How To Make Dramatic Black and White Images in Adobe Lightroom

Black and white images have been revered in photography since they were the only option and continue to do so today. What makes a great black and white image, however, can often come down to post-production.

As Serge Ramelli goes into in this video, post-production has been crucial to black and white images for decades, far pre-dating digital cameras. Arguably one of the most famous photographers of all time — and certainly one of the most famous landscape photographers of all time — was Ansel Adams, and post-production was central to his brilliant work. Adams saw dodging and burning his images in the darkroom as an art form in itself. While we have swapped the darkroom for Lightroom, for the most part, the process is strikingly similar.

Black and white images, as a result of lacking color, rely on other aspects to tell a story. Sometimes that is texture, sometimes that is depth, but most often, it's contrast. Great black and white images usually capture great light, but even when they don't, the right dodging and burning can bring about that drama through contrast. If your black and white images are lacking the impact and punch you were hoping for, it could come down to something as simple as how you are processing them in post.

While post-production can make a huge difference, one tip I would offer for taking better black and white images is looking for contrast out in the world. Large disparities in exposure in an image can work perfectly with the absence of color.

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5 Comments

Mark Peavy's picture

Nice! Thanks, Serge!

dierk topp's picture

merci Serge
I do some B&W in LR, but for me the best tool is Nik Silver Efex. If you try it, you will seldom try it in LR.
regards Dierk

Sam Sims's picture

I can see the appeal of Nik Silver Efex but I find Capture One offers me more than enough tools to create great looking black and white without paying extra for plugins - Silver Efex is over half the cost of a copy of Capture One (the single camera brand version).

Alex Zenzaburro's picture

Is this the "i found a video on YouTube"-section of the internet? :)

Ingmar 14's picture

Very, very helpful, I love this anselish b&w look you create, thanks for sharing Serge