Fstoppers Reviews Expressive Photography's Creative Black and White Processing Video Course

Fstoppers Reviews Expressive Photography's Creative Black and White Processing Video Course

Does a landscape photograph tell stories? In this course, landscape photographer Alister Benn goes through different tools in Adobe Lightroom that can help you express through your landscape images.

Black and white landscape photography may very well be one of the most underestimated workflows in the craft. An untrained photographer would think that it would be as simple as capturing an image and converting it into black and white. Through this tutorial by Alister Benn of Expressive Photography, a photographer of any level may learn the nitty-gritty of capturing landscape photographs and turning them into visually compelling black and white landscape images that evoke certain moods and emotions through a meticulous yet subjective process.


In the first part of the tutorial, Benn explains how black and white post-processing relies mainly on just tonality and contrast. While describing the process seems to make it appear very simple, Benn talks about how the absolute control of every aspect of the photograph along with making each section of the frame coherent with the perspective that the photographer aims to illustrate are instrumental in creating a moody and expressive image of the landscape.

Photograph by Alister Benn

While the video is generally a tutorial and demonstration, Benn emphasizes that the process of creating these black and white images should be entirely governed by the photographer’s taste, style, and artistic intent. As he demonstrates certain techniques or use of different tools, he begins each approach by stating what he sees and envisions out of the scene and ultimately what emotion he wants to convey to the viewer before actually going about making such specific adjustments. This openness about his intent while demonstrating such technical approaches eliminates any bias that the instructor might inject into the taste of his viewers and allows the viewers to learn approaches to various treatments instead of just copying whatever the instructor does on the screen.


While it may be more beneficial to first familiarize yourself with Adobe Lightroom and of course the discipline of landscape photography, Benn demonstrates each section of the workspace and every slider included in a more applied approach. This way, a novice in using the editing platform may still understand what a certain slider or tool does without actually having to read on the purpose of each one. This approach in teaching these technical steps allows all learners of different skill levels to follow what he is teaching and is actually quite admirable that the speaker is able to translate what he is teaching to what can be quite a broad scope of audience.

Global Adjustments

Color processing to tonally sensitize the image prior to black-and-white conversion

One of the highlights of this tutorial course is how Benn was able to dissect the different steps he takes to enhance an image for black and white conversion. While there is a multitude of ways to turn an image into black and white, Benn talks about the use of and the mechanisms behind powerful tools like color filter profiles and camera calibration before even converting to black and white. These approaches of editing the colors prior to conversion allow you to enhance and sensitize the tones even more to the effects of the different color profiles and color filter profiles that are available in Lightroom.

Local Adjustments

Benn then continues on to discuss the different applications of selective tools or local adjustment tools in Adobe Lightroom and how these adjustments give more unity and coherence to the visual design that the photographer has in mind and the emotion that they want to convey with it.

Expression Through Landscapes

What was very striking about this course was how the speaker delivered it in such a way that is true to his brand, “Expressive Photography.” The tutorial is composed not just of ways to make the photograph visually appealing through proper control of tonality and contrast but also is strikingly made up of Alister Benn’s more expressive (rather than technical) vocabulary in describing various elements and the image in general. In this way, he is able to give the viewers a better picture of what he has in mind even before turning the image into such and is then able to confirm this with the finished product.

What I Liked

  • Concise and straight to the point
  • Methodical yet not overly technical
  • Unbiased to the instructor’s style

What Can Be Improved

  • The speaker can show his face from time to time to give it a more personal touch when he talks about the expression on the non-technical parts

If this sounds like a good course for you, it's available here

Nicco Valenzuela's picture

Nicco Valenzuela is a photographer from Quezon City, Philippines. Nicco shoots skyscrapers and cityscapes professionally as an architectural photographer and Landscape and travel photographs as a hobby.

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