Lightroom black and white preset

Create a grainy black and white effect in Lightroom

You tend to think of Lightroom as an image cataloguing program with some image-editing tools thrown in, but actually Lightroom 5 can do many of the jobs that Photoshop can. It’s especially good at building effects from a series of different adjustments – and you can then save these effects as a preset you can apply to other images with a single click.

Black and white is my favourite medium, and I’m going to use Lightroom to create a traditional high-contrast, grainy look. There are a number of steps, but you don’t have to follow all of them – you can just try out a couple if you want. This is just to show what’s possible, and it’s up to you how you want to use and combine these options.

My starting image is a disused country church just a few miles from where I live. The colour version is nice enough in its own way, but I want something stronger and more powerful.

Lightroom custom preset

01 Live ‘channel mixing’

Lightroom custom preset

You can convert a colour image to black and white using the B & W panel, but this just changes the appearance of the picture – the original colour data is still there. And while Lightroom does have sliders for adjusting the strength of each colour to modify the tones in the picture (just like Photoshop’s channel mixer and black and white  tool), there is a simpler, more direct and more intuitive way. There’s a small gadget in the top left corner of the panel – click this to make it active.

02 Adjusting the tones

Lightroom custom preset

Now choose an area you want to darken – let’s pick an area of blue sky. If you click and drag downwards, you darken the colour you’ve clicked on. The sky now takes on a  darker, more intense tone which contrasts better with the clouds, but the rest of the picture is unchanged. You can lighten areas too – I’ve also clicked and dragged upwards on an area of grass in the foreground to make the grass lighter in the image as a whole.

03 Boost the Clarity

Lightroom custom preset

Digital black and white images often lack what I’d call ‘bite’, but I can fix that in an  instant with Lightroom’s Clarity slider, which is at the bottom of the Basic panel. I’ve pushed it right up to its maximum of 100%.

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