Hey everyone! Nikki here today with a Lightroom tutorial on effectively converting your photos to black and white and really making them pop!
Here’s the original photo that I’ll be working with today. This is a SOOC shot of my young cousin Drew (isn’t he cute??) taken with my 35mm and these settings: ISO 400, 1/30, at f/2.0. I could make this photo really pop in color but for this shot I thought I’d go a little more moody in black and white.
Step 1: Basic editing to photo
First we want to do some basic editing to the photo. In my workflow, I usually do this when I import into Lightroom, but I thought I’d go through the steps for you here. We were shooting this right at sunset. In fact, the sun was mostly gone, and unfortunately, so was my light. But, since I shoot in RAW, this can easily be fixed in Lightroom. So, first I move to the Develop Module and adjust my exposure just a little and do any corrections to white balance that are needed.
Step 2: Check for over and under exposure
Looking better but I notice I’ve got a really overexposed section of sky now so I’m going to hit “J” on my keyboard which is going to show us those sections of the photo that have lost detail (in red). To fix this I’ll just move the Recovery Slider over to the right until all the red area is mostly gone.
Step 3: Convert to black and white
Now click on black and white in the Develop Module. This is a good starting point, but as you can see, it’s kind of a blah black and white. That’s the great thing about Lightroom—endless possibilities for making it a fabulous black and white.
Step 4: Color Tone Adjustment
So, here’s where it gets fun. In the Develop Module on the right hand side, scroll down until you see a box that says HSL/Color/B&W, and click the arrow to open it up.
You should see several sliders with color names on the left side. You can play with these sliders here to adjust color tones in your photo. Or, there is another cool tool that I like even better. At the top lefthand side of the box, there is a tiny circle. Click on it, and then move your cursor over the top of your photo, and you can adjust different parts of the photos just by moving your mouse wheel up and down (or you can hold down the left mouse button and move the mouse up or down on your mousepad).
In this photo, I want to darken the trees behind him so I’ll click on that area of the photo with my mouse and then move my wheel down to darken. This automatically moves the color sliders for you.
Now I want to lighten his face just a little, so I do the same thing by clicking over his face and then moving the wheel of my mouse up to lighten it up. Then to add a little more detail to the rocks and train tracks, I repeated this again and darkened them by moving the wheel of my mouse down.
Step 5: Adjust Highlights and Shadows
So it’s looking better but it’s still not exactly what I want, so I’m going to adjust the highlights and shadows. In the Develop Module, scroll back up until you see the Tone Curve Box, and open it up.
Once again there are two ways you can adjust the highlights and shadows. You can move the sliders yourself, or you can click the little circle in the left hand corner and adjust them in the same way we did the color tones. I played around a little and ended up with this. As you can see, the tone curve moved slightly and made a nice impact:
Step 6: Adjust Exposure/Brightness/Contrast/Clarity
Now the photo is almost where I’d like it to be, so I’m going to go back up to my Basic box and adjust exposure/brightness/contrast and clarity.
I didn’t want to overexpose his face so I just increased exposure slightly and then brightened the photo some with the Brightness slider. I added a touch of fill light and increased the contrast. I had to add a little more to my Recovery slider to compensate for this. I then added a little Clarity and ended up with this:
Step 7: Noise Reduction
Looking much better! Now this last step is totally personal preference, but I always like to move down to add a little noise reduction and possibly a slight vignette. So, in the Develop Module, scroll down til you see the Detail box and open it up. In this photo, I can see some grain in his face and in the trees behind him so I’m going to adjust my Luminance slider up just until I like what I see:
Step 8: Vignette
Now I’m going to move down to the Effects box and add a slight vignette to get more of the moody feel I think this photo needs. Just play with the settings here until you like what you see. I darkened the edges just a touch:
And there you have it. Pretty simple things to do to get an awesome moody black and white! Here’s the before and after: