Black and White in Lightroom 3

As you may have guessed, especially if you read my blog at all, that I am a massive fan of Black and White photography. I have written about using Silver FX pro from Nik software, which is my preferred method of converting black and whites. This is mainly for the convenience and the quality straight from the go. However one issue for me, because I use Lightroom 3 is that I have to export my image to some extent, either into photoshop or into Silver FX. I usually choose the photoshop route and use the filters, as it means I can edit other parts of the image at the same time.

So over the Christmas period, when I was recovering from turkey and wine overload, I started looking into ways of achieving good results in Lightroom. I have previously looked into presets, both standard Lightroom ones and third party ones and to be honest I have not found any that I really like. I have to say that a couple of the creative B&W presets do a reasonable job sometimes, but often they are a bit severe.

I therefore decided to dedicate some time and really look into the B&W functionality in Lightroom, away from presets and away from silver fx pro. The following is what I have found to be a good way of working, but obviously the method can be adapted. These are not all my ideas (obviously) but a mixture of methods found during my research.

Lightroom 3 B&W workflow.

So my first thing I do is make a nice colour photo. I do all the usual white balance and exposure corrections and adjust the clarity and saturation (Clarity is quite important during B&W conversions as it boosts contrast between the colour tones). I also do a small adjustment on the curve, but this is slightly easier to do once the image is B&W.

So now you will end up with a reasonable colour image.


This is my example. I shot these image knowing that I was going to make it B&W.

Now I change it to B&W by going to the colour adjustment panel and clicking the B&W tab.


Lightroom black and white

This is very similar to the channels tool in photoshop and what I have found very nice is the individual colour sliders, which you can use to adjust the look of the image and it is worth playing around with these to get the feel that you want.

Now you could leave it there and you will have a nice B&W image, but with Lightroom it does tend to produce slightly cold B&W, by that I mean there seems to be a very faint blue cast, especially in the highlights. So I found this nice little remedy which gives you a really nice feel to the image and produces something similar to a Platinum print, but it is worth playing around as you may find something you prefer.

For the sake of argument I shall call it the 50-50 effect and I have even saved it as a preset. Under the colour adjustment pallet you have the split toning pallet.

Lightroom 50-50

Basically the hue is set to a value of 50 for both highlights and shadows. Now this will actually have no effect on your image until you up the saturation slider. The amount of saturation you use is entirely personal taste and I like to preserve the B&W look and not turn it sepia, but even setting the saturation to 1 on each will make a difference. Again its worth playing around to find the recipe you like.

Here is the result from the earlier picture.


Obviously you can then go back and make curves adjustments. I have included some more examples of this method below. The shot of St Mary's Lighthouse has also been through colour efex 4 tonal contrast filter, so is slightly cheating. I liked the result though.



St Mary's Lighthouse 1


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