Black and White Photography

Black and White Photography

Lightroom Preset B&W Contrast High
Lightroom Preset B&W Contrast High

Last night I spent the evening learning about converting color photographs into black and white. There are a number of ways to do this but here is the way I learned to do it.

Conversion to black and white works well with portraits, pictures with lots of texture, architectural shots with lines and contrast, and any photo that you would like to focus on line, form, design, texture or graphic shape.

I use Photoshop Lightroom 4 in this example but you can use Photoshop Elements or Photoshop CS4. Go to the editing screen and bring up the history palette (so that you can keep track of what you do as you do it), the histogram and levels palette. Bring up sharpness palette also. Here you will check levels and make sure that you have black blacks and white whites (zero out both sides of the levels palette, in other words drag the slider on the left over to the edge of the graph mountain and do the same to the right slider). Once you do this your histogram should show no data climbing up the sides of the graph. Use the sharpness palette to make sure your photo is sharp. Now you can save a copy before the conversion.

In CS4 convert to Black and White under Image/Adjustments. If you have Lightroom, you can go to the Develop Module and you have access to the Presets panel on the left. As you hover over the various selections it will show what it does to the image. Below I have shown a number of the presets that I found under that panel that I like on my sample photo.

Lightroom B&W Filter Presets - Infrared
Lightroom B&W High contrast image
Lightroom B&W Filter Presets - Infrared
Lightroom B&W Filter Presets – Infrared

Sepia-tone gives a slight brown/beige tone to the black and white photograph.

If you have Photoshop CS4 after saving, you can go to Image, then Adjustments and click on the Convert to Black and White. After conversion you can use your brush to dodge and/or burn to get rid of highlights that are too high or shadows that are too dark. (Ask me in the comments section if you would like more info on this step.)

You can spend hours trying out different presets on your image. Be sure to save the one you like the best. My favorite is the sepia-tone. You can comment on this post if you would like further information on histogram adjustments or levels adjustments. I can do a blog post on those items. Enjoy!

Lightroom B&W Toned Presets-Sepiatone
Lightroom B&W Toned Presets-Sepiatone
Original color photo
Original color photo