Favorite Black and White Conversion Methods

As you can tell from the header adjustments, a new eBook is coming out in a few weeks, and I would like to devote a bit of it to some user generated thoughts, so now’s your chance – tell me, what are your favorite methods for black and white conversion methods on your images?

Personally, I have a few presets in Lightroom and a few templates in Photoshop that I use regularly to make some default black and white conversion adjustments, then I do a bit of manual massaging and tweaking depending on the photo itself.  In the upcoming eBook, I am going to cover these black and white conversion methods in detail, and even share a few of my own favorite presets as well.  All that said, I would very much like to hear your thoughts and methods that you use.

Here’s a few options to kick start the thoughts in the comments section:

  1. In Camera (changing your camera settings)
  2. In Photoshop via Channel Mixer
  3. In Photoshop (or Lightroom) via Hue/Saturation adjustments
  4. In Photoshop (or Lightroom) via canned templates or pre-sets.
  5. A combination of canned settings and manual adjustments.

You’ll get much more detail in the upcoming eBook, so if you are interested in learning any of the above techniques, don’t forget to pre-register for it at half off the regular price.  This one is gonna be a doozy of an eBook, and there’s only two weeks left!  If you want to get the announcement when the eBook comes out, subscribe from the link below


Or…if you want to get it at half off the regular retail price, sign up for the pre-release price and you’ll get the eBook the day before launch!

Lightroom Workflow: Mundane to Beautiful

Making better pictures comes in three forms – better setup, better composition, and better post production.  You will make your best shots if you improve in each of these areas.  So, today, I’m going to share a technique I’ve used in my Lightroom workflow to take boring and bad photos to make them beautiful in post production.  Here’s where we’re going to go:

The Final Product from my Lightroom Workflow!

So, the final product looks pretty good here, right?  It means we must have had a keeper to begin with, right?  Well, not necessarily – the first shot looked like it was under-exposed, and could easily have been thrown out.  Take a look:

The Beginning before my Lightroom workflow!

Yeah, it looks pretty bland – there’s no pop, the shadows are too dark, the blues in the sky are bland, and it’s something that we might just blow past as an under-exposed shot.  The truth is though – we’ve gotta trust the histogram when using our Lightroom workflow.  Take a look:

Histogram in my Lightroom Workflow

What we have to remember is that there are no blown highlight details or shadow details lost according to our histogram.  We’ve got detail on both ends.  What the histogram is telling us though, is that more of our photo is in shadow than in highlights.  We do have some of both, but we need to bring some balance to it.  So, let’s get started!

Step One in my Lightroom Workflow

Step 1

In getting started, we need to bring out the shadow detail more, but I also want to bring some of those highlights down a little too, because it just looks a little too harsh.  Here’s the default scene inside of Lightroom.  Let’s see what happens when we bring the highlights down – and when I say “down”, I mean way down!

Step Two in my Lightroom Workflow

See how the harshness of the sky on the right has been pulled back?  Much better, but we still need to bring out some of that shadow detail on the next step in the Lightroom workflow, so, let’s take a look:

Step 2

Step Three in my Lightroom Workflow

Now we’re talking!  We can see the details in the red rocks.  It’s still kind of bland though, without a lot of pop to it.  This is where the Clarity, Vibrance, and Saturation sliders for my Lightroom workflow come into play.  Here, it’s a matter of personal tastes, and any one persons preferences are so subjective, I don’t want to say “Do it this way”.  But, for my taste, I like my pictures to pop, so here’s my results from adjusting the CVS sliders:

Step 3

Step Four in my Lightroom Workflow

Remember, it’s just my personal tastes, but I like the settings of 50-15-15 through to really get some eye-dropping pop in my photos.  It’s pretty nice, but if I push these sliders much further, it will start to look garish.  This means I need to dabble a little with the tone curve in my Lightroom workflow to get the pop that I am looking for.  So, in remembering the histogram, I am wanting a bit more detail from the dark and the bright areas need to pop a little more too without getting lighter.  Here’s where I made some tone curve adjustments:

Step 4

Step Five in my Lightroom Workflow

The pop is really starting to take shape here…but the red still need a little more brightness to them to really keep the look and feel consistent wit what I want the image to look like once all is said and done.  To do that, I dive into the color palette, grab the red luminosity slider in my Lightroom workflow and crank it up all the way.  The results are pretty nice!

Step 5

Step Six in my Lightroom Workflow

With the develop panel moving down toward the bottom, I am revealing the details of what I did wrong during capture…my ISO settings were too high given the exposure levels!  I was shooting at 1/800th of a second, and my ISO was at 800 as well!  It’s an “oops” for sure, but thankfully, we can compensate for it thanks to the benefits of our Lightroom workflow and it’s noise reduction feature.  We’ll also take care of our post production sharpening here too.  Remember, less is more (over-sharpening leads to halos, and over-application of the noise reduction tends to cause a buttery fake look to images).  But, we still need to take care of the details:

Step 6

Step Seven in my Lightroom Workflow

It’s at this point when I noticed a dust bunny from my lens (see near the top of the sky).  So, I headed back up to the top of the Develop Module to take care of business:

Step 7

Step Eight in my Lightroom Workflow

Now that I’ve fixed the dust bunny, it’s time to move onto my final step..my lens correction!  No matter how good your lens is, there are imperfections, from chromatic aberrations to edge distortions.  The general rule of thumb is that the wider the lens, the more edge distortion there is.  Since I shot this with my 10-22 which is an ultra-wide, there’s some substantial distortion to fix.  So, let’s take a look:

Step 8

Step Nine in my Lightroom Workflow

At this point, I’ve pretty much done all the edits I need.  The image went from mundane to beautiful, and is something worth sharing with the world!  What do you think?  Any developing techniques you’ve learned about my Lightroom workflow that you’d like to share?  Sound off in the comments with what you like and what you’d change in this 8 step Lightroom post process!

For those of you that prefer audio/video tutorials, I’ve done a short YouTube video walking through my Lightroom Workflow. It’s a lot faster than the read, but some details are lost if you tend to go after minutia:

Fill the Frame Versus Rule of Thirds


When taking and making pictures, composing your image in a way that is compelling encompasses many “rules of composition”, including things like filling the frame, the Rule of Thirds, and Golden K, among several others. With virtually any image though, all the rules simply can’t be applied though, so it’s up to you as the photographer to decide which ones are more or less effective in defining your images.

You can help yourself immensely by looking at the works of others to see what appeals to you.  Try various styles to see which one or ones speak to your creative vision.  Here’s a perfect example of an image where both the Rule of Thirds and Filling the Frame cannot be applied:


The grind in Lightroom was hard to see, so I added emphasis to the Rule of Thirds lines to help illustrate that it’s not really adhering to that, nor am I even filling the frame. So, let’s take a look at both options.  First up, the Rule of Thirds:


What’s nice about the Rule of Thirds here is that you are immediately brought into her face, but we still don’t have a lot of detail.  The composition is also a bit cleaned up (notice the plastic cup is now effectively cropped out).  This could be a usable image to show the customer, but let’s take a look when we fill the frame:


When cropping down to this level, we get a nice full view of the person, there’s no distracting objects and really no other place to look.  We know what the subject is, we know where to look, and you can’t help but smile at the result.

Is one more effective than the other?  Maybe…but that’s where personal preference comes into play.  Different photographers will have different takes on how to crop and apply post production here. Which one do you prefer?  Take a look at each after post production without the Lightroom sidebars and see which you like better.

FillFrame RuleofThirds

Now it’s your turn – which composition works better for you, Rule of Thirds or Fill the Frame?

Which rule of composition works better?

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