New Video Tutorial: Black and White Photography

The Basics of Digital Black and White Processing

Last week, I decided to make a video clip with a few tips about black and white digital photography. Then I decided that there were a couple more points that I’d better include at the same time. Then I thought that a couple of extra examples would help. In the end, what I had intended to be a 10 minute video ran about an hour and forty minutes.

The video primarily covers color to black and white conversion methods in Photoshop and Camera Raw, but I also discuss some toning and exposure adjustments for use after conversion, and I say a few words about the capture process as well.

If you don’t own Photoshop CS5 (and don’t want to spend the $650 for the full version) , much of what is done in this video can also be achieved in Adobe Photoshop Elements ($64, with rebate). Virtually everything that I’ve done in Adobe Camera RAW also has an analog in the “Develop” module of Adobe Lightroom; you’ll only miss out on the sections that require layer masks, I believe. And keep in mind that if you’re not using Photoshop professionally, you may be eligible for the full version of Photoshop with deep educational discounts ($190 from

I hope that you enjoy watching it an learn a few things!

[PLEASE BE AWARE : This video was produced in high definition, and should be viewed at full size, otherwise it may be difficult to see what’s going on. Click on the HD icon in the Vimeo player above to enable HD, and enlarge the window to full screen, or download the video for offline viewing.]

Watch on YouTube

Part One : Introduction, Overview, A Few Words on Capture, and Basic Conversion Methods

Part Two: More Photoshop Conversion Methods

Part Three: Photoshop and Camera RAW Conversion, Gradient Mapping

Part Four: Geek Out, Beginning of Landscape Examples

Part Five : Landscape Examples

Part Six : Landscape Examples

Part Seven : Conclusion of Landscape Examples, Beginning of  Portrait Example

Part Eight : Conclusion of Portrait Example, Closing Credits

Want to Save a Copy?

If you’d like to save a copy of this video to your computer for offline viewing, you may. Probably the fastest way is to download the file from Vimeo. Simply follow this link to the video page, and then look for the AVI logo and download link below and to the right of the video. The file is roughly 950 MB, in Xvid format. You can also download the video directly from Light and Matter, here.

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Mike Scott

Hi Matt!

Yesterday we took the kids to a small wildlife reserve here in town, and between attempting to keep the kids from wandering off into the ponds, I did my best to photograph some of the birds there. My favorite was this gray heron (at least that’s what I think it was, but I’m not sure).

I wanted to make at least one image a little more abstract, and bird was almost completely white, gray, and black, so I decided to do a black and white conversion. The light was also coming in at an angle where I was lucky enough to get the bird well-illuminated while the background was mostly dark, so I decided to take the next step and pull the blacks down even more to make something like a reverse silhouette.

Fortunately, I had been shooting in raw (you were the person who first convinced me to do that) so I was able to recover most of the clipped highlights and darken the non-bird parts of the photo. But there were still a number of pesky leaves reflecting sunlight that were showing up in the background. Then I remembered your black and white photography tutorial that I saw on youtube a while back:

“Wait a second… most of those leaves that are causing me problems are green!”

So I went over to the B/W sliders in lightroom and started pulling down the green slider (and the ones around it to a lesser extent, to minimize odd aberrations, as your lesson suggested). And it worked! (Well, it worked well enough to make me happy with the picture anyway :)

So I just wanted to say thanks! I’m not kidding myself; I know it’s still not a great shot from a technical perspective (the head is horribly soft, for starters, and I had to crop more than I would have liked) but I still like it, and I wouldn’t have thought of doing what I did with the B&W tutorial if I hadn’t seen your tutorial.


P.S. Here’s a picture of the same heron taken from a different angle a little while later. (Looks to me like it might have a bit of its lunch stuck in its throat…)