What’s the easiest way to convert to black and white in Lightroom Classic and Lightroom CC? And how can you gain additional control over the conversion process to create beautiful black and white photos?
In this article, I explain everything you need to know about Lightroom black and white conversions, including:
- A simple one-click method for fast conversions
- How to adjust your converted images using the B&W panel for pro-level results
- How to Batch Convert Dozens (or Hundreds) of Images in Seconds
Ready to become a B&W master? So let’s do that!
How to Convert to Black and White in Lightroom: The Basics
In this section, I provide a quick method to convert your color photos to B&W in Lightroom Classic and Lightroom CC:
Lightroom Classic B&W conversion
Lightroom Classic makes black and white conversions incredibly easy.
Start by opening your file in the Develop module.
Then just click on the Black White option on the right side, just above the Profile menu:
Your image will turn black and white, and – that’s it! – you have finished. This basic conversion process does a decent job, although I recommend applying additional changes if you want the best possible results (as I explain below).
Lightroom CC B&W conversion
Black and white conversions in Lightroom CC are just as easy.
Select a photo, then open the Edit sign.
Faucet B&W, and your image will be instantly converted. Again, for best results, you need to make other changes, which I explain in the next section.
How to convert to black and white in Lightroom: advanced options
Once you have a black and white image, you’ll need to carefully apply adjustments to really make your file shine.
Changes in exposure and contrast
I recommend that you start in the basic editing panel of your program; here you can play with exposure, contrast, highlights, shadows, etc. (Note: These Lightroom Classic and Lightroom CC edits are essentially the same, so my instructions apply regardless of your software.)
Black and white images often benefit from high contrast, so try increasing the Contrast cursor until the various elements of the composition really appear. You can also try adding Clarity to improve overall sharpness – this is particularly useful when working with architecture and street imagery, although you should generally avoid the Clarity slider when editing portraits – and if you want an extreme result, try d ‘increase To unveil slide.
I would also recommend setting the whole Exposure slider so that your file contains a lot of detail. And move the Black, blanks, Shadowsand Strong points sliders back and forth until you get an effect you like. (A common edit is to reduce the highlights and blacks while increasing the shadows and whites, but that’s really up to you and will vary from image to image!)
At this point, you can call it a day – or you can continue to the B&W panel (Lightroom CC calls this the B&W mixer), which allows you to make finer adjustments.
The B&W panel
The B&W panel, also known as the B&W Mixer panel, is located below the basic editing options:
Using the blender, you can increase and decrease the brightness of specific colors in an image. By boosting the Orange slider, for example, you lighten areas of the black and white image that were previously orange; dropping the Red slider, you darken areas of the image that were previously red; etc It is quite powerful, as it offers a tonne flexibility to adjust image tones.
Now, I would recommend two simple approaches here:
The first – and funniest – approach is to simply move the sliders back and forth, one at a time, until you like the result. It’s a great way to work as a beginner, and it can also be useful for serious photographers.
The second approach is to identify areas of the image that need to stand out, such as a portrait subject, a tree in the foreground, or a person walking in a street scene. Determine the corresponding color sliders, then lighten those colors. (You can also darken the background colors while you’re at it.)
So if you are editing an image of a yellow flower on a green background, you can increase the Yellow slider while decreasing the Green slider. Make sense ?
Pro tip: If you want even finer control when working with color channels, you can use the targeted adjustment eyedropper (located next to the color sliders):
Select the eyedropper, then hover over the part of your image you want to lighten or darken. If you drag up, the relevant color channels will lighten – and if you drag down, the relevant color channels will darken.
You can even see this reflected in the sliders, which you can tweak further in the Mixer panel.
Keep in mind, however, that you shouldn’t push the sliders too far. Black and white images can usually handle fairly large adjustments, but if you add large color shifts you can introduce unwanted artifacts and halos into your files, like this:
The effect may be subtle, but it Is question, so I recommend that you avoid it as much as possible. This is a bigger problem with JPEGs than RAWs, but it can happen to both file types. Always keep an eye out for issues and always be ready to recall your changes if needed.
How to convert multiple files to black and white
If you’ve taken several (or hundreds) of photos that you want to convert to black and white, you have the option of batch processing the files.
Start by converting a file to black and white – you can also make adjustments to exposure, contrast or even mixing – then select Edit>Copy.
If you’re working in Lightroom Classic, you’ll see a Copy Settings window, where you’ll need to select any edits you want to apply to all of your photos. If you only want to perform a simple black and white conversion, check Treatment & Profile option; if you want to copy contrast or B&W mix settings, check these boxes as well. If you’re working in Lightroom CC, however, everything the settings of the first image will be copied.
Hold the Ctrl/Cmd key on your keyboard, then select all the images you want to convert.
Finally, choose Edit>Pasteand all images will be converted to B&W!
How to Convert to Black and White in Lightroom: Final Words
Now that you’ve completed this article, you’re ready to convert your files to black and white.
So head over to Lightroom. And make a high-quality edit!
What type of images are you planning to convert to black and white? What adjustments are you going to make? Share your opinion in the comments below!