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How To Convert Your Photos to Black & White + FREE LIGHTROOM PRESET

How to covert your photos to black and white

I LOVE LOVE LOVE black and white photos. How much do I love them? So much that I want to share with you my process for creating stunning, classic, and timeless black and white imagery.

My free Lightroom Preset is available at the bottom of this post. But first, learn when and how to PROPERLY convert black and white images, and avoid some crucial errors.


Tip 1 – The #1 situation to go grayscale is when you have mixed lighting

We wedding photographers often don’t have control over the lighting of a space as much as studio photographers do. Candle lit church with sunlight streaming in anyone? It looks beautiful to the naked eye, but our cameras get confused. If you white balance for the candles, you get blue light through the windows. If you balance for the window light, everyone looks like they spent too much time at the tanning salon.

I encourage you to try to learn how to properly white balance, but in a pinch, black and white is your best friend.

And then, of course, you may choose to convert them simply because you love the way it looks. This is an artistic, stylistic choice that you are fully entitled to make.

Tip 2 – Never, EVER, shoot black and white in camera

Your camera has a massive of colour gamut. “Wut?” This basically means it sees and records a ton of colours of when taking a photo. These colours help you create many different looks and feels when you covert to black and white in Lightroom.

You can use the “B&W” panel within Lightroom to brighten and darken certain colours.

In the photo below, you see the original on the left, and two B&W conversions. For the one in the middle, I’ve darkened the greens to create moodiness, and darkened the skin tones (orange). In the one on the right, I created a lighter mood by brightening the yellows and greens.

Lightroom tips on black and white conversions

This is why converting to black and white is very different than simply desaturation your photo.

If you change your camera settings to shoot in black and white, you won’t have those options because the camera never recorded colour in the first place.

Tip 3 – Keep the midtones

A lot of black and white presets make the shadows way too dark, and the highlights way to bright. Although I’m a fan of contrast, I like to maintain the details in my photos by not only brightening the shadows, but adjusting the overall exposure.

Tip 4 – Don’t convert wedding detail photos

Your clients have spent a lot of time, effort and MONEY designing their wedding beautifully. The colours they’ve chosen are a big part of it, so they should be allowed to shine bright and colourfully in the images.

Rich reds and burgundy at this Park Hyatt wedding

Tip 5 – Grain is great

Grain, otherwise known as “noise” is the perfect breeding ground for beautiful black and whites. It has such a lovely, classic aesthetic. Plus, it can make a poor lighting situation look artsy 😉

Bride and Groom cute cake at Steamwhistle brewery

Tip 6 – Get my Preset!

I’m not saying it’ll solve ALL your problems. But hey, you never know.

I use this preset for basically all of my black and white conversions. I like to keep it contrasty, and have bright skin tones.

This is a great general preset, but feel fully free to tweak any of the settings to fit different lighting, times of year, etc.


 

Free Black & White Lightroom Preset

 

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