How to Create Beautiful High-Contrast and Filmic Black & White Images Using the LR4 Preset System
This tutorial is a demonstration of the SLR Lounge Lightroom 4 Preset System. With over 200 presets, the LR4 Preset System has been critically acclaimed as the most powerful and intuitive preset system available for Lightroom 4, click the link above to learn more/purchase.
In today’s Lightroom Weekly Edit, we have a special photo starring our very own Justin, one of the co-founders of SLR Lounge, taken by me several year earlier during his wedding. We are going to take this image and use the SLR Lounge Lightroom 4 Preset System to create a high contrast black and white portrait, as well as a film-like black and white portrait.
Watch the Video
The Original Image
Mixology Recipe and Tutorial
If you own the SLR Lounge Lightroom 4 Preset System, this effect can be achieved in around 10 seconds. If you don’t own the preset system, please skip to Step 2 to learn how to do it manually.
High-Contrast Black & White Portrait
1. MY MIXOLOGY > 00 Standard Import
2. MY MIXOLOGY > 13 Standard B&W (Soft | Portrait)
3. BASE ADJUSTMENTS > 45 Medium Darken (Blacks)
Filmic Black & White Portrait
1. MY MIXOLOGY > 00 Standard Import
2. MY MIXOLOGY > 13 Standard B&W (Soft | Portrait)
3. ANTIQUE CURVES > 41 B&W (Vintage Punch)
4. BASE ADJUSTMENTS > 42 Neutral (Blacks)
5. BASE ADJUSTMENTS > 33 Light Boost (Contrast)
6. SPECIAL EFFECTS > 23 Medium (Film Grain)
Step 1. Correct for dust (Preset System Only)
Before we convert this photo into black and white, we are going to use the Advanced Dust Correction Curve to see if we need to do any dust correction (BASE ADJUSTMENT > 82 Advanced Dust Correction Curve (Tools)). Any time I’m producing an image for print or canvas, the first thing that I apply is this preset. Now this particular image does not really have any dust issues because of the aperture and the way it was shot. The Dust Correction Curve also has other retouching benefits such as to check for dandruff on a dark suit. With the Dust Correction Curve enabled, it is easy to see find high contrast spots in the image.
If there are dusts in the image, just zoom into the affected area and use the Spot Healing Brush to remove the dust. After removing all visible dust, we can then reset the curve (BASE ADJUSTMENT > 81 Reset (Tools)) to turn the image back to normal. Note that resetting the curve will not remove any of the spot removal corrections that have just been applied.
Step 2. Convert to Black & White and Flatten Skin Tones
For portrait images like this, the SLR Lounge Lightroom 4 Preset System has the perfect preset called the Standard B&W (MY MIXOLOGY > 13 Standard B&W (Soft | Portrait)). The settings from this preset will be the starting point for both our high-contrast black and white portrait and our filmic black and white portrait.
In order to achieve the look, we will first expand our dynamic range by flattening the highlights by bringing down the Whites and Highlights by -30. At the same time, we want to open up the shadows a bit by increasing the Shadows and Blacks by +10.
In order to smooth out skin tone for portraits, lower Clarity by -20. This reduces midtone contrast in the image and makes the skin look more flattering.
Because we are flattening the skin tones, we want to bring back some contrast to the overall image by adding +25 to Contrast and creating a slight s-curve in the Tone Curve. Without this extra boost in overall contrast, the image would end up looking too flat.
Under sharpening, we have our standard Sharpening adjustments:
• Amount: 70
• Radius: 1.5
• Detail: 10
• Masking: 30
Opening up the shadows can introduce some noise, so we want to apply bit of noise reduction to our image. This is also good for portraits because noise reduction also helps to smooth out the pores on our subject’s skin.
At this point, let’s zoom into the subject’s face at 100% to make sure that we still have good detail in the hair and eyes. Too much noise reduction will remove wanted detail, which we need to be aware of.
Finally, we can also add some Lens Vignetting at +30 Amount and +30 Midpoint simply to even out edge to edge brightness.
Step 3. Add More Contrast in the Shadows and Blacks
In order to get the high-contrast black and white image look, we want to deepen the darker tones in the the image. Let bring down Shadows by -15 and the Blacks by -30.
While we don’t want to crush our black levels, we do want to have some true blacks and some true whites in our image to preserve overall contrast.
If you hit J to bring up the Highlight and Shadow Alert, you can see that we’re clipping some of the deep shadow areas in the hair and on the suit. Having some clipped blacks is OK because we need to make sure that we have some true blacks to preserve contrast in the print. Just be careful not to clip too much shadow detail.
At this point, we are finished with our High Contrast Black and White version of our portrait which can be seen below.
Let’s move on and create our Filmic Black and White Portrait effect now.
Step 4. Clip the Shadows and Highlights with Curves
This particular black & white portrait also works perfectly with a black & white film look. To create this look, what we are going to do is modify the curve and add some special effects.
First, let’s create a Virtual Copy of our image so we can retain both black and white versions by hitting CTRL+’ on Windows and CMD+’ on Mac.
In the SLR Lounge Lightroom 4 Preset System, there are several Antique Curves that we can use. If I want to add a little bit of a fade, I can apply a Bright Wash (05 ANTIQUE > 11 B&W (Neutral Washes)) or a Neutral Wash (05 ANTIQUE CURVES > 21 B&W (Neutral Washes)). If I want to add contrast to my fade, then I can apply the Vintage Punch (05 ANTIQUE CURVES > 41 B&W (Vintage Punch)), which going to clip the shadows and highlights a bit while retaining the additional contrast as shown below:
The look that we are going for with the filmic black and white portrait is the Vintage punch, so let’s take a look at how you can achieve this look without the preset.
The first step is to adjust the Tone Curve to match the curve from the Vintage Punch. We are adding more contrast by lowering the shadow areas and bringing up the highlights.
Step 5. Bring up the Blacks to Decrease Shadow Clipping
We will need to open up the shadows just a bit in order to prevent too much shadow detail from being clipped. After applying the Tone Curve, let’s zero out the Shadow and Black.
As you can see from the histogram below, we have clipped the details in the blacks and highlights, which essentially gives us that nice, subtle fade while also retaining our contrast.
Step 6. Boost the Contrast
Because we opened up the shadows, we want to add some more contrast in order. Let’s add +25 to Contrast.
Step 7. Add Film Grain to Emulate a Film-Look
In order to emulate the film-look, we also want to add some film grain into the image. The following settings will add medium-size grain.
Step 8. Add A Slight Vignette
Finally, let’s pull in some of the vignette in order to subtly strengthen the darkening on the top and bottom of the images.
For this image, I am also going to lower the exposure by -20 to finish the image off.
Recap of the Lightroom Adjustments
Here are all the Lightroom adjustments that we have applied in order to get this filmic black and white portrait look:
• Exposure: -20
• Contrast: + 25
• Highlights: -30
• Shadows: 0
• Whites: -30
• Blacks: 0
• Clarity: stayed the same at -20
• Sharpening and Noise Reduction stayed the same
• Grain: Amount +60, Size +40, and Roughness +40
• Lens Vignetting: Amount – 15 and Midpoint +10
Before and After Images
That’s it for our tutorial, hope you guys enjoy it. Here is the comparison between the original image, the high-contrast black & white image, and the filmic black & white image. Until the next tutorial!
High Contrast Black & White Image
Filmic Black & White Image
Purchase the Lightroom 4 Workshop Collection
For those interested in mastering Lightroom 4, we have developed the Lightroom 4 Workshop Collection which contains all of the education, resources and tools that one would need to operate an entire studio using Lightroom 4. This 3 DVD collection can be purchased together for $249 or separately for $99 per DVD. The Lightroom Workshop Collection is composed of the following:
Lightroom 4 A to Z Tutorials DVD – Photographers around the world have been raving about the Lightroom 4 A to Z Tutorials DVD. With nearly 14 hours of A – Z video instruction, this workshop on DVD is designed to turn anyone at any experience level into a Lightroom 4 expert. (more info)
Lightroom 4 Preset System + DVD – 218 Presets, including 186 Develop Presets, 32 Brush Presets and 30 Mixologies make up the most comprehensive, intuitive and powerful Lightroom 4 Preset System ever created. Color correction, vintage fades, black and white effects, tilt-shift effects, faux HDR, retouching, detail enhancing and virtually any other effect can be created with just a few simple clicks. (more info)
Lightroom 4 Workflow System DVD – For advanced Lightroom 4 users, the Workflow System DVD features 7 hours of HD video tutorials teaching exactly how we can cull and process images at over 1,500 images per hour using just Lightroom 4, your keyboard and mouse. The goal is to help you spend more time shooting and working on other aspects of your business and less time in front of the computer. (more info)