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How to get the best black and white conversion in Lightroom

How to get the best black and white conversion in Lightroom

Black and white photography is classic. Timeless. And yet, there are so many different ways to create a black and white image. There’s the one-click options. The Instagram-like filters. While these are great for speed, there’s another option for photographers that want to get every shade of gray perfect. By using the HSL panel in Lightroom, you can control how each color converts for the most control over the final results. Here’s how to get the best black and white conversion in Lightroom Classic.

Step 1: Get the exposure right first.

First, correct any exposure errors in the basic panel by adjusting the exposure slider. Having a good exposure from the start before you’ve even converted to black and white will help you make the best decisions on how to convert each color. You can always come back and continue to fine-tune (and probably will).

Inside the basic panel, make sure the color options are untouched, with the white balance as shot and the vibrance and saturation sliders set to zero.

Step 2: Convert to black and white in the HSL panel.

There are multiple ways to convert to black and white, but the HSL offers easy, yet custom control over the way the colors convert. Scroll down to the HSL panel in the right-hand toolbar and click on B & W. Lightroom will then convert the file for you.

Step 3: Control each color channel.

Inside the B & W section of the HSL panel, you can now control how each color converts, making each channel lighter or darker in the conversion. By controlling how each color converts, you can add contrast or create a matte look, make skin tones pop or allow a certain object in the photo to stand out more (or less) from the background.

Lightroom has two different ways to control each color. First, you can use the sliders dedicated to each color, pulling to the left to darken or to the right to lighten and previewing those shots in real time.

Another option is to use the targeted tool, which tends to work better if you aren’t  sure what color channel to adjust for a specific area.. You can find the tool by clicking the circle icon in the upper left corner of the B & W sidebar. Now, you can control the conversion with your mouse instead of the slider. As you hoover over areas of the image, the corresponding color slider will be highlighted, allowing you to see what colors are in that selection. Click that area of the image and drag the mouse up to lighten or down to darken. Just like using the sliders, only that color channel (or channels in some cases) will be affected.

Adjust each color channel until you have achieved the desired look — and remember, Lightroom is non-destructive so you can go back and make changes again later.

Step 4: Finish the edits.

Editing a black and white image doesn’t have to be done only in the B & W panel. With the colors converted, you can continue editing the shot as you normally would — just avoid the controls typically associated with color like saturation and white balance. You can fine-tune the exposure, create even more contrast using curves, apply local adjustments such as a dodge and burn, or sharpen the image.

Black and white photographs are often powerful images, but in order to harness that power, you need to control the conversion. Thankfully, black and white edits are both simple and versatile inside Lightroom.

4 Black and White Photography Tips For Beginners

4 Black and White Photography Tips For Beginners

Black and white photography may be as old as, well, pretty much photography itself, but there’s something about a colorless image. When the color is removed from the photo, the eye focus more on shapes, shadows and patterns, making the type of monochrome format an excellent tool for a number of different subjects. But, the best black and white images are envisioned before the photographer even presses the shutter release. So, how do you take great black and white photos? Here are four black and white photography tips.

Change the color profile — but shoot in RAW.

Most cameras will have the option to change to a black and white color profile, which means those previews you see on the back of the screen will be in black and white, and with some cameras with electronic viewfinders, you can see what the black and white conversion would look like as you shoot. This simple switch makes it easy to visualize how color scenes would look without color.

But, for the best results, there’s one more step. Believe it or not, there are a number of different ways that color can convert to black and white — allowing the camera to do the conversion is like shooting on auto. Instead, maintain creative control over exactly how that color converts by shooting in RAW. In RAW, those camera color profiles aren’t applied, which means you can see the general effect in-camera, but you have full control over how that color converts in post.

Look for shapes, pattern and light as you compose.

Removing the color from a photo forces the viewer to consider everything else. As a photographer, when composing a black and white image, look for scenes that are absolutely striking even without color. Look for patterns that might be even more obvious in a black and white shots. Shapes and leading lines are great in any photograph but keep a careful eye out for hem when shooting for black and white. Black and white can also make difficult lighting appear more striking and intentional, whether that’s boring flat light or hard, high contrast light.

Aim for a wide range of grays.

Ideally, a black and white photo should have both a true black and a true white, but also plenty of grays in between. The more different tones the image has, the more contrast and punch the final image will have. Some of this is post, but some of this is also shooting and looking for scenes with lots of contrast.  If you need, you can even try the high dynamic range technique to introduce a wider range of grays.

Play with the color sliders.

Don’t settle for the one-click black and white conversions. In Lightroom, head right to the B&W section on the HSL Color panel. Next, experiment with the sliders and watch how the tones in the image change. (You can do the same thing in Photoshop by adding a black and white adjustment layer). Lightening oranges, for example, will brighten skin tones. The greens and blues can be particularly helpful for landscape images. By adjusting each color individually, you can create a black and white that’s full of contrast or even create a matte look.

Black and white may have fewer details without those colors, but that means viewers will be taking a closer look at what’s in that shot — so put these black and white photography tips to good use the next time you shoot.

5 Black and White Photography Tips To Master Monochrome

5 Black and White Photography Tips To Master Monochrome

Photography originated in black and white — so why does black and white sometimes feel so hard? When you see the world in color, it’s hard to make the mental transition to determine what would make a great black and white shot. Some great shots just don’t look so good when you lose the color.  So how do you master monochrome? Here are five black and white photography tips to get you started.

Use RAW.

How does each color translate into a shade of gray? If you shoot RAW, you can make that decision yourself. Working with a RAW file and a photo editor like Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom allows you to choose just how light or dark each color becomes in the final monochrome. Shooting in RAW is actually simpler than it sounds — inside your camera menu, change the file type from JPEG to RAW, just make sure you have a photo editor compatible with RAW files (most of them are). Then, when you open the RAW file, you’ll see the option to adjust each color individually (in Lightroom, that’s in the HSL panel).

Learn to “see” in black and white.

Shooting better black and whites starts before the image is even shot, however. Knowing how each color will convert helps you decide what would make a great black and white shot as you compose the shot. That takes experience — but there is a trick for beginners to get a jump start. While shooting in RAW, switch your camera’s color profile to black and white. Since the file type is a RAW, you’ll still capture all the color data so you can do the conversion yourself for more fine-tuning (or if you change your mind and want the shot in color). But, by switching the color profile, the shots you see on the back of the LCD screen will be in black and white. Seeing the shot in monochrome right away helps you develop that eye for good black and white.

Look for contrast.

What makes a great black and white shot? Often, the answer is in contrast. While there are some lighter black and white conversions, often, a good black and white has both a true black and a true white, instead of being all shades of gray. When you are out shooting, look for scenes with a lot of contrast to help the shot stand out in black and white. Backlighting, for example, often looks great in monochrome.

Embrace filters.

Black and white film photographers use filters to adjust how each color converts. Now, that color conversion is done digitally — but that doesn’t mean filters are obsolete. Using a polarizing filter when outdoors will help add contrast to the shot. Graduated neutral density filters to darken the sky and full graduated filters for long exposures also works well with black and white shots.

Think shapes, patterns and texture.

When you convert to black and white, you are removing one of the interesting elements of an image: color. But when you remove color, other elements tend to stand out — like shapes, patterns and texture. As you are composing your black and white, look for shapes, patterns or texture to emphasize with the lack of color.

Color may be new when compared to black and white, but there’s still a few tricks to getting better black and whites. Take these black and white photography tips to master monochrome — and head out with your camera to practice.