Lightroom 4 Tip – Blacks and Whites

Here’s a cool little tip that’s actually been around in Lightroom for a while now, but it makes MUCH more sense with the renamed sliders in Lightroom 4. Basically, I get asked what the whites and blacks sliders are for a lot. I use them to set the white and black point in the photo. Usually, you’d think you have to turn on the highlight and shadow clipping warnings (by pressing J) to use them but there’s another trick. Next time, try just holding down the Option key (PC: Alt key) when moving the sliders. For Whites, everything will turn black as you drag it to the right. When you start to see some details popping up (don’t worry too much about the color) that means you’ve got a good white point.

(here’s an example of what you’ll see – click to see it larger)

Then drag the black slider and everything will turn white. When you start to see a decent amount of black specs showing up, then you’ve got your black point. Setting a white and black point have been around for a while in Photoshop, so it’s definitely nice to see them show up in a more consistent way in Lightroom. Enjoy and have a great weekend! :)

Author: Matt K

Matt is a full time Education Director for the NAPP and Kelby Training. He's a best-selling author of various books on Photoshop and Photography co-hosts the live weekly photography talk show "The Grid" and is co-host of "Photoshop User TV". In his spare time he practices as a 1st degree black belt in Taekwondo and enjoys spending time with his family in Tampa, FL.

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  1. Hey Matt,

    Thanks for that tip! I was wondering what those sliders were for! I just used them to bring out some contrast. Wow, I like this tip!



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  2. Matt: I typical set these in LR with the option key. However, I’ve tended to set the black point as soon as I see any black show up. In looking at the histogram and the clipping warnings, it seems to me that that’s the place where I begin to crush/clip the blacks and lose some detail.

    Is that too conservative?

    Can I send more of the photo to pure black and have it show up black when the option key is held down? Does this depend on whether I’ll be printing the photo or just displaying it on screen?

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  3. Wow thank you so much for this! Aside from showing me how to do it in lightroom, I’ve been just eyeballing it with the black/white sliders rather then use the black/white points the way you’ve described. I’ve tried your method out on a few images and it made a huge, immediate, and easy to do improvement. Fantastic post, really appreciate it.

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  4. i come back to this trick from your day12 tuto.
    i use this trick a lot.
    However, coming from photoshop and capture nx2 i have always found a pity there is no eyedropper to click on a black or white point.
    i had heard that lightroom prefer keeping the whole tone range and not clipping it but it is a nice tool which sometimes creates fantatsic results because I think it makes a kind of white balance at same time when i see how a grey sky becomes a blue one…

    any comment why this eyedropper doesn’t exist in lr5.3 ?

    best regards

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  5. Thanks for the info. I’ve been looking for a tip on this feature all week! Great help!

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