A Lightroom Preset for Enchanting Black and White

A couple folks have asked about how I create my black and whites and I have been wanting to start a section for photographers on my blog for a long time to share with the phtographers community. So here goes a first!

I use Lightroom for a vast majority of all my photo processing. It is my goal to avoid Photoshop as much as possible which has been a key to the efficiency and results I want in my post processing (I only use photoshop for manipulation, layering/compositing, and my graphic art and products and things like that).

So all of my monochrome treatments come through Lightroom (I am currently using 5.6 via the Creative Cloud for photographers plan).

lr_bw_samples_scn

Getting Stuck in Neutral

My personal taste is warm-tone. I rarely ever show a neutral black and white (no color tone, only pure grays and blacks with equal values in each color channel, such as Red=175, Blue=175, Green=175).

I like to use the Split Tone feature of Lightroom to apply to warm tone to the black and white which adds a small amount of color. For my own work, I don’t care for strong browns and “sepia” types of processing. For this reason, I created a look for my client work that that departs from neutral and slants slightly into the warm range but avoids an antique-ish yellow/brown appearance.

Lightroom split tone panel used for adding black and white warm tone

Lightroom split tone panel used for adding black and white warm tone

Before You Use a Preset

Sometimes photographers can have a negative experience and get kinda of turned off to presets. Of course, one reason is that the presets could not be very good, but a more common reason is that presets usually have a limited scope of photos which they are appropriate for. Subtle presets (those which affect a photo in a small way) have the widest range of uses.

The stronger the effect of the preset, the fewer photos is will really work well with. That is one reason I always like to show a sample of the raw, unadjusted photo out of camera to help demonstrate a sample photo which will work well with the particular preset.

The Low Down on Presets

For me, the result of a preset is a function of the original shot. In other words, the better the original shot, the better the result of the preset will be. Not every shot is right for black and white treatment. The tone range, contrast, and subject matter that work for black and white is a subjective decision that your personal artistic sense will have to discern for your own work.

Tip: Adjust the exposure of your shot before applying the preset so that it looks ‘correct’ as a color shot. This will avoid the preset result becoming overly bright or dark.

I kinda feel that a preset adds 25% off the result. 50% is the original shot. The remaining 25% is the detail applied to that particular shot in the form of local adjustments, dodging/burning, contrast and other tweaks that the shot may benefit from.

RK BW Enchant Preset

This is the before and after of the preset. Super important to apply the right type of shots.

  • Original shot: soft light (such as open shade), low to moderate contrast
  • Strength: very strong
  • Best for: shots of a person/couples with soft, properly exposed skin tones.

The RK BW Enchant Lightroom preset was used on this shot of Kristen and Matt who were posed in open shade with a low, veiled evening sky (which keeps light nice and straight onto the face, versus from above where “raccoon eyes” may  occur).

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Tips for Using The Preset

Season to Taste

You can tweak a lot of aspects of black and white treatments in Lightroom to tailor the effect for your shot and adjust to your personal taste.

Using Lightroom Black and White Color Mix Sliders

You can use the color sliders in the B&W Mix panel to control skin tone.

If your shot is fairly close on exposure and a good white balance, the orange slider will directly control skin tones. Most skin tones will fall into the color range which this slider adjusts. Increasing the Orange will brighten only flesh tone and usually very little else (obviously if you are in a Tropicana grove, the effect will be less contained).

Use the orange slider to control brightness of skin tones

Use the orange slider to control brightness of skin tones

The red slider will usually adjust lips and (sometimes to the detriment of the shot), reddish skin and blotches. The yellow slider can also sometimes adjust flesh tones, but orange is usually the heavy hitter. Often yellow will also affect trees and plant fauna (and spots in the shot hit by direct warm sunlight).

Ride the Tone Curve

Since black and white/monochrome images rely on the weight or luminosity value of the tone (not its hue), most of the impact of a black and white shot is accomplished in the Lightroom Tone Curve panel.

This is a good place to adjust to your particular shot. Say, if the darks are too dark, jack up the Shadows slider. Likewise, if the light tones are too white or blown out, ease up on the Lights slider.

lr_bw_toneCurve

 

Download

Download the Lightroom preset below. Created with Lightroom 5.6.

RK BW Enchant Lightroom Preset

Importing into Lightroom

To import the preset in Lightroom 5, switch to the Develop module and navigate to the Presets view. Unzip the attached zip file (which contains a file with a *.lrtemplate file extension).  Right click and click Import.

Lr_import_preset

 

Enjoy! Suggestion, comment, question? Please feel welcome to post below.

~R

 

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