Lightroom makes it easy to convert a color photo to a black & white, but in order to get the best results you will need to do a little more than simply removing the color. Let’s take a look at how the Black & White Mix sliders impact your black & white conversions.
Here is the sample photo that we’ll be using.
You can download the photo here if you want to follow along.
First, to simply convert the image to black & white click on “black & white” in the basics section.
After the basic conversion the image looks like this.
Now, to get fine grain control of the tones in the image scroll down to the HSL/Color/BW section and look for the “Black & White Mix” sliders.
Here you’ll find sliders for the different color tones. The results of adjusting these sliders will vary greatly from one photo to the next because it depends on the colors included in the photo. For example, our sample photo contains a lot of blue and red because of the uniforms, and it includes very little green and purple. So the green and purple sliders will have very little impact on this photo, but the red and blue sliders will have a big impact.
If you move a slider to the right it will lighten that color, and if you move it to the left it will darken the color. Let’s take a look at an example to make it easy to understand. If I move the blue slider all the way to the right (+100) it will lighten the blue areas in the photo, which is mostly the uniforms. And if I move the blue slider all the way to the left (-100) it will darken the blue areas of the photo. The first photo below shows the blue slider at +100 and the second slider shows the blue slider at -100.
So, as you can see, the sliders allow you to have a great deal of control over the tones of your black & white images.
If I move both the red and blue sliders to the left it will make the red and blue uniforms like more like a single color, which I think works pretty well for a black & white version of the photo. You can also move the orange and yellow sliders to the right which will lighten the decorations on the uniform, as well as the skin, which gives a higher contrast.
Here are the settings I have applied.
And here is the photo after those settings have been applied
The specific settings that you’ll want to use will depend on the photo, as well as the look that you are after. But as you can see, the black & white mix sliders are really powerful for giving you a lot of control with black & white conversions. Of course, you can still use the other sliders in Lightroom’s develop module as well.