For me, black and white imagery is filled with timeless beauty and a certain edge that leaves the mind to wonder and fill in the colorful blanks. It’s also interesting to me to pull the color out of an image and view the compositional elements. Amazing isn’t it!?… to find that your beautiful image is not really that strong without the color? We’ll save that for a future discussion… 🙂
Today’s quick tip has to do with adding pop to your Black & White images. I am constantly hearing that black & white is out of peoples comfort zone and I totally get it. Using a simple Black & White conversion in Lightroom or even Photoshop can yield a rather disappointing conversion. One with very muddled tonal qualities and low contrast.
Here are a few simple techniques you can play around with to increase the contrast and add some pop to your Black & Whites. In this post, I will referring directly to Lightroom 5, however, the very same channel functions can be found in Photoshop and Nik Software~SilverEfex. Once you have completed your simple edits to prepare your image for further retouching(ie. exposure, white balance, contrast, Lens correction, etc…), make a “virtual copy” of your image. This will save your color edit and create a duplicate for your BW conversion. I always recommend working on a RAW file, rather than a Jpeg.
Working on your duplicate image, in the “Develop” Module, change your Treatment to Black & White. The “treatment” is found just above the white balance sliders at the top of the work panel. While you can use almost any of the sliders to do fun and create things to your image, we are going to focus on Tone Curves and Color Channel.
First, go down to the third Panel showing ~ HSL/Color/BW. Using these sliders, you can lighten and darken the color values in your image. It’s easy to get carried away and overcook your image, but here we are simply trying to adjust tonal values that didn’t convert to BW well.
Once you have the image headed in the right direction, it’s time to go to “Tone Curves.”
Using the Tone Curves panel, first try the drop down box(point curve) at the bottom to initially dial in your level of contrast. Now, using the sliders begin to add a little punch to your image. Always watch your histogram at the top and monitor your adjustments to avoid clipping your whites and blacks. As you create, you can fine tune your image using the color channel sliders and Basic adjustment panels. Is sepia or selenium more your flavor?… then drop down to the “Split Toning” panel and go to town! More on this in a later post!… 🙂