Black and White is not just taking the colour out

Another picture series taken at the Big Pit Museum in South Wales. I want to show the process to taking a colour file to a contrast B&W print.

Apologies for the poor layout of this post I have found it impossible to get the browser to allow me to align text with the correct picture with space between. If you can tell me how after 6 attempts please do.

So here is the colour raw file straight out the camera fairly flat in contrast and uninteresting. All Raw files are flat and need to be processed to get the best out them. If you want to gain control over the look of your pictures and are not using raw files I suggest you start soon.

So this is what we get if we ask the software (Lr4 only) to gives us black and white it’s even less interesting than the colour picture and that’s saying something. Good black and white photography is not a colour picture with the colour taken out– as is demonstrated here.

In the next version I have adjusted the basic sliders in Lr4 and added Clarity at around 50%. Clarity adds Mid-tone contrast, adding Clarity will make a big difference to the look of B&W in a good way. Be careful not to over do it – as it will also introduce halos if are not careful. Adobe say Lr4 has fixed the problems in this respect over Lr3 – they haven’t, its better but not gone.

I next used the Colour Mix Sliders to lighten the Reds, Oranges and Yellows. Also be careful using these sliders as they also can introduce halos.

Next various adjustments were made using the Brush and Graduated Filter tool.

A Custom Curve introduced next to boost the overall contrast.

The final Print with the edges darkened.

I hope you have found this meagre tutorial of use even if its only to help you decide what you don’t want your pictures to look like.

A big hello to all the new followers of my little blog, why not drop by and leave a comment or ask a question?

(c) Andy Beel FRPS 2012

17 responses to Black and White is not just taking the colour out

    • andybeel says:

      Hi Lawrence thanks for commenting. Yes I do use Silver Efex Pro 2 mainly to putting film grain in. Andy


  1. Awesome post Andy! I would also like to offer..that I find using tonemapping in Photomatix pro or the Topaz labs black and white filtr to be very helpful in bringing out drama in my RAW files (instead of “just removing the colr”), could not agree with you more on this! Cheers!


    • andybeel says:

      HI Stan thanks for the appreciation. I’m a bit of a Luddite with Topaz and HDR software. Do you remember when Cokin Filters were first introduced? I called them cock-up filters because they made everything look worse and unphotographic. I feel the same about the vast majority of overdone Topaz and HDR pictures.

      Getting the soul in a B&W picture is not about pressing buttons but the charactor and personality of the photographer. Andy


  2. andy says:

    Interesting that you did all this using global adjustments in Lightroom. I use the silver efex plugin in Photoshop for all my black and white conversions, then make local adjustments as required after. You’ve created a decent effect just using Lightroom though.


    • andybeel says:

      Hi Andy thanks for the comments. As Lr4.1 is still new, I wondered what I could do with it alone without the help of Silver Efex pro 2. Lr3 to Lr4 is a vast improvement. Andy


    • andybeel says:

      Hi Alessandro thank you for the appreciation. I think I spent far more time on trying to format the post as I wanted it with the text next to the pictures and spaces between than I did on making the picture and 5 or 6 derivatives to show how I got to the end point. Andy


  3. LensScaper says:

    Excellent image and a valuable tutorial, Andy. 30+ years ago I tried, for a while, carrying two camera bodies one loaded with Kodachrome and the other with B&W film. It just didn’t work. I think seeing the world in terms of B&W is very different from seeing it in colour – I couldn’t manage both at the same time. Now, I can look through a shoot – usually some time later – and start to see the B&W potentials in some colour images I have shot. And then the fun starts.


  4. Distan Bach says:

    Terrific tutorial Andy. I really appreciated your workflow walk-through – very enlightening. Personally, I still struggle when embracing blacks, and yet this is so important in B&W imagery.


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