How do you go about shooting for black and white?
You can set your camera to black and white, but is that the best option? If you shoot in B&W in the camera, you’ll get a B&W JPEG. See this article to understand why that will limit you, if you don’t already know. However other than RAW data being better, you actually have three different channels of values to pull from to make your black and white photo. The Red, Blue and Green channels are all still recored in the RAW file, even when shooting black and white. (In fact, if you set your camera to record RAW, and to shoot B&W, you will see the B&W image on the back of the camera [that’s the embedded JPEG], but as soon as you open the RAW file in a decoder like DxO PhotoLab, you’ll see the RAW file in color. If you want to keep the camera’s conversion to B&W, you need to shoot JPEG or RAW+JPEG). Since you’ll be doing the final conversion to B&W yourself, this means you have a lot more options for that conversion, resulting in an image with more details, more contrast, and more excitement!
black and white conversion with Silver Efex Pro
Originally created by Nik Software, then acquired by Google, I was very excited to see it become part of the DxO family last year and is currently available as “Nik Collection 2018 by DxO”. Its U Point technology is incredible (and is now featured in DxO PhotoLab, by the way), but the Silver Efex Pro plugin itself has just gotten better and better over the years. It works as a plugin for Adobe Photoshop, Photoshop Elements and Lightroom Classic. In this article, I’ll be using it from Lightroom.
Here’s the original photo. It’s a pretty photo in color, for sure… but let’s see what happens in B&W! (Feel free to follow along one one of your own photos — you can install a free download 30-day trial of Silver Efex Pro 2 from here)
TIP: You don’t want to make unnecessary adjustments to the image before opening it in the plugin, however if the image is under or overexposed, you should make those corrections in Lightroom first. From Lightroom, you’re working with the RAW file so you have access to all of its data. However once you send it to the plugin, you’ll be converting it to a TIF file, which may lose a little bit of the flexibility. It’s best to do basic RAW processing first, before opening the image into Silver Efex Pro 2 (or any plugin, for that matter!)
The photo we’ll be working with.
The simplest sliders are a good place to start’ adjust Brightness, Contrast and Structure, and also if you’ve lost highlight or shadow detail in doing so, you can recover that using the Tonality Protection sliders, too. This is all pretty basic, so I want to jump ahead to the next section, Selective Adjustments. This is where we get to play with U Point technology!
Let’s play with U Point technology!
Click on the circle next to the Control Points label. This will “pick up” a Control Point, which you can then click anywhere on your image to “drop”.
Click here to “pick up” a Control Point, then click anywhere
on your photo to “drop” it.
For my final image below, you can see that I’ve really cranked up the brightness on the flowers (1), made the darker areas behind them even darker (2), and also made the background softer and less contrasty (3), so the flowers stand out even more: