Working with Black and White in Lightroom

Recently I have been getting into black and white photography of the digital kind. I can remember using Ilford film in the “old days” and with it’s gorgeous grainy 400 ISO. So how do you recreate this digitally?

Over the past few months I have been using the CC version, which enables you to synchronise your date across not just the desktop but across mobile devices too. I have loved the freedom and spontaneity this has created, as I can just pick up my iPad and do some editing, safe in the knowledge my files are backed up in the Adobe Cloud.

So here are some recent examples of mine, all of which were shot in RAW, as regular colour photos to begin with and then imported into Lightroom, where the magic begins to unfold.

Let’s get converting…

Let’s pick one of the above images and I am going to reset it to how it looked to start with. How about the Spanish Steps, they are a good example…

My original Spanish Steps photo, off the camera (RAW)

In the top corner of Lightroom CC (Mac) you will see:

Adobe Lightroom: Edit Tools

You can select from this dropdown Adobe Monochrome but you could also click on the icon to the right to Browse all profiles and choose from a larger list of presets by clicking on the B&W set which offers a range of creative monochrome modes and I in fact choose the B&W Blue Filter in the case of this particular image.

Push the Curve

The Curve tool is a useful one to practice using and for black and white it allows you to work on your tones rather than your colour and as such it takes on a slightly different purpose. I used it in the case of this image to give it a little bit of an “S” shape which results in a more contrasty image.

Push the curves a little bit!

You can see in the above example, I have improved the highlights and not done too much with the shadows and yet the histogram indicates we still have a good even spread on that exposure.

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