Converting To Black & White


Under the B&W heading in the Develop module, you’ll find the Black & White Mix controls. Each slider represents each original color value in the image: red, orange, yellow, green, aqua, blue, purple and magenta. Grab the red slider and move it to the left, and you’ll see the gray values in areas that were originally red become darker gray. Move the slider to the right, and those gray tones get lighter. In this way, you can make dramatic changes, from bright and contrasty to dark and muddy, and everywhere in between. Red and orange sliders directly affect skin tones, while aquas and blues modify skies. Foliage, obviously, is predominantly green, so for nature photos, the green and yellow sliders are particularly useful. With just these sliders, the amount of control over the way the software translates color tones into grayscale values is immense.



Sometimes you want to make brightness and contrast adjustments independent of the original colors in an image. For instance, let’s say a red tomato and a yellow tomato both have a middle gray value after conversion. Using the red slider would only affect one of them, while using the yellow slider would affect the other. But with the Histogram and Tone Curve controls in the Develop module, you can click and drag directly on a given gray value in the Histogram to adjust all matching gray values, no matter what color was present in the original capture.

Grabbing the middle of the Histogram or Tone Curve affects middle gray values, while the ends of the Histogram and the ends of the Tone Curve represent shadow values (left) and highlights (right). Simply click and drag to fine-tune brightness and contrast across the image. One of the surest ways to create a beautiful black-and-white conversion is to take care to set a good black point and a bright white point to keep the image from looking drab and muddy. The Histogram and Tone Curve are perfect tools for this.

Contast, Exposure & Clarity Slider


Contrast Slider


The best black-and-white conversions are filled with richness: bright whites, deep blacks and a multitude of grays in between. The worst conversions look flat and boring. To ensure that yours don’t fall into the latter group, you can add pop in several ways.

Exposure and contrast adjustments can be made just as they are in a color image: by adjusting the Exposure and Contrast sliders in the Basic tab of the Develop module or by using the Histogram and Tone Curve just discussed. You can also add pop by employing creative sharpening via the Clarity and Sharpness controls. Clarity is adjusted at the bottom of the Basic tab, while Sharpness is adjusted in the Detail tab. Both of these tools are crucial for fine-tuning the punchiness of your black-and-white conversions, and both will help define fine details that can make black-and-white images really sing.


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