"The goal is not to have an image on the display that appears the best to your eyes. The goal is to have a display that nearly matches that of a print - and when using Soft Proofing the image is extremely similar to print. The question is not whether to calibrate, but what degree of quality of calibration is acceptable to you." - John Cone, Piezography Manual
Before returning to a deeper dive on processing black and white photographs, it's good to pause and consider the post processing viewing environment. Specifically, the level of light that surrounds your monitor and how your monitor is calibrated. If you are sitting in a bright room with your uncalibrated monitor jacked up to 11, you are likely to be disappointed that your print does not match your display, which is exactly what post processing for printing tries to avoid. The first step to a better result is to reduce the light in your viewing environment to one equivalent to a dimly lit candle (35-50 lux) which allows you to reduce the brightness of your monitor.
Next, you want to calibrate your monitor. I was shocked to learn that most monitors cannot be calibrated, including the highly touted ones made by Apple. Instead, the graphics card output is modified by reducing one or more of the RGB channels which significantly reduces the amount of grey tones. There are a few monitors that can be calibrated without reducing RGB output; however, they can be quite expensive. The NEC PA241W monitor pictured in the photograph was calibrated using NEC calibration software and a colorimeter (and, if you can find a used one, it costs less than that new lens you have been coveting). Using a D50 standard, gamma 2.2 and an AdobeRGB (1998) color space, the calibrated results are simply outstanding. The choice of the D50 calibration standard has an interesting background, as presented in the Piezography Manual:
The reason that D50 is the standard for professional printers is because of the physical attributes of human perception, rather than any industry commercial pressure or interests. A scientific study in 1931 by the CIE concluded that the average human being saw equal amounts of red, green and blue light at a color temperature of approximately 5000 Kelvin. Under this color of light, the average human could best perceive the differences and similarities in two adjacent colors. The CIE also adapted a methodology of describing color through measurements called CIE Lab color. The basis of this study formed the core of ICC color management. The D50 standard is very well supported with paints for walls, light boxes for viewing, and light bulbs.
The D65 standard uses 6500k which is equivalent approximately to daylight in the Northern Hemisphere. Many imaging gurus have cited that they prefer the color of 6500k over 5000k. But color management is not about preferences. It is about human perception and the ability to judge color. The more compelling reason to choose D65 is because the common LCD which has little or no control to adjust its hardware is illuminated internally by a fluorescent source at about 6500k. D65 is not well supported in the industry. By example, there are few D65 viewing booths available. - Piezography Manual
In other words, there is more to monitor calibration than meets the eye. A deeper dive can be found in A Calibration Primer
See ya next week,