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Preparing a color image for black and white

From: Black and White with Lightroom and Photoshop

Video: Preparing a color image for black and white

The first step to getting a great black and white image is getting a great color image. So, let's start with this image here, and we're going to go over to our Develop module, and I'm going to do that same trick before; I', going to dismiss the interface on the left, so I can see a lot of my image. And what we want to do is get this as far as possible in color. There's two reasons for that. One, we want all of the information that we can see for editing this image. The other reason is, we might find in that process that we really like the image in color, and we don't want it in black and white after all. So, I could press the Black & White button over here, but that's not what I'm going to do.

Preparing a color image for black and white

The first step to getting a great black and white image is getting a great color image. So, let's start with this image here, and we're going to go over to our Develop module, and I'm going to do that same trick before; I', going to dismiss the interface on the left, so I can see a lot of my image. And what we want to do is get this as far as possible in color. There's two reasons for that. One, we want all of the information that we can see for editing this image. The other reason is, we might find in that process that we really like the image in color, and we don't want it in black and white after all. So, I could press the Black & White button over here, but that's not what I'm going to do.

First, I am going to show you how to use the White Balance tool, and you can get into a little bit of trouble with this, so I encourage you to only use it if it seems like there's a bit of a shift in your image, but because it can be misused, let's cover a couple tips and tricks. You don't need to use it on a white area, like the elephant's tusk there, just a neutral area. It can be black, it can be gray, it can be white. If it doesn't work, just click again. I like to say season to taste; try this until it works for you, and usually what will need to happen is you'll end up warming the image up a bit afterwards. I don't recommend that you play around too much with Tint, but with that White Balance tool, try it in a couple of neutral areas until you get the image you want.

I'm going to grab this panel over here and stretch it out a bit, so I that I have just a little more control. And with Exposure, the main reason that I'm using Exposure is if I've overcooked the image, and in this case, I can tell just by looking at it, I left my exposure compensation on, and I shot a little bit hot. I do that more often than I'd like to admit. But what I'd like to tell you here is the Exposure is a bit of a sledgehammer; it's easy to overuse it. What Highlight will do is it will recover the highlight detail. You can see my histogram is moving, and I'm just pulling that one side down, so I can see the detail in the sky.

Shadow will fill in the shadow area, and brighten it. And I'm not going to use Whites and Blacks too much; they will just darken or lighten either of those, but I can use blacks to take the dark areas, and make them pop a bit. And speaking of making this image pop, that's what clarity is for; it's essentially midtone contrast. So, if I move it to the right, the image is going to be a little more dramatic and crunchy. Were I move it to the left, I can soften it, and make it almost glow; it's like rubbing Vaseline on the lens. It can be really handy if you have someone who needs their skin retouched. It's a good way to skip that. But for the case of this image, we're going to want a high contrast black and white; I'm going to move it over a little to the side.

Now, you wouldn't think that Vibrance and Saturation would be very important in a black and white image, but again, I want to take it as far as I can color before I decide whether I want it to be black and white or not. So, what I'd like to do in this case is boost the Vibrance a bit, drop the Saturation, and now I'm getting somewhere. I have got a nice color image. The last thing I want to show you in color is around the Tone Curve, and curves can be a little bit scary; Lightroom has given a much nicer interface to this. Essentially, what we have done here is giving you sliders connected to the curve, so the Highlights slider will pull just the highlight area, and the Shadows slider will pull just the shadow area, and I don't even need to know anything about curves. I can double-click on these to restore them to their default.

Now, what a lot of people don't know is that I can grab these little points here that control those four sliders; those are quadrants of the curve, and I can move them over, so that now the Shadows and Highlights sliders will only control 10% of histogram. So, you can see Highlights is only affecting the very brightest area, and Shadows is only affecting the very darkest area. This is a nice finishing touch for your color image, and it's a great last step before we move on to black and white.

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Image for Black and White with Lightroom and Photoshop
Black and White with Lightroom and Photoshop

20 video lessons · 4970 viewers

Bryan O'Neil Hughes
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