and trees – a recognition of substance.
It’s possible though to get a nice result, even something frame worthy. I asked Shutterfly to print a B&W photo and instead I got a flat, uninteresting photo with a yellow/green tint (can’t even call it Sepia).