Atone For 8-bit

Black and white version

Black and white version

Duotone Photoshop action on this version

Duotone Photoshop action on this version

Now, which version do you prefer?
While I like to tone my prints done in the traditional darkroom, this makes even more sense when you’ve got an 8-bit device in your workflow, like most inkjet printers or if you present your black and white pictures on a monitor. Here’s why:
If you’ve got that 8-bit bottleneck somewhere and stay with pure black and white, you’ve got a grand total of 256 shades of grey to play with. Hard to get smooth tones with that! Once you duo- or tritone, you’ve got a lot more tonal values to represent your image. What I do is create layers that copy parts of the image depending on tonal values above the b&w layer, color them (I like blue for the shadows and yellow for the highlights), make them transparent, reduce overall saturation and collapse the whole bunch. All that is in a Photoshop action. If you don’t overdo it with the saturation, the results still look black and white, but seem to have “creamy tones”.
In the chemical darkroom, I get very similar results if I start developing the print in a coldtone developer and let the highlights develop in a warmtone developer.

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