Video – Lightroom Before/After for Black and Whites

This week I’m heading straight to the request lines for Lightroom Killer Tips. A couple of weeks ago some one requested a before/after video on black and white conversions. It’s actually much easier than most people think, but there’s a few tricks to the whole process so I figured I’d share how I do it. Enjoy!

NOTE: I’m adding this after reading some of the comments. I personally use a plug-in from Nik software that I mention in this video (I also show you the LR way). Here’s the thing. I can only show you the way that I do my Black & White conversions. I understand there’s other ways to do it, but this is the way that I do it. It’s not a Nik Software promo. In fact, I’d gather that Nik Software (unless some one from Nik is reading the blog today) doesn’t even know I posted this, nor do they know that I use their software for my B&W conversions.

Click here to download the video to your computer. [Right-click and choose the "Save As" option]

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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27 Comments

  1. Hi,
    Souldn’t the title of this post be “PS and SilverEfexPro Before/After” instead of “Lightroom Before After” ?
    Anyway, SilverEfex seams more and more interesting to me.

    Thanks,
    Freddy

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  2. Matt, you really have to get someone to do something about the download speeds for your videos. Each time I go to get them, I’m getting something between 85 and 90KB/s. This is way too slow to be practical.

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  3. Good video, but not a Lightroom Killer Tip. The majority of the work is done in Photoshop CS4 with Nik’s Silver Efex Pro, a Photoshop plug in. I was looking for more information on black and white conversions in Lightroom itself.

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  4. I like Nik software and have used it in the past, they have a plugin for both ligtroom and PS. What would be a recommendation, to have the plugins for just one or for both?

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    • I would like to know the answer from Keiths comment. I am considering buying this plug in and i am not sure the difference between the plug-in for LR and PS. Matt is there a difference. Thanks for the video by the way. LOL there will always be critics. Maybe they should create their own video on the subject and post it for every one to view.

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  5. Nik Software is proving itself to be the creators of the best plug-ins available. I use all of them, except for Color Efex Pro anyway, and use lightroom simply as the tool that allows me to access them because anything I need to do, which amounts to .5 stops this way or that, contrast and saturation, I do in Capture One Pro which sports Olympus profiles that mimic Olympus’ own Studio very closely. Adobe still does not handle ORF files very well at all. I would love to see Nik Software as a standalone application, then I could take lightroom out of the workflow altogether. Still, to each his/her own.

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  6. Eh. A little disappointing with this one. I’d prefer to see more on using only Lightroom for black and whites. I do a lot of b&w, and I do it all in Lightroom – there is quite a lot of flexibility there. I have only played very little with the Nik software, but I think I can replicate most of it inside of Lightroom anyway.

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    • Hi Jason,
      OK, I have to ask this. What were you expecting that caused you to be disappointed? I for one thought this was pretty good information. I mean, Matt showed us the way he does it and he was honest about it (and he actually did show you the LR way). Sorry, but I don’t come here to see what you “prefer” (as you said). You seem to already know all about B&W conversions so why did you watch the video? Is it disappointing because you already knew this stuff? Seems that you may be one of those guys that asks an instructor that you paid to go see, “Can’t you also do it this way because that’s the way I was taught”.

      Matt, don’t worry about this one and PLEASE don’t change the way you teach. I think I speak for most of us here when I see we come to see what you do with your photos. We don’t want you to tell us all of the ways that are possible. We want to know what the expert thinks, and I think you gave us a good, candid, overview of the possibilities for B&W conversions if you’re using LR. Thanks!

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      • Sam,

        I was expecting it to be about Lightroom, not Silver Efex. Yeah, it’s the way he does it which is totally fine – but it’s not Lightroom. As for showing the “LR way,” it was just a quick “this turns it gray” type of deal. Most come here to see exactly what I “prefer” – using Lightroom…not other random plugins that have little to do with LR.

        I don’t claim to know all about b&w in Lightroom, but I am pretty good with it. I was hoping to see how other people use LR for b&w, and maybe I’d learn a little tip or two that I could play with.

        Yes, this shows how Matt does his b&w work which is great…but, with all due respect to Matt, it’s not Lightroom.

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      • Disagree. Yes you should be able to show the best way in lightroom without plugins. After all a plug in only takes what is available in LR and makes it quicker, right? So it is all available in LR so why bring in a 3rd party plugin?

        Help us save some bucks and be the best at using lightroom.

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    • Right on Jason. Sam there seems to be wound up kind of tight!
      Wow.

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    • Whew! Sorry to disappoint guys. I guess to me, this IS Lightroom. That’s where I started right? What else did you want me to do? I can’t lie and show you something that I didn’t do.

      The Before/After’s are about Lightroom integration with Photoshop. Sometimes there’s lots of LR. Sometimes there’s lots of Photoshop. It varies with every photo which is my intention of the Before/After stuff – to show you exactly why I use each program and for you to follow me along through my steps. Its also a fluid process. I may brighten something in the beginning in LR only to decide later in PS that I want it darkened more. These videos are about you watching me work with the two programs (and whatever else I use). I did the basic exposure corrections and cropping in LR. It took about 45 seconds which is what it takes for most photos I work on. If you’re spending much more time on it then you may have other problems bigger than LR ;-)
      Its what happens after that, for finishing the photo, where the “workflow” aspect comes in.

      Tim and Jason – Honestly what you’re saying is that you don’t like the video because you a) are already happy with your B&W conversions and, b) don’t want to use the plug-in. No sweat. That’s your call. Just don’t tell me not to do a video that shows how to convert to Black and White using something that I don’t want to use. If you watch this, you can’t say it was a big promo. I have 10 other examples I could have mentioned and shown comparisons on how Silver Efex produces a way better black and white (no banding and artifacts) compared to LR or PS, but I didn’t because I DIDN’T want it to sound too sales-like.

      Anyway, either way its OK. I kinda expected this as any time you demo a pricey plug-in you have to be prepared for the backlash against it. So no harm done. You guys kept it civil which is all I ask for :-)

      Thanks.
      – Matt K

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      • Matt,

        I fully understand what you’re saying and doing. The purpose of before/after videos is to show YOUR workflow, afterall, and how you integrate Lightroom. Obviously we all have different ways of doing the same things, which is definitely not a bad thing. I think the main thing is many of us (or at least just me) see LR as a much more powerful tool than it generally gets credit for, and so it’s a bit of a bummer when we see it not being used to its potential.

        I can’t say I didn’t like the video, Matt. I always like to see other photographers’ workflows – I, for one, was just disappointed that it didn’t utilize LR all that much, which is what I was hoping to see. I don’t think anybody is trying to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do in your videos….I guess the point of my original comment was “wish it was more Lightroom,” and was simply my opinion and nothing more.

        I do enjoy your videos though, Matt. I watch PSUTV, D-Town, etc every week :)

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  7. Hey Matt,
    Very cool b&w, do you know any cool sepia conversions?

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  8. Matt,
    I am a pro and use Lightroom and PS getting great results with these two. There are ton’s of additional software for plugins for this and that or what ever you feel the need for.
    This was disappointing to me because it was posted as a “Lightroom Killer Tip” which it is not. It is a Nik promo.
    Please stay on track or at least post header or sub-header telling the truth.
    Thank you, Tim

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  9. Hi Matt,

    I for one think your tip is a LR tip: it starts in LR, it ends in LR, and in between it uses a plugin. So what the heck? Plugins are one of the reasons LR is so great compared to it’s competitors. And as far as plugins go, Silver Efex is a great one indeed. Actually, I kinda blame the folks over at Nik for making B/W conversions so easy :-). There used to be a time when you had to do impressive Channel Mixer Operations in Photoshop to come up with great looking Black & Whites, and now, it’s just a matter of a couple of strategically placed control points…
    Anyway, as some of your readers are complaining that the tip isn’t enough Lightroom-related, here’s a little extra tip-inside-of-the-tip to make the whole story a little more Lightroom-centered :-):

    If you’ve converted to B&W using a plugin such as Nik, make sure to hit the ‘V’ key in Lightroom afterwards (Lightrooms shortcut for converting to B&W): this does not change the picture (it’s already B&W anyway), but now Lightroom will actually treat it as a B&W instead of RGB picture without colour. This is handy when you use the Filter Bar (the ‘Treatment’ criterium) to go and look for your favorite B&W Pictures (converted with Lightrooms built-in tools or with plugins called from within Lightroom). Full story can be found on my blog: http://morethanwords.be/blog/a-quick-lightroom-tip-for-bw-photographers/

    Keep up the great work!

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  10. awesome matt !!!
    thanks !

    can’t we all jes get along??!!

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  11. Seriously? What a great tip that a skilled professional took the time to record and share with all of us! If you don’t like what you see here, go somewhere else. All of the haters of this video should realize that the official title of LR2 is “Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2?” It clearly looks as if Matt started out with the Grayscale LR2 tip, but you could have stopped listening there. Or, if you want to make your life easier, you can spend the money and purchase the plug-in, support a software company that’s producing one of the best plug-ins on the market, and support new ideas from Matt. He could have easily not shared this with any of you. Not happy with his tips and posts? Go up to your bookmarks and delete this from your favorites. Matt, there’s absolutely no reason to apologize to any of us who enjoy your knowledge. Some people wish they could reach your caliber and have the opportunity to share their knowledge. -Brad

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  12. I like this video, because I work a lot with BW conversion…you can see my page ;) ….and people like us, rarely have the opportunity to see how really professionals works (I’m just a amateur guy). If his workflow is this, great…and if this workflow don’t like, great too.

    Matt: thanks again for show your work.

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  13. Nice tutorial, good seeing how others work with tools in and out of LR to get results. Thanks for taking time to show it – I’m going to try that plugin btw.

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  14. Nice video, where can I find (or can you tell us) the commands to swap and bring the immage between PS and LR?

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  15. Hey Matt, thanks for your walkthrough. Just a little extra advice on how I do it:
    I “open as smart object” in photoshop, and if you run silver efex pro now, it acts as a smart filter. That means that you can adjust the silver efex later on, if you’re somehow not happy with the result that you’re getting.

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  16. This is a more general comment about your before and afters, which I really love. It’s surprising that more blogs/casts don’t do this

    I hope you keep them coming!

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  17. I’m usually a narrow minded guy but I can see where Matt is coming from and I can see where Jason is coming from. Both are right. Matt, keep up the good work as you see fit. I enjoyed the video and support whatever you choose to do.

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  18. I found this tutorial useful to see how you use Photoshop and SilverEfex Pro to render a B&W. While I have Photoshop, I rarely bother using it and instead use Lightroom to start the process by selecting a pre-set.

    SilverEfex is very nice. I may consider getting the Lightroom Plugin version, but like another poster here, I’m curious whether you find a big difference between the Photoshop plugin and the Lightroom plugin.

    Thanks — these are ALWAYS very helpful, Matt!

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  19. Very useful , I found the Black & White tutorial for Lightroom. My wedding photography workflow with lightroom is easy compared to the old days. Just love it Thansk everyone..

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  20. I’d personally would love to see a comparison of the silverefex pro plug-in vs stndard ps conversion to b&w / and lightroom 2 conversion.
    Thanks for the video very helpful

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