Converting color images into black and white is a fun process, especially if you know what you’re doing. But most photographers are shy of getting their hands wet because of the sheer complexity and workload. Hopefully this video by Andrew S. Gibson will clear the air around the process:
Convert to Black & White
The first step in the process is to click on Black & White in the basic tools.
Tip: Set yourself a reference point by clicking on the history panel, right clicking on the latest step, and then clicking Copy History Settings to Before. This way you can check the before and after versions of the image simply by using the backslash key on your keyboard.
Gibson used the expose to the right technique. This gives the image as much exposure as possible without treading the red line and clipping the highlights. This is not a general rule, but you can certainly try this out if you feel like it. You still have the option to reduce the exposure in Lightroom and give it the effect that you want.
Adjust the Exposure
Pull the exposure slider to the left to bring down the exposure (recommended if you used the expose to the right method).
Contrast and Clarity
Normally when you convert a color image to black & white it looks a bit flat. Work the contrast and clarity sliders until the image looks just about right.
Highlights and Shadows
Tweak the highlights and shadows slider in case you need to make the image a bit darker or lighter.
Up until now, you’ve been making global adjustments to the image. To really make the image pop, local adjustments are required as well. This can be done by using a graduated filter, adjustment brush tool, and presets.
Gibson demonstrates a simple process to enhance the eyes by using a preset that he himself developed. Don’t worry if you don’t have the right tool; there’s always one that you can buy to meet your own editing taste.
Gibson also shows how you can do some local adjustment to facial hair.
Always zoom in when you make changes and then zoom out to check the results. It’s easy to go overboard with the brush tool. Just in case you do go overboard, don’t worry, Lightroom does provide you a life-jacket. Simply use the Erase tool to revert the changes where it looks a bit too unrealistic.
There’s a lot more to a black and white conversion than just clicking on Black & White in the Lightroom panel. Take your time making adjustments, and your portraits will really impress.
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