Black and White Conversion - 3 Options in Adobe Lightroom

Black and White Conversion – 3 Options in Adobe Lightroom


Today portrait photographer Christina N Dickson shares tips on converting images to Black and White using Adobe Lightroom. Christina’s work can be found at

For amateur photographers who want to wait on that $800 Photoshop software purchase, or professionals who want a user friendly photo editing interface, Adobe’s Lightroom is a fantastic $300 solution.

In Lightroom, there is a plethora of ways to sort, edit, and share photos professionally. This is also true for Lightroom’s black and white conversion process.

Black And White Conversion With Lightroom

Lightroom has several options for black and white conversion. Here are 3 awesome ways to convert your images into Black and White – and get results that are different every time.

Option 1: Grayscale Conversion

Time Involved – 30 seconds

Process – Click and Adjust Contrast

Bw 1

In the develop module, directly below the histogram, the grayscale conversion bottom is located in the “Basic” view. The grayscale option can be achieved by simply clicking “Grayscale”. Typically, this particular grayscale conversion produces a black and white image of flat mid-tones. You will want to adjust your contrast for more variation.

Option 2: Grayscale Mix

Time Involved – 2 minutes

Process – Click and Adjust Tone Channels

Bw 2

The Grayscale Mix is found below the “Basic” and “Tone Curve” views. Click the “Grayscale” button next to the “HSL” and “Color” buttons. This converts the image into grayscale tones, but allows you to adjust each color tone individually. Play around with these adjustments until the tones are most balanced and artistic.

Option 3: Split Toning

Time Involved – 5 minutes

Process – Adjust Highlights and Highlight Saturation, Adjust Shadows and Shadow Saturation, and Adjust Balance, Adjust Vibrancy and Contrast

Bw 3

Beneath the “Grayscale Mix” views is the “Split Toning” option. This type of conversion is one of the most involved. Adjust the slider to set your highlight color and saturation level, and then do the same with your shadows. From here, adjust the balance of which is more prevalent, highlights or shadows. You will find that at this point, your image is not in black and white, it is in whichever colors you have chosen as your shadows and highlights. From here, you will need to go back to the “Basic” option. Here you will adjust the vibrancy and saturation of the overall image. As you adjust these sliders, your image will become black and white with prevalent tones from your split toning.

Read more from our Post Production category

Christina N Dickson is a visionary artist and philanthropist in Portland Oregon. Her work includes wedding photography and leadership with

Some Older Comments

  • raj singh arora June 6, 2011 07:38 am

    whats wrong if i simply convert the image to b& pressing the V key.....n then adjust my contrast etc....why do i have to use the grayscale n split toning method?

  • Don McMahan February 13, 2009 03:25 am

    lightroom is a much more powerful management tool than bridge, if you have thousands of images on several different external hard drives you HAVE TO HAVE Lightroom. also in the editing area it is just faster and easier than PS with what it can do, which isn"t near as much as PS can do but is usually all you need

  • audiomind October 11, 2008 01:15 am

    I don't understand the difference between the combination of Camera Raw (photoshop) and Bridge vs. Lightroom.

    What's the advantage here?

  • Lee October 10, 2008 03:17 am

    i have adobe ellements 5. can anyone on here tell me how to make my picture black and white. then put some colour back into picture. can it be done on the adobe i have? anyone who can help me. i would apreciate it.

  • Bakari October 8, 2008 04:21 pm

    Really great article. I was working on a similar article for Aperture 2.0 users when I came upon this one.

  • Eric October 5, 2008 05:33 am

    I like to back down the Clarity and Saturation sliders (but not all the way to 0), so there is a little bit of info left in the color channels (just not enough to be visible),and then use the Luminance sliders to adjust some of the contrast variations in the image. It takes a bit of time, but is great for getting certain areas of a photo to exactly the tone level you want.

  • Alex October 5, 2008 01:43 am

    You can also down the saturation to 0 to have a black and white picture, and at many times the result is more interesting.

  • Sime October 4, 2008 08:12 pm

    Loving LR2 a great piece of software. I am pretty baic when it comes to photo manipulation, but am slowly oming to terms with it!

    @ John - thanks!

    Cheers Christina, good post.


  • Nathan Chapman October 4, 2008 07:52 pm

    Any thoughts on what photoshop might offer that Lightroom does not (in terms of B&W) or am I just not thinking hard enough?
    - Rosh

    @ Rosh:
    All I can think of are the photo-manipulation tools: select, cut, copy, extract etc. But that's not what we need as photographers, eh?


  • John Waire October 4, 2008 01:23 am

    Forgot to mention. They are FREE!!!

  • John Waire October 4, 2008 01:22 am

    OnOne Software offers some killer presets for Lightroom. 85 in total. They are great starting points for really making your photos pop. Plenty of Black & White options.

    They can be downloaded here:


  • Rosh October 4, 2008 01:13 am

    When I worked with the beta version of Lightroom, I was very impressed by the Black and white options. I generally use photoshop for such activities, but I can't really see a disadvantage in using lightroom.

    Any thoughts on what photoshop might offer that Lightroom does not (in terms of B&W) or am I just not thinking hard enough?