Converting into Black & White using Photoshop & Lightroom

I wanted to write a tutorial on how I post-process images and show you this method to turn them into black and white. This is just one of many methods. The software I use is Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop. As you can see, the original image is rather boring and flat, with a grey sky and not a lot of contrast. 


Original image. Boring and flat, with a grey sky and a lack of contrast.

When I take photos with my DSLR I always shoot RAW files. That way you can bring out a lot of details from the file during the post-processing. First I opened the photo in Adobe LIghtroom and here’s a gallery that shows the setting I used on this particular photo:

After this I export the photo, either as a .jpeg file (if you’re satisfied with the result) or a .tiff file (this is the best option if you want to continue to work on the file in Photoshop, but a jpeg is often good enough – especially if you’re not planning to print the final result). You can see the result below.


This is the result after having processed the photo in Lightroom.

IMG_8563-ps-bw-process01As you can see, this is (at least in my opinion) much more interesting than the original image, but I think that it still lacks a bit of contrast. I could have added this as a brush in Lightroom, but I prefer doing my final touches like resizing, adding watermarks and such thing in Photoshop anyway, so for this tutorial I opened the image in Photoshop and added a brightness/contrast layer in order to make the icy pond stand out a bit more. I then used a black brush on the brightness/contrast layer to mask out the piece of the photo that I wanted to keep without adding any contrast.

That’s it. That was my work-flow on this photo. In the end I flattened the image, added the watermark and saved it as a .jpeg.

Here’s the final result:

The Final Result

The Final Result

Leanne Cole has a black and white challenge going on called The Monochrome Madness Challenge. I recommend that you check it out.

27 thoughts on “Converting into Black & White using Photoshop & Lightroom

    • Thanks Amy. The settings will vary from photo to photo of course. Just pull the sliders and experiment until your photo is good. For me, these settings works good on cloudy/grey/dull shots like this one.

  1. Nicely done sir! I just got Photoshop Elements and am excited to see what I can do with it. I have been using Lightroom for almost a year and I think it’s such an amazing program. I love how you can convert a flat, boring colour image into a vibrant and contrasty black and white.

    Great job on the post.

    • For many years I only used Photoshop and then I started using Lightroom about a year or two ago. At first I had no idea what to do with it, but it’s really very easy to learn. Now Lightroom is my first choice and then I use Photoshop for the finishing touches (unless I’m making composite images).
      I’ve never tried Photoshop Elements so I don’t really know anything about it. Let me know how it works.
      Have you tried Photoshop so you can compare the two?

  2. Cool Max! I mainly use my iPhone for processing for my blog. I will have a go at Lightroom 5, that is my ‘store manager’ 🙂
    I found Leanne’s challenge and that sounds like a lot of fun!

    • I can definitely recommend Lightroom. I use an older version (4.1), but it works well for me.
      Leanne’s challenge is great. I’ve discovered quite a few good blogs that were new to me via her posts.
      I don’t have a typical camera phone, so I never take photos with my phone. My impression is that the majority of phone photos in general lack the quality to be shown on bigger screens.

      • I use Lightroom 5, but for my blog I use a more simple workflow. The iPhone has some apps that shoot in Tiff 11 MB (Hueless). It is not a DSLR, but for me posting is not to present a quality that is printable, but is enough to be seen in a nice manner on a screen in a 1300/800 resolution. If people like a print they can have one in printed quality of the original.I will enter the challenge at LCP

  3. I had a close look at all three of them. You did just the right amount of touching 😀 Thank you for the tutorial. CG!

  4. Dame Max. You making want to use Lightroom and Photoshop. I know RAW are the best for finer details but when I used it, I couldn’t open the files saying it’s too big or something. Since then, I stop setting it to RAW.

    • That sounds weird… I’ve never experienced that problem. Did it happen when you tried to open it in Photoshop? Can you try to open a RAW file and take a screen shot of the error message that you get?

  5. Cardinal, this is a great tute… thankyou… and thanks for sharing your process for this one.
    Just wanted to say I really love your Monochrome Madness image for week 5. Fabulous!!

    • Thank you Robyn. I hope that this tutorial may come in handy for those who are interested in B&W.
      There was a lot of good entries in the Monochrome Madness Challenge this week!

  6. Reblogged this on akshay moon and commented:
    A really good Tutorial for enhancing those great clicks | monochrome is the new color you’d fall in love with !

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