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on 2 January 2011
Digital Masters: B&W Printing by George Dewolfe is in short a step by guide to creating a black and white 'masterpiece'. This book covers everything you need to know to create it.
This book is divided into 3 sections (Black and White, Image Workflow and a Conclusion) as well as a glossary, index and portfolio.

The first section in this book is about the key qualities that make up a black and white photo (tone, luminosity, luminance, sharpness,softness,edges, depth, contrast and brightness) with great attention paid to the difference between Luminance and Luminosity. The difference between what is visually perceived by us and what is actually seen (recorded) by the camera.

The second and the largest section is about Image Workflow. It describes how to design a workflow, how to setup your software, how to input your images on a computer, how to make global and local adjustments to a photo, how to optimize and fine-tune an image, setting up your workstation and last but not least printing and evaluating your print.

The final section and the shortest section is all about photographing the known and unknown, honing your skills as a photographer and accessing and practicing your mindfulness.

I particularly enjoyed the 2 pages on exploring tonal values in the first section and chapter where George DeWolf converts famous paintings into grayscale and looks at how the tonal values are distributed.

Top things I learnt from this book

To make global adjustments then broad adjustments and then local adjustments when your editing a image.

The difference between Luminosity and Luminance.

How to outline in Photoshop to accentuate the depth of individual objects.

And finally how to create a 'Masterpiece'.
A few minor criticisms

He devoted a entire chapter to inputting your photos onto your computer, this is so basic as to be inappropriate in a advanced book like this.

The book uses Lightroom and Photoshop exclusively with all his detailed explanations of image adjustments being done in Photoshop or Lightroom. As well as an entire chapter being dedicated to customizing Lightroom modules. This is not very helpful to those who use other photo editing programs.

The screen shots which show an image together with the Lightroom controls side by side results in the control panel being so small as to be unreadable. This adds to the growing frustration of a non-Lightroom user trying to decipher & translate what is being done.

Throughout this book he is constantly promoting his 'magic' plugin, this gets very annoying after a while. He tries to persuade you that your photographic life depends on getting his plugin.

And finally the book states on page 71 that the plugin costs $19.95 but when you visit George DeWolfs website the price actually is $90.00.

My Rating 8 out of 10

I found this is a good yet challenging read at times. I am giving it 8 stars because I found it difficult to read at times and because of George promoting his plugin excessively. Regularly now I go out to take photos specifically to be converted into black and white. This book feels good to the hands with a nice tactile finish on the front and the back of the book and the printing quality is excellent. This is a great book for anyone wishing to learn more about Black and White photography with lots or little experience.

And if nothing else this book offers some great black and white photos throughout the book to motivate you. You really could buy this book just to see the photos.
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on 3 September 2009
This book is beautifully produced and worth buying just for the quality of its black and white images. However, it is not a just book about black and white printing but about producing the very best quality work - in short the "masterpiece".

In the first part of the book George looks at the way the eye sees the world and the different way that it is captured by the camera. He examines the different factors in the construction of the image and the need to convey the photographer's perception of the scene through to the final image. He offers exercises in how to "see" the way that the camera sees and also other exercises he calls "Tonerobics" which are aimed at improving perceptual skills.

The main part of the book sets out a workflow in Lightroom giving full details of the processes and accompanied by clear pictures of the tools/panels employed. The image is then transferred to Photoshop for fine-tuning before being returned to Lightroom for printing. At each step the effects of the adjustments made are shown on an image.

There is a section recommending digital darkroom equipment, although for many the specifications will be a wish list rather than any realisable aim.
Throughout the book are "before and after" images by featured artists with details of adjustments they have made to them.

I am a big fan of Adobe Lightroom and make the bulk of my image adjustments there. I also gain the greatest satisfaction from making black and white images though not, unfortunately, anywhere near the quality of those displayed in the book! I am very pleased that I bought this book and find it both inspirational and motivating.
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on 8 November 2011
Worth it for this one technique alone: the history brush technique

- contrary to other reviewers comments about his writing about his philosophical stance being misplaced in a such a book , I completely disagree. It makes points that are worth making IMO, if, like GDW you aspire to making masterpieces.
- his tutorials on visualisation I found extremely helpful. By visualisation, I mean the perception of what details really need attention and in what way.
- as already said, this book is worth the cost just for the history brush technique, though even if you know that already I still think there's enough in there to inspire and inform
- This is a book I refer back to again and again and again, I keep finding gems of useful information. It's the sort of book that you can rely on when you get stuck.

If you are already a master printer then the contents of this book might not be much of a revelation to you but if, like me, you have some skills but aspire to being much better, and just wish you knew what it was that you needed to do to take that next step up in B+W conversions then of all the books I have read on the subject (quite a few) this one made the biggest difference to the quality of my images.

- as mentioned in other reviews he does blather on about his own plug-ins too much.
-I would like to have had more examples on how he uses the history brush technique, Im not a fast learner when it comes to photoshop etc, but the examples here actually are enough to clearly explain the methods best application, just I concede I need more explanation than most so it's not really a 'con' point, more of a 'more please' suggestion

PS_ check which edition you are considering buying, differences are slight but might be important to some
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on 8 April 2010
As a stand alone item this is a useful book. The author takes care to explain about the importance of tonal range in a print and how to create depth and texture. There are ample examples about how to achieve this in a digital age.

As a stand alone book, the inclusion of a Lightroom based workflow is indeed useful, but not totally helpful because if you're not using Lightroom and are not the type of person happy to carry across activities in Lightroom to Bridge, Photoshop or Capture NX then you're left with a section that is not really adding value. It would have been better to provide a generic workflow or leave the worklow out on the basis that people buying this book probably have an established workflow.

In short, I'd have preferred a book that looked purely at the theory and the practical aspects of black and white printing without getting software specific. I am fairly certain that many photographers reading this book will have already become familiar with their software of choice and probably bought a few books about it so why are we paying for another description of moving files of the camera?

He also gets a little 'zen' at times, personally this did nothing for me because as a photographer, I work in a way that is personal to me (regardless of capabilities) and I am not sure about those sections which move away from the 'what makes a good print' area.

My other niggle is that the opening sections especially read like an advert for a piece of software called `Perceptool' which the author is selling for c. USD80. Yes it makes for interesting prints, but much of its functionality can be achieved in Lightroom, Photoshop, Capture NX anyway and again, I've bought the book to learn how to print and not to read about how great a software writer the author is.

If I could have done I'd have rated it as 3.5 stars, I just can't see it as a 4 star rating. Anyway, after reading this book, especially the composition-for-black-and-white section my prints have improved and the inclusion of mini essays on technique by various photographers is interesting and provides additional inspiration. If you are looking to develop your printing from skills away from file to camera-resize-paper in printer-print and develop something that captures the viewer then the book is well worth a look, just beware that some of the paper your buying is not devoted to printing.
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on 23 February 2010
There are some excellent ideas in this book that I haven't seen presented before, although I think he overdoes the whole luminosity and perception thing. This book is clearly a follow-on from, and I think a better book, than the author's earlier Fine Print book.
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