Creating a Black and White Conversion In Lightroom

For many images, I find myself drawn to the simplicity of black and white – particularly those with good tonal ranges or dramatic light. (you can read more about which images are great candidates for black and white conversions here)  Although I often take my images into Photoshop to create black and whites, you can do an awesome conversion in Lightroom too!  Here's a guide to how I create my black and white images when using Lightroom only.

Here's the original image to work on: 

First I switch to black and white to get my initial conversion,  which immediately creates a black and white image, but one that is lacking in any punch. 

So my next step is always to add in some overall contrast.  Contrast is simply the difference between the dark and light areas in your images. When we add contrast, we are basically deepening the blacks and shadows, and lightening the whites and highlights. 

We can start this process by using the sliders which control the blacks and the whites.   By moving the whites and blacks sliders, we can introduce more overall "pop" and contrast to the image.  You can also play with the highlights and shadows sliders to get the look you want. Obviously, don't go so far with these sliders that you introduce "clipping" - where you start to lose detail in the brightest or darkest parts of your image. 


 By doing so, you can see that I've introduced a bit more life to the image.  

Next, we can take it a step further by adding secondary contrast. We can do this in one of two ways. The first is the easiest option, where you simply need to move the contrast slider. What’s important to note here is what this does – it doesn’t touch the ends of the histrogram, it simply adds secondary contrast by adding contrast to the midtones of your image. 

You can also do this a second way, by using the Tone Curve Slider in LIghtroom and adding a slight S curve. This has the same affect – it leaves the ends of your histogram (the black and whites) alone, but adds contrast to the midtones only. This can be a better option if you want to further fine tune how much contrast you apply to either the lighter or darker midtones.

You should at this point have a great black and white image.

secondary contrast.jpg

If we want to, we can fine tune this either further, by adding some clarity. Clarity is actually pretty similar to contrast, except that it is adding contrast to the detail in your image to make it stand out more.  Be careful when adding clarity to images of people, they can start to look “crunchy” pretty darn quick! 


Lastly, you can use the luminance sliders in Lightroom.  All these sliders are doing is adjusting the brightness of a particular color. So, for example, to boost the brightness of the skin only, you can add luminance to the oranges, reds and yellows (all depending on skin tone)  If your son or daughter is wearing clothing that is not helping the image along (either by being too dark or light) then you can tweak that in Lightroom simply by moving the appropriate color slider - if you are not sure, have a play with all the colours to see if they affect anything! 

I didn't actually change much in this particular image, but in some cases these sliders can make a dramatic difference! Here's the final image here: 


P.S  If you use Photoshop, you can do these exact same steps in Adobe Camera Raw, or if you want a tip on creating better black and whites in Photoshop itself, you can see this tutorial here


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