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Processing Black and White Images

Lesson 27 from: Incredible Engagement Photography

Pye Jirsa

Processing Black and White Images

Lesson 27 from: Incredible Engagement Photography

Pye Jirsa

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Lesson Info

27. Processing Black and White Images

Summary (Generated from Transcript)

The topic of the lesson is processing black and white engagement photography. Q&A:

  1. How do you process black and white images in Lightroom?

    • Start by converting the image to black and white using Lightroom's basic black and white conversion.
    • Adjust the highlights, shadows, blacks, exposure, and clarity to achieve the desired look.
    • Use the HSL panel to tweak the black and white mix for portraiture.
  2. Should you process black and white images differently than regular images?

    • Yes, there is a difference between processing a black and white image and processing a regular color image.
    • Black and white images require specific adjustments to enhance the contrast and tonality.
  3. Should you deliver both black and white and color versions to clients?

    • It is recommended to deliver both black and white and color versions to clients.
    • Some clients may prefer the color version even if the black and white version looks better.
    • Black and white images are best for capturing timeless moments and emotional moments.
  4. How can you create a bright and airy look in black and white photography?

    • Increase the exposure and adjust the tone curve to create a bright and airy effect.
    • Use the tone curve to flatten the image and adjust the shadows, midtones, and highlights.
  5. How do odd crops affect the printing of black and white images?

    • Odd crops, such as square crops, may not be printable without white borders.
    • This can be advantageous when clients order prints directly from the photographer.
  6. Is it necessary to use presets when processing black and white images?

    • Using presets can save time when processing multiple images.
    • It is recommended to use presets that match the mood and tone of the image.
  7. How can you add polish to a black and white image in Lightroom?

    • Adjust the temperature, tone curve, and add selective adjustments using radial filters.
    • Sharpen the image and make final adjustments to enhance the overall look.
Next Lesson: Culling and Presets


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


Posing Guidance for Him


Posing Guidance for Her


Foundational Posing


Posing Touch Points


Couples Body Language


Posing Three Point Check


Posing Tips with Demo


Lesson Info

Processing Black and White Images

So what I'm gonna do with this is I'm gonna reset this out completely. Okay, and by the way if there's people out there that love the like stronger highlights and that more contrasty look, cool. By all means, cool. Go for it. Let me just show you the same adjustment. So what we would typically do is on an image like this we would just apply soft skin and that just kind of softens up the skin a little bit. It's the exact same adjustments that we just went through. And we're actually including, in the bonus section we include some of our most used presets, so signature color and our soft skin, signature black and white and our soft black and whites, they're all included. So signature color has a little more of a poppy look to it. Signature black and white, I wanted to show this cause this is really cool. Let's do this, I'm gonna create one more virtual copy. Reset this. I'm gonna do this. Feel like it makes me look better. Alright. Okay let's reset this out. And I'm gonna press B. So thi...

s is Lightroom's basic black and white conversion. And if I just compare those two. You want to process your black and whites. I know some people, I didn't know this was a thing but then I learned that a lot of people like to just black and white the image and actually not process it as a black and white. But there's a huge difference between a processed black and white versus just a regular Lightroom converted black and white. And you're seeing that like. Is this a little bit blurry? It's like still loading on my side. There we go, perfect. So let me show you how we would typically process a black and white photo because we're gonna go a little bit further in terms of like we can add more contrast, add more blacks, make it a little bit more punchy and so forth. We're gonna basically create a preset. Let me go back to the develop module. Does this not make me look like a professional when I use one finger? I think it does. Okay, let's reset that all out. So black and white converted, great. So what we're gonna do here is we're gonna do kind of a similar thing where we kinda pull down, actually I don't wanna. Did you guys see this by the way? If we pull down the highlights, remember how we said if you pull down too much on highlights it makes skin tones look funky. That's why we didn't pull down our highlights, we actually pulled down on the whites. So if we pull down anything it's just to bring the whites down closer to those. Okay we're gonna add our shadows, add our blacks. I'm gonna pump up the exposure a little bit. I'm gonna bring back the clarity a little bit. Just kinda soften it up. And if you want to, one of my favorite tricks is press J to turn on your highlight alert. So J will actually turn on this little alert up in the top and right. You can actually see in your image what's clipped and what's blown so we can know exactly where we're losing detail. So I'm gonna bring it up a little bit in the exposure. I'm gonna put a radial filter over this, in that little section and we're just gonna make it a .5 burn. Okay, so pressing J to turn that off and then turning off my radial filter. And this is the trick here, if you go down to the HSL, Lightroom does this funky black and white mix by default but it's designed for general image usage. Like this is a black and white mix that's designed for overall images. If we wanna tweak this for portraiture, what we usually like to do is, if I hold down alt or option I can reset this. And by the way we didn't tweak that right. So that's the actual black and white mix that Lightroom takes into when you click V. If you turn that off in the preferences it won't do that. So just a heads up. Okay I'm gonna press reset. What I like, if you noticed here, do you see how it shift the reds and the oranges down? Aren't reds and oranges and yellows, aren't those all skin tones? So are we not darkening our skin tones by letting it do this to our images? Now if you had a nature shot that might look cool because it kinda pulls down the yellows and the oranges and all that kind of stuff and it makes it look more vivid and dramatic. But in a portrait it'll actually dim down your tones of your skin. So instead you can just keep it simple and just knock these out, take it even back to zero and you see how her skin livened up again. Do you see how like it just kind of brought it back? So that's something to be aware of. Generally with our black and white mix, so if I show you guys, again this is the one that's in the presets, so if I show you this. Do you guys see how flattering that is? Like on the skin tones. Like it keeps it bright and flattering. So this the black and white mix. I don't know if it's like too bright on your side. It's a little bit bright on my side, I'm gonna tweak it to my side. Okay, so look at this. This is what our black and white mix is doing for portraiture. Plus 5, plus 10, plus 10. If you need to adjust it you can but that gives the skin tones in your black and whites a little bit of a kick. Makes them look poppy. Cool. Sharpening settings, everything else stays the same. And this is the, so if we went back to the... What one was this one, let's see. Yeah that's the, so if I just go, I'm gonna press tab just remove both panels and if you wanna compare the converted black and white, this is our conversion versus Lightroom's conversion to black and white. There's a really big difference there. And I know a lot of people, especially online people, might be asking what do you do about bright skin tones and that kind of stuff? You know with portraits if you keep the skin tones up a little bit higher than they generally should be, I'm not saying to blow them out, I'm saying to keep them bright, it's gonna look much more flattering in general. It looks a lot better then dark stuff. Any cues? I do have a question that's about when you do decide to give your client a black and white image, are you also giving them a color version or are you yourself deciding what you're gonna use for black and white and what color? And how do you choose what works in black and white? So we usually we will deliver both black and white and color. Anytime, this is what we found is, anytime we deliver a set of color images and then for the color images that just don't work in color if we give them the black and white they almost always come back and go, can I have the color image for that one too. And we're like, but it's not a good image, like it doesn't look right. To save ourselves hassle we just started doing color. And then whenever we create a black and white we just deliver it as a virtual copy so we just have it black and white. The way that, our rule of thumb for black and whiting is if a scene doesn't have great color but you have to keep it in, this is more so for weddings cause this really shouldn't be happening to you on engagements. On engagements, whatever you're shooting, I mean you have the ability to make it look however you want it to and you have the time to be able to do that. So the only time you're delivering black and white on engagements is for timeless moments. Moments that are fantastic. They're very candid, there's laughter, there's precious moments and those kinds of things that would look great in that. It's that emotional black and white kind of look. But generally your color's gonna be fine on engagement session. When it comes to a wedding we will do black and whites also when we have to deliver an image. You know it's got crappy light, maybe on a dance floor, maybe doing something, there's bad light but you know it's grandma on the dance floor, that's the only shot we have of grandma on the dance floor so we have to deliver that. So we'll do a black and white addition to it. So it kind of saves you. Saves your butt sometimes. Okay. So let's take a look here. Let's go to this one. This was I thought a good image to kinda show like, I'm all for, I love natural light guys. With all the light modification that I do, I'm a big natural light guy. And I love this look over this one. I don't know if you guys feel the same way but there's something about the. This is, remember when our flashes popped just on accident, they bounced off behind us and they filled the shadows. Like we just forgot to turn it off. I like the shadows on this and I feel like it really makes the image and the silhouette. One little tweak I would do to this, like these things bug me, I would back him up just a tiny, tiny bit so that this column is not right behind his neck. So see how she covers up hers? And he's just a little bit too far forward but whatever. This is one of those times where we would deliver as a color and a black and white. And there's several different ways to go on images like this. We shot this, and if you look at this histogram, look is that not a pushed histogram? Like we have retained most of the shadows, we have as much highlights as possible. It's been pushed pretty well. So we can actually bring this up by a stop. We can bring it up by two stops. And we shouldn't be creating too much noise. We will have a little bit in the dark hair. So there's gonna be a little bit of grain and noise here but not too much. That stuff was falling below. Like it was getting pretty dang dark. So if we wanted to be a little bit more safe we expose maybe one more stop. But notice that we can do anything we really want over the other areas of the image. And let me see here, this was shot at 100 ISO and it's still gonna be totally fine. Like it's totally printable, with our 15 noise reduction it looks fantastic. You're not gonna notice any bits of grain in there. It's gonna look great. So if we want to we can process it as this bright and airy kind of a look. And the way that I would do that is, let's actually show you. I wanna do this. We're gonna go ahead and close down this panel so we have less stuff to look at. Alright, we're gonna bring it up by two stops. And keep in mind that this was actually little bit underexposed to begin with so if we didn't then it would be even better. Okay, I like the warmth on it. What we're gonna do now is we're gonna go down to the tone curve and play around down here. So that flattened look that we were talking about, it's created by flattening out, what do we say, we create contrast with whites and blacks right. So if I just eliminate pure whites from the shot by pulling down on this right curve and if I eliminate pure blacks from the shot by pulling up on the bottom curve, is that not like a muted, flat image. So depending on how much you wanna go, you can go up a little bit higher if you wanna flatten out a little more and create that kinda soft. Oops that's the zoom button. Delete this one. Create that soft dreamy look, okay. And then we can add adjustments on top of that curve. So if we wanna pull up a little bit in the shadows to bring in a little bit more shadows we can. We can pull down on the mid tones if we wanna darken those up. We can pull up on the highlights if we wanna keep our highlights bright. Or you can flip it around and add contract again by pulling the mid tones up, pulling the highlights up and subtracting out shadows, okay. So what this just did was if you turn this tone curve on and off, look at this, you see how we create basically it's like a matte look to our image. And for this kind of a scene, a rustic scene with them dressed in kind of like very rustic almost like kind of hipsterish type clothing, the look of post production really fits the image. And if your post production look fits your image, my thought on that is, if you can match the post production to the image it's not gonna go out of style. We might be doing less vintage stuff in the future, I feel like there's a whole lot of vintage and filmic stuff being done right now, but if the effect is done in the appropriate times like if it matches the subject, the scene, the way it was shot, it's gonna still be timeless. The problem is that when things don't match, like we take a modern photograph, we apply a vintage filter over it, he's standing by like a modern Porsche or something like that and he's dressed in a suit and he looks like he just stepped out of a magazine and then you pop a vintage filter on it, it looks like a modern photo taken and processed that way. So those are the things we try and avoid in the studios. Our processing needs to match the mood of the scene and kind of the tone that we're going for overall. And if we do that we stay that timeless kind of look. Isn't that cool, so the tone curve. Tone curve. Okay, let's go back. Let's go ahead and go on to one of the other shots. This was that shot by the way, this is actually kind of a nice shot, I probably would keep stuff like this and I would process it just to be that light and airy look. If we actually took that same, so I'm gonna take this processing style, pressing control shift V, or control shift C or command shift C, we're gonna just copy, we didn't make any local adjustments, just copy it all. And then we're just gonna paste it over one of these guys. Control shift V. And then we're just gonna adjust the exposure down a little bit. Okay, it's a really nice look. Has that soft and airy kind of vibe to it. Looks great. Does this not look like it was flashed? Doesn't it look like we added flash to it? Remember what we did, it was just the reflector that was bouncing silver light directly into the face. It was really good. I would have worked on that expression a little bit. Probably dipped the chin down a little bit more and then have her look up a little bit towards the camera, get a little better shot there. Alright, here's this. Now I know we talked about the shooting wide open. Let's take a look at these. I wasn't really checking too much in camera. I probably should have, okay. So this is at 1/200 of a second f 1.4 ISO on an 85 mm. I mean that's plenty of sharpness on both sides for me. Like that's good enough. If you just position them and you get them in the right spots then you're totally fine to do that. It's just when you're not posing and someone's behind and so forth then you get that kind of someone blurred out. But do zoom in and check them out. I'm gonna go ahead and process. So this is a good one. Great. Perfect. And we have our camera guy on this right side, we have the wall on this side so the easiest way to fix this, press R to drop in the crop tool. Let's go square crop. By the way if you go square crop and you're trying to pull out an edge and it's not pulling just turn off the lock and you can just pull out on the edges. If we wanted to we could, did I rotate this a little bit? If we wanted to we could clone in background very easily but we don't necessarily need to. And the cool thing about odd crop by the way is that you generally can't print these from stores without having like white borders. You can't blow them up and that kind of stuff. So odd crops are kind of nice to have your couple come back to you to order prints and those kind of things. Not saying that we do it just for that reason, I'm just saying. I'm just saying. Alright so these images are like, if I wanted to I could deliver these I think directly to the client the way that they look. And we try to shoot that way in the studio. We do our best. Our goal is always get it right in camera. But let's do a little bit of tweaking on this. So for this image I wanna go with like a kind of poppy look. Let's just bring down the highlights and the whites just a little bit. Let's add a little bit of shadows to the image by adding a bit of black. I'm gonna bring the whites back up. And then let's also just drop a little bit of the clarity. And then I'm gonna leave the temperature right around 5800. Maybe a little bit more warm. And then we're just gonna do our same thing with the tone curve. I'm gonna add an S curve. So this is a contrasting boosting curve right but I get a target where I want my contrast. So I'm just gonna add a bit of contrast in these places. I can press J at any point if I wanna see if anything's blown or clipped. If there's anything that has, I'm not gonna adjust or tweak saturation on this, it looks fine. I'm gonna do my little trick here. By the way go left to right to adjust color, go up and down to adjust saturation. Okay so we add a little bit of this. I'm gonna make it a slightly more of a heavy effect just so you guys can see it. Let's go to 10. In the shadows here I'm actually gonna add a tiny bit of blue tones. Okay give it a little bit of a highlight bias. And what we can do is actually tone down the temperature if we want to, to kinda compensate for that. So now if you look at this again this might be a better example. I'm gonna cool it down a little bit so you can hopefully see this. Therewe you go. Do you guys see that shift? Do you guys see how it kinda gives the image a little bit more polish? I don't know, it brings the tones all together in a way that it makes everything fit a little bit more cohesively with the shot. And I'll leave the final a little bit warmed up. And we'll do a little bit of sharpening. We're just gonna do our standard sharpening with some masking. Now I'm gonna drop in a radial filter. So this is generally like if we weren't to use presets, once you guys get good with Lightroom it doesn't take too long to work an image over but a preset would have, if you're working on 100 images and that took 30 seconds or a minute and we're talking about one second to click something and then five seconds to make a quick adjustment, whether you're using your own presets or someone else's my recommendation is to use presets. Okay here's the quick before and after for this. So just adding a tiny bit of polish to an image.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Pre-Shoot Videos
Keynote 1
Keynote 2
Presets Installation Guide
Gear Guide
Favorite Software
Lightroom Presets

Ratings and Reviews

CPR Photography

I think Pye Jirsa is one of the best, if not the best, instructor for photography on Creative Live. He is very personable, smart and approachable. He has a perfect blend of personality (comments, laughs, tangents..) to the amount of instruction. He asks the questions for you, because he knows you are thinking those questions right then. He's very good about identifying settings, gear, etc.. and not leaving us in the dark about how he "got the shot". He goes into great detail. His instructions flow, but are linear, which is helpful. He's very organized, and you can tell that he really put a lot of work into his presentations (slides, video, test shoots, live teaching, graphics, etc..) I have been listening to him for like 10 hours straight, and still haven't gotten tired of him. He keeps things moving, He's very funny too. Nice job, I've learned so much. :)

a Creativelive Student

This course was AMAZING. I'd say int he past year or two I've fallen into a slump. Uninspired by my surroundings and uninspired by my clients. As a result, it showed through my work. My posing suffered as well and more than a handful of times some of my shoots became more than awkward. Then I bought this course and watched most of it in the course of a day. I walked away inspired, blown away, and renewed. The next day I walked into an engagement session confident. I gave my couples a quick overview on posing and then we just had fun in front of the camera. Immediately afterwards they texted me about how amazing their shoot was and how relaxed I made them feel about posing. The photos turned out fantastic to say the least. I've since shot several more engagement sessions and each one of them has been amazing. If anything, this course should inspire photographers to think outside the box and provide you with the necessary skills to take incredible engagement photos. Thank you Pye and Creative Live! I cannot speak more highly of this course. I should also state I purchased Pye's Natural Light course on SLR Lounge: this course is a wonderful addition to that. If you already own the natural light course and are hesitant about purchasing this one, don't. Buy it and reap the benefits!


This is by far one of the best courses I have taken. Pye makes learning fun and easy to understand. I feel like I have learned so much throughout the course, that I have truly advanced my photography skills. I am so excited to get out there and try so many of the techniques that he showed. I would love to take another course of his. The pricing for the course doesn't even compare to how wonderful the education truly is, I really got more than my money's worth on this one.

Student Work