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I recently had a few rolls of black and white film developed. When choosing options for 4-inch prints, I could either opt to have color prints or, for an extra cost, true black and white prints. I opted to have one of my rolls printed on true black and white gelatin paper, and the other on color paper.

In the end, I couldn't see a difference between the true gelatin black and white prints and the black and white roll printed on color paper.

Is there a concrete, conceivable reason why I would want to have my black and white rolls printed on true black and white gelatin paper if I just intend to use them for personal use, or is it just a marketing gimmick?

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    How sure are you that they didn't just print everything on the same paper, regardless of what option you selected? – xiota Apr 30 at 1:09
  • @xiota The backs of the paper had different watermarks. The color ones had a Kodak watermark, the true B&W ones blank. – gparyani Apr 30 at 1:10
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    @Hueco thedarkroom.com/faq, the first question under "Prints". In short, it's actually enlarged (not scanned and printed), color prints are on Kodak Royal, and B&W prints are on Ilford Galerie RC. – gparyani Apr 30 at 1:35
  • I sincerely doubt that the b&w negatives were traditionally enlarged and printed on colour paper. Different contrast and the lack of colour mask (the orange-brown base colour of colour negative film) does not allow you to enlarge b&w negatives on colour paper. – jarnbjo Apr 30 at 14:16
  • @jarnbjo The page on true B&W prints strongly implied that...they don't have a page on color prints. – gparyani Apr 30 at 14:34
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The images on gelatin-silver film and prints are formed by silver particles. The images on color (chromogenic) film and prints are formed by color dyes. There are also chromogenic black and white films that are developed using the standard C41 color process, but use black and white dyes to form the image.

Modern commercial chromogenic and silver-gelatin prints are both produced by scanning the negative and shining lasers at the appropriate papers, which are then developed using the appropriate chemicals. When printing black and white images on color paper, the image is formed by a mixture of colored dyes.

  • "Black" won't really be black (Alan Marcus explains).
  • There may be a color cast.
  • Image resolution may be affected (guessing).
  • There may be longevity concerns.

If you just want an image that will look good in a frame for several decades, normal chromogenic prints are likely good enough, as long as the aforementioned issues are not significant (as in your case, where you cannot tell the difference between the two processes). I don't know what other scenarios would lead someone to want "real" silver prints, except to try it out, as you did.

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