” To see color is a delight for the eye but to see in black and white is a delight for the soul” – Andri Cauldwell.

Whilst I do love editing colour photographs, over the past couple of weeks I have been especially drawn to editing photos in black and white. With colour photographs you are able to easily get a sense and impression of the sight that is being photographed because of the bright colours.  Black and white images on the other hand, leave a lot up to your imagination; they strip the image of a layer of realism and allow you to re-build it by digging deep into personal experiences and constructing a unique picture that resonates with you. The result is often much more evocative.

Here are my top three tips for creating the black and white photograph in Lightroom:

1. Converting your image into black and white with the HSL Panel:

Personally, this is the most important tip of them all. Located in the develop module, is the HSL panel, to convert your image into black and white click ‘B & W’ (Highlighted in red below). The Black and White Mix panel gives you control over how to change colours into different shades of grey in your image.

Using the Black and White Mix I am able to get different tones. Notice in the cheetah image below how my red slider is pulled all the way to the left. This brought out the detail in the iris of the cheetah. In the lion image below, notice how I lifted up the yellow slider to the right, this was to make my lion cub lighter than the sand so it does not blend into its surroundings.

2. Add The Punch:

Even after one has made adjustments in the Black and White Mix panel, the photo may still look slightly dull and flat. Add the punch by increasing the clarity under the basic panel. With scenic shots I tend to be a bit more dramatic and lift my toggle quite high to about +60 and if it’s a wildlife shot I tend to keep it at about +30 or below. I then increase my highlights to create a light background (the sky). You can also increase the shadows to make sure that your subject is visible. I then drop the black toggle down to the left, to create pure blacks. In my experience the best black and white photos have some portion of the photo that is close to pure white and a portion that is close to pure black.

Increasing contrast makes the scene more interesting.

3.Vignetting

Vignetting is when you darken the corners of the photograph. The reason for using a vignette is to draw the human eye towards the centre. The human eye is naturally drawn to where the image is lightest. You find the post-crop vignette toggle under the effects panel.  Sliding the toggle to the left will create a black vignette. Sliding the toggle to the right will create a white vignette.

Here are a couple of my finished products:

The Mashaba female has been a very successful leopard in the area. By post processing this image into black and white, I wanted to try and encapsulate the sense of power I feel this leopard exudes. Shot at 1/320 at f/5,6, ISO 800.

9
Mashaba 3:3 Female
2008 - present

The Mashaba female is currently Londolozi’s best known leopard. Her relaxed nature means she is comfortable around the camps and vehicles.

U
Spotted this leopard?
You've seen this leopard
25 sightings by Members
q

Mashaba 3:3 Female

Lineage
Sunsetbend
Identification
markings
Timeline
40 stories
Territory
maps
Parents
2 known
Litters
3 known
Offspring
known
Siblings
known
Videos
playlist

A male cheetah stalks an impala right past our vehicle. I felt post-processing this photo into black and white intensified the look in his eyes. Shot at 1/640 sec at f/7,1, ISO 640.

Wild dogs are also known as painted wolves due to the pattern of their coats. Editing this into black and white helps to increase the contrast between the shades of his coat. Shot at 1/320 at f/7,1, ISO 640.

The Tamboti female uses a tall Marula tree as a vantage point to scan for her cub. Clear, blownout skies often provide the best and most effective opportunities to convert to black and white. Shot at 1/160 sec at f/7,1, ISO 800.

Before post-processing this image into black and white, the Tamboti female’s cub was lost into the messy foliage of the tree. Black and white processing can allow for the subject to pop more. Shot at 1/160 sec at f/7,1, ISO 800.

10
Tamboti 4:3 Female
2007 - present

The Tamboti female inhabits the south-eastern sections of Londolozi, having a large part of her territory along the Maxabene Riverbed.

U
Spotted this leopard?
You've seen this leopard
20 sightings by Members
q

Tamboti 4:3 Female

Lineage
Sunsetbend
Identification
markings
Timeline
33 stories
Territory
maps
Parents
1 known
Litters
3 known
Offspring
known
Siblings
known
Videos
playlist

In this photo of one of the Tailless female’s cubs, I used a lot of contrast to distinguish between the cub and its surroundings. Prior to this, it’s coat blended in with the colour of the sand. Shot at 1/320 sec at f/9,0, ISO 640.

Have a look at this video of how to edit into black and white using Lightroom.

Wildlife photography for me is a form of art. Black and white photography is one of the purest expressions of this art, It is not about the true representation of the scene but rather a representation of the mood. Thus the end product is one that is far more personal instead of simply a portrayal of the reality of the scene.

Involved Leopards

Mashaba 3:3 Female

Mashaba 3:3 Female

Spotted this leopard?
You've seen this leopard
Tamboti 4:3 Female

Tamboti 4:3 Female

Spotted this leopard?
You've seen this leopard

About the Author

Kylie Jones

Studio

Being someone who loves the bush, people and photography Kylie has found her way to her dream job in the Londolozi Studio. Despite completing her Humanities Degree, she felt unsatisfied and found herself drawn to doing a wildlife photography course. Being both creative ...

View Kylie's profile

16 Comments

on 3 Top Tips for Editing Black and White Photos

Join the conversationJoin the conversation

Darlene Knott

Kylie, this is a fantastic posting, very helpful. Your black and whites are stunning. I do have a question about the video—is there sound? I did not have any. If not, I will just watch on my iMac where I can see the sliders a little better. Thanks for the post!

Amy Attenborough

Hi Darlene. No there is no sound in this video so feel free to watch on you iMac.. Many thanks, Amy

Gillian Evans

Great b/w Lightroom tips Kylie! Love the finished photos! Looking forward to doing this again with you next month !!

Kylie Jones

Hi Gillian,

Thanks so much, I look forward to editing your amazing photographs too.

Marinda Drake

Great tips. It is amazing what can be done with editing.

Jeff Rodgers

You are as talented a writer as you are Master of Lightroom.

Kylie Jones

Haha so kind of you to say! Thankfully Lightroom is a fairly simple program. Still lots to learn though.

Jeff Rodgers

Simple for you 🙂 When we are at Londolozi this coming February, one of our guests will want time in The Hub as will I. Is there more than one of you or do we need to book individual appointments?

Denise Vouri

Fabulous post!! Thank you so much for the b/w conversion tips. I have a few thousand photos from my African trip in February (massive editing is my future) and know there are some good candidates for converting. The photos highlighted are wonderful.

Michael & Terri Klauber

Kylie, Thanks so much for your guidance! We have wanted to understand how to use b&w to our advantage with some of our images, and your creative suggestions will help us a lot! Keep the photo tips coming!!!

Kylie Jones

Thanks Michael. How did your aluminium prints come out?

Callum Evans

These tips are brilliant, thanks so much Kylie!! Tried them out on one of my sugarbird photos, and it really worked. Will take a look at the video too as soon as I have time. And those photos you included are absolutely brilliant too!

Kylie Jones

Thanks Callum, I am so glad that you could apply my tricks to your photographs.

Angela Pearson-Bramson

Hi Kylie,
I love your blogs, and get so much insight on planning, shooting and developing in LR from them. I also share them with my photo pals.

Kylie Jones

Hi Angela,

Thank you so much for kind words. Lightroom is an amazing program and there is always new tricks to learn.

Erika Pieu

Thanks for sharing. Hope you will share more post.

Connect with Londolozi

Follow Us

Sign up for our newsletter

One moment...
+
Add Profile