Black & white is a format that can suit almost any type of photography. Landscapes, portraits and architectural photography, all benefit from the medium, which adapts well to all lighting situations. Black and white is photography at its most raw and stripped back. Colours can often be distracting in our images and can take the focus away from your subject. Taking the colour out of an image lets the subject speak for Itself. Black & white photography gives us sharper contrast which colour photography can often miss. Providing, deeper lines, darker shadows, and stronger highlights.
These tips aim to help you better understand the medium and improve your editing skills so that you can create beautiful black and white images when using Adobe Lightroom.
Tips for creating black & white photos in Lightroom
First, in the Develop page, navigate to the Basic treatment panel and set your Treatment to B&W. This then converts the image you want to edit to Monochrome for you. The next step is to refine your image using the Tone sliders. Here you can set the Exposure, Contrast, Shadows and Highlights. Play around and find out what works for you. As mentioned previously, B&W photography can often benefit from a higher level of contrast as it brings out the fine details of an image without having the distraction of colour. However, it’s completely subjective and the end result is really up to you and what looks good to your own eyes.
Remember, you can always hold the Alt keyboard tab on a Windows PC, or the Option tab on a Mac when adjusting the Shadows or Highlights to see what information is clipping and potentially being lost from your adjustments. If you don’t want to lose these details you can bring them back by dialling down your edits on the sliders.
How to use the Tone Curve in Adobe Lightroom
Next, you should move on to the Tone Curve to make global adjustments to the tones of the image. Editing in this panel can often provide you with a more natural effect when manipulating the dark and light sections of your photograph. You can adjust the Tone Curve manually by dragging the shadows down or highlights up for example. The line you can see starts with shadows at the bottom left and ends with highlights in the top right. In the middle you have midtones.
This can be a great tool to use if you want to design different photographic aesthetics, giving you the ability to create vintage looks for example, as you can specifically reduce the density of your crushed blacks and imitate fade.
Using the B&W Panel in Adobe Lightroom
Next, you can move onto your B&W Panel. This is usually labelled the HLS panel but changes once you convert your image to monochrome. Here you have more precise editing tools and are able to target the individual colours in your photograph despite it appearing black & white on your monitor. Because you shot in colour, the detail still exists in the image, and you can then use the colour sliders to make targeted adjustments to the luminance of the image.
The eight sliders under this tab let you make the tones corresponding to the colours in the original photo lighter or darker. For example, if you move the Blue slider left, Lightroom makes any grey tones converted from blue darker. Move it right and it makes them lighter.
Lightroom Gradient Filter and Vignettes
Sometimes, when using Adobe Lightroom for your black and white photography you may want to focus your viewer’s attention on a specific section of your image. Use the Gradient Filter to reduce the focus on certain elements of your photo or improve say the Contrast of others. Drag the tool from one edge of the image to create a gradient, such as down from the top when adjusting a sky for instance. Dragging the top and bottom lines repositions where the effect begins and ends. Placing them close together results in a tight gradient while putting them farther apart spreads out the effect.
You can also use Vignettes to guide your viewer’s eye more easily to the subject you want them to focus on. Both Vignettes and Gradients are powerful was to enhance both the mood and the composition of your black & white image in Adobe Lightroom.