” 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.
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 is currently Londolozi’s best known leopard. Her relaxed nature means she is comfortable around the camps and vehicles.
The Tamboti female inhabited the south-eastern sections of Londolozi, having a large part of her territory along the Maxabene Riverbed.
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.