Dramatic Black & White

Making beautiful black-and-white images is easier than ever before, thanks to powerful adjustments in Lightroom and Photoshop, as well as specialized conversion software like Google’s Nik Silver Efex Pro, Perfect B&W from onOne Software, Tonality Pro from Macphun and B&W Effects from Topaz Labs.

You can play around with the sliders in these programs and in plug-ins, and you may wind up with good results. However, with a deeper understanding of black-and-white imaging, you can create a more powerful, more dramatic and more artistic image. I’ll cover the basics in this column, showing just some of the endless possibilities that await you in black-and-white processing.

Here’s the file (cropped from my RAW file) from which I created the iceberg image.

Before we get going, however, here are some important factors to think about as you’re shooting when your goal is to create a great black-and-white image.


You need to see in values rather than seeing colors. You also need to envision how shadows and highlights will "play" in your black-and-white images. As you shoot, envision how the scene will look without color, which can be enamoring, as well as distracting (in a good way). With practice, you’ll start to see in black-and-white.

Leave a Comment