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How Do You Do Your B&W Conversions? Share Your Techniques.

Discussion in 'Image Processing' started by Amin Sabet, Dec 2, 2012.

  1. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Apr 10, 2009
    Boston, MA (USA)
    Like many of our members, I use Nik Silver Efex Pro quite a bit for my B&W conversions, but lately I've been doing quite a few by hand in Lightroom.

    Here's a very simple process I use that I've been pretty happy with for most conversions within Lightroom:
    1. Desaturate by moving saturation slider to -100
    2. Increase both clarity and contrast to taste, generally in the vicinity of +23-30 each
    3. Adjust temp (white balance) to taste
    4. Adjust exposure, highlights, shadows, blacks to taste
    5. Add vignetting, selective dodging, burning if desired

    The desaturate approach above isn't as powerful as using the Lightroom B&W Mix approach which lets you fine tune how each color will be handled, but the temp adjustment lets me get the tones I want with less fuss.

    I'm interested to hear how others are doing B&W conversions. Please share your techniques!
    • Like Like x 6
  2. hankbaskett

    hankbaskett Mu-43 Regular

    Aug 21, 2012
    Nik's Silver EFEX here.

    I don't really have a set workflow for it, I usually find a suitable preset, then adjust it until I'm satisfied. I'm a little bit schizophrenic with the sliders, I should probably develop a system :) .
    • Like Like x 1
  3. CPWarner

    CPWarner Mu-43 Veteran

    Dec 24, 2010
    If one is not going to convert with Silver Efex pro, I would go to the HSL/Color/B&W Tab in Lightroom and play with the color conversion controls there. You can use the adjustment tool to apply adjustments to specific tones in the image. Then do all the other changes you listed. I find this gives better adjustments than desaturating.
    • Like Like x 2
  4. The thing that I like about Nik Silver Efex is that it seems to be "intelligent" when it adjusts the strengths of the individual colour channels in the b&w conversion. When I was doing it manually I would play with the sliders for each colour channel to get the conversion right. I've tried out most of the Silver Efex filters but now I only just use one which I have modified to my taste. It may seem like a bit of a waste to use only one filter but that is the only one that I need and it does a better job at b&w conversions than I ever could.
    • Like Like x 2
  5. 0dBm

    0dBm Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jun 30, 2011
    Western United States
    Please post some before and after image samples.
  6. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Apr 10, 2009
    Boston, MA (USA)
    Here's one:

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)
    • Like Like x 3
  7. Biro

    Biro Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    May 8, 2011
    Jersey Shore
    This may sound a bit silly, but I usually skip conversions. I generally know ahead of time if I want to do B&W images. And when I do, I usually pull out my old Panasonic LX3 and switch it to "dynamic B&W" mode. The greater depth of field and slighly higher noise level that the camera's 1/1.6 sensor gives me also tends to give me a "feel" like 60-70 year-old monochrome photos or film captures.
    • Like Like x 2
  8. Crdome

    Crdome Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Sep 11, 2011
    West Central Indiana
    Amin -Thank you for starting this conversation for all of us who are unaware other software and techniques. Your way is the way I've done for years.
  9. Crdome

    Crdome Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Sep 11, 2011
    West Central Indiana
    Thanks for sharing this. Hopefully it will be a reminder for me start with the concept before shooting.

  10. twokatmew

    twokatmew Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Jun 1, 2012
    Lansing, MI, US
    I normally use Topaz B&W Effects after processing in Lightroom, but sometimes I just process in LR. Depends on if I get the look I want in LR. This one I processed using Topaz:

    View attachment 244046
    • Like Like x 2
  11. Lawrence A.

    Lawrence A. Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 14, 2012
    New Mexico
    I usually develop a slightly flat tiff with lots of retained information in the shadows and highlights in Lightroom and then do the final contrast and tone adjustments in Photoshop, where I make an adjustment layer using the channel mixer set to monochrome. I bring the red up to 110, the constant down to -10, then use blue and green sliders to get close to where I want to be. Then I'll readjust red and constant if necessary. From there I can adjust the opacity of that layer, then flatten the image and do any very fine tuning using regular photoshop adjustments.

    It's much easier than I've made it sound.

    I did not like the sliders in Lightroom, as I tended to get artifacts with them, no doubt because I was using them too aggressively.

    I should add that I come from that school of photo processing that believes there are very few images that cannot be improved by a little judicious dodging and burning, which I do in Photoshop.
    • Like Like x 3
  12. Lawrence A.

    Lawrence A. Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 14, 2012
    New Mexico
    By the way, great hat, Amin!
    • Like Like x 1
  13. kevinparis

    kevinparis Cantankerous Scotsman Subscribing Member

    Feb 12, 2010
    Gent, Belgium
    hi all

    here is my current quick and dirty basic workflow for making B/W using Aperture and aperture alone.

    Naturally I work in RAW... and this shot was OMD with Pana 25 @1.8 and ISO 5000 in a dimly lit room.

    The starting point is here

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    First port of call is the AutoEnhance button - many people poopooed this but saying it was dumbing down of a pro app.... but what the heck ....it gets you started on the way, adding some Exposure, WB and curves adjustment

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    If the pixels are piled up on the white (Righthand end) of the histogram, I will use the recovery tool to bring that in. ( similarly I sometimes use the Black Point Adjust if the problem is at the other end of the histogram)

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    Conversion to black and white is a simple keystroke (CTRL+M). You can play around with the levels of RGB, but i rarely do.....my philosophy is to tweak as few settings as I can to get the result I want. The more things you tweak the more difficult to work out just what is happening.

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    Next step is some mid level contrast - which does what it says na d adds a nice punch to an image

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    In many cases that is it , though I may go back and tweak some of those settings, or maybe do a little gentle curves if needed.
    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    Thats my basic recipe, obviously I will maybe do some burning or dodging, perhaps add a little Definition, which is like Clarity in LR.... its mid tone sharpness.

    Hope this helps someone

    • Like Like x 6
  14. digitalandfilm

    digitalandfilm Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jul 18, 2011
    I start out with adjusting the shot (in color) to tastes in LR *before* I edit it in Silver EFX.

    I then check the presets to see which correctly reflects the mood i'm looking for, and then fine tune with the sliders. Add slight vignette and your done.
    • Like Like x 2
  15. Zariell

    Zariell Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 28, 2012
    Bountiful, UT
    I used to do b&w in Lightroom, but now I am using OnOnes perfect b&w, I have found it does what I used to do by hand in seconds. So now I tweak the color and saturation in Lightroom, move to onone, then I do a few more tweaks back in Lightroom.
    • Like Like x 2
  16. duvinclunk

    duvinclunk Mu-43 Regular

    Aug 21, 2012
    Good info here guys, thanks.
  17. zpuskas

    zpuskas Mu-43 Veteran

    Feb 25, 2011
    Santa Barbara, CA
    I have no set plan of attack when adjusting my B&W images. Coming from many years of film and the Zone System, I try to previsualize my exposures. I so adjustments in color and then convert to B&W and try a number of burn, dodge, exposure, etc--in Nik Silver EFEX--to get what I want.
  18. David A

    David A Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 30, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia
    I haven't been doing much in the way of conversions and I did use Silver Efex while I was using Aperture. That has changed since swapping to Lightroom.

    The reason is Lightroom's "Targeted Adjustment Tool" which works with curves, the hue, saturation and luminance panels, and the channel mixer in the Black and White panel. In the B&W channel mixer you just click on a spot in the image preview and drag up to lighten the tone, down to darken the tone. Keep dragging till you reach the tone you want. This works on the exact tone you click on so the sliders for 2 channels, the channels which control your original tone, usually end up moving rather than 1 slider. It's a bit like the sliders with Nik's U-Point adjustments.

    Since my swap to Lightroom and starting to play with Lightroom's options I really haven't tried Silver Efex. My 2 approaches seem to be using Lightroom's Black and White channel mixer or using a preset I made to totally desaturate the image using the 8 channel saturation sliders in the Hue, Saturation and Luminance panels and then using the Targeted Adjustment Tool with the luminance sliders. While those 2 approaches are very similar, the desaturation approach allows you to still use the vibrancy and saturation sliders in the Basic panel as well while the Black and White channel mixer approach deactivates those 2 controls.

    What I like about doing everything in Lightroom is that I'm using non-destructive RAW processing and can go back and change things later. With Silver Efex I'm working on an exported file and my adjustments get baked in when I save so that if I reopen it again later on, I can't change any of my adjustments, I have to start from scratch again if I want to do something differently with the image. Being able to do it all non-destructively in RAW and be able to go back and continue editing or trying new ideas later is a big plus for me while I'm still on a learning curve with conversions.

    I used to "see" in black and white 40 years ago while I was shooting film. I think one of the effects of a long break is that I no longer see in black and white so I wonder whether the biggest problem I face with my conversions isn't how to do it but what I'm shooting. I think my shutter finger is selecting for colour.

    BTW Nic, I'm not surprised to read that you're only using one filter. You seem to have gravitated to a quite distinctive and identifiable look for your B&W images.
  19. North20

    North20 Mu-43 Veteran

    Oct 18, 2012
    East of the Cascades, PNW
    During almost 3 decades of film shooting, I put, maybe, 5-10 rolls of b&w film through my cameras. I was a slide guy, so darkroom work was something I just didn't do.

    Digital has changed all that, and my outlook on creating b&w images. Because I feel I'm still learning I do everything manually in Lightroom. Admittedly I still think and see in color for the most part; it's not until I get an image up in Lightroom that for whatever reason the b&w image beneath makes itself apparent to me ... then the conversion process begins.

    In most cases I fully tweak the image to what I wanted while it's still in color, then I start over from scratch doing my best to recreate that vision in b&w working with the B&W channel mixers in addition to what I normally would use for a color image. If this sounds long and drawn out, you'd be correct; however, I feel I'm acquiring the knowledge I need to take my post processing further in the future. And I have created a couple of presets that shorten the process in many cases.

    At some point I'll probably get Silver Effex (and all the rest of that software suite), but not until I'm a bit more satisfied with my personal knowledge.
  20. 0dBm

    0dBm Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jun 30, 2011
    Western United States
    Thanks all for sharing the technique.
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