Black and White RAW Processing for a Landscape Image – Weekly Lightroom Edit Episode 2

This is the written article for our Weekly Lightroom Edit – Episode 2 that was released on November 25, 2011 on SLR Lounge. To view this tutorial in video form, click here.

Hey guys, welcome to Episode 2 of our Weekly Lightroom Edit. Last week, we had a few questions regarding black and white workflow. So, in this tutorial, we are going to do a black and white edit of the RAW image that you see below.

Our final image will look like the following:

Download the Exercise File

First thing, let’s download the exercise file by clicking here. (Note: This image is provided by Lin and Jirsa Photography for educational purposes for DPS and SLR Lounge users only)

Black and White RAW Workflow Tips

Last week we had a question when it came to the RAW Workflow with black and white Images. Well, for the most part everything is going to stay exactly the same. We still want to make sure that we are working from the largest adjustments, to the smallest in that order. However, we do want to first make sure that we switch the image to black and white by hitting ‘V’ prior to starting the workflow.

So, this is the general workflow process I follow when editing RAW files as black and white images, note that we are going to also add an additional advanced step for Detail Enhancements.

1. Convert to Black and White (‘V’)
2. Brightness/Exposure
3. Temperature/Tint (affects B&W toning)
4. Recovery/Fill Light
5. Blacks/Contrast
6. Clarity
7. Cropping
8. Detail Enhancements (spot removal, graduating filters, brushes)
9. Sharpening
10. Lens Corrections

Starting with a Vision

Once again, we want to start editing with a vision of where we want the final image to be. For this image, I picture a very dramatic panoramic landscape with a nice graduating sky while falling to black along the rocks. Again, there is so many things that we can do with this image, this is just my interpretation.

The Basic Adjustments

So, let’s obviously start by switching our image to black and white by hitting ‘V’, and then let’s start making the adjustments below.

Brightness +85 – Again, I want to pull up the brightness of the image without affecting the highlights as much as Exposure would. So, I am using Brightness over Exposure as it is mid tone biased instead of highlight tone biased.

Temperature/Tint As Shot – Typically with a black and white, I won’t do too much adjusting to the temperature and tint. The exception to this is when the black and white toning doesn’t quite look right due to incorrect out of camera white balances. This usually manifests in strange contrast and color graduation. I.E. The image lacks overall contrast, or when skins tones look far darker or brighter than they would in color. Since the out of camera white balance for this image is fairly accurate, When we convert this image to black and white, we don’t see these issues. So, we are going to leave these at default, and revisit later if we must.

Recovery 0 – I am not worried about smoothing out highlight tones over skin since this image is primarily a landscape image. Since this image was shot with the sun, everything is quite bright. Thus, using Recovery in this situation would pretty much darken the entire image, requiring us to have to raise the Brightness which is just going to counteract the Recovery. So, we don’t need recovery in this image. If we want to darken the sky, we will do it with Graduating Filters as you will see shortly.

Fill Light 0 – Again, I want this image to be dramatic, which means that I need to have some nice deep blacks in the image for contrast. Raising Fill Light is only going to brighten these deep shadows. Therefore, we are going to leave it at 0 as well.

Blacks +12/Contrast +60 – Again, we are going for a dramatic image, so I want high contrast and some deep blacks. Since this is primarily a landscape portrait given the subjects are so small, I am not worried about their faces and skin tone highlighting. So, I first am going to raise my blacks to the point where I feel like the deep shadows are properly clipped. Then I am going to raise my contrast up to give the image the additional pop that it needs. Using the correct Black vs Contrast mix will ensure that your image pops without sacrificing too much shadow detail from too much Blacks, or creating strange graduation and highlights from too much Contrast.

Clarity 0 – Contrast and details in this image look fine, so we are going to skip adding additional clarity.

We are done with our Basic corrections, and your image should now look like the image below.

Cropping to Improve the Composition

Ok, so now let’s move on to our finishing touches starting with Cropping.

Crop (‘R’) – Hit ‘R’ to bring up the Crop Overlay. First, we are going to adjust the aspect ratio of the image. As we talked about, I want this image to be a panoramic image, so I think an aspect ratio of 2:1 would look great. So, in the right side in the Crop and Straighten Dialogue, click on the pull down menu where it says Original and select Enter Custom as shown below.

We are going to use a 2 to 1 ratio, which means the image will be two pixels wide for every 1 pixel tall. So, enter 2 and then 1 as shown below.

Next, we are going to modify the crop itself so that the image has a slightly stronger composition. When this image was shot, I shot it literally with my stomach against the sharp rocks on the ground. So, getting the crop perfect, was not only difficult, the priority at the time was getting my chest from off the rocks that were impaling me. So, while I am all for getting it right in the camera, it just didn’t happen on this shot. So, we will fix it. We are going to pull in the crop so that the couple sits on the right 1/3 vertical line, and on the top 1/3 horizontal line as shown below.

Now the image has a slightly stronger composition, and should look like what you see below.

Detail Enhancements

We have quite a few detail enhancements that we need to make at this point that are really going to bring out the drama in the image. Let’s start first with spot removal.

Spot Removal (‘Q’) – Now, while we keep our sensors and lenses quite clean, given the amount that we are out shooting, we almost always still have some spots when shooting at higher apertures. Because of our crop, we have actually cropped out the majority of these spots, but just for practice, you guys can remove them anyway. Simply press ‘Q’ to select the spot removal tool, set your Brush to Heal and the opacity to 100. The size is going to vary, but you want the tool to be just a bit larger than the spot you are healing. Next, click on each spot in the image.

Now, this is just an exercise, because you will see that all the spots I removed are basically outside of our cropped area as shown in the image below. This wasn’t intentional, we just got lucky this time, haha!

Graduating Filters (‘M’) – Now let’s move onto the next detail enhancement. We are going to use the Graduating Filters to burn the rocks and the sky to add that extra bit of drama that we are missing.

Let’s first burn the sky down a bit. To do so, select the Graduated Filter button by hitting ‘M’. Next, simply set exposure to -1.00 and the rest of the sliders at default as shown below.

Notice that this time we are using Exposure over Brightness. This is because this time I do want the adjustments to have a bias towards the highlights.

Now, you are going to click and drag from the top right, and pull down the brush keeping the edge roughly along the angle of the rocks as shown below.

You want to be careful not to cover the couple too much as they will become too dark. Now, let’s move onto burning the rocks.

We are going to create two burns on the rocks. The first burn is going to darken the rocks overall, while the second burn is going to focus on dropping the base of the image to complete black.

Press ‘M’ again for a new Graduated Filter, and this time we are going to simply change the exposure value to -1.66 (leave everything else at 0). Now, you are going to drag up from the bottom, again at the same degree as the rock face as shown below.

This adds a nice darkening effect to the rocks, but now I want the very bottom of the image to fade to complete black, as if there was no light on that area. I feel that this final effect is really going to work to pull the focus into the center of the image following the rock line.

So, Press ‘M’ one more time for a new Graduated Filter, and this time change the exposure to -3.00. Now again we are going to drag up from the bottom at a slight angle, only covering the bottom of the image as shown below.

Great job guys, we have now created an awesomely dramatic panoramic black and white of our scene. You should now see the same thing as the image below.

Lens Corrections and Sharpening

Ok, we are nearly done, we are just going to make some final adjustments to adjust the vignetting as well as the sharpening.

Sharpening Amount 70, Radius 1.5, Detail 30 – Once again, we are zooming in on the image to 100%, then adjusting our sharpening to taste. For me, I am just going to default to my standard sharpening settings as shown above.

Noise Reduction Luminance 40, Detail 50 – This adjustment is really one of preference. The image looks fine with a little bit of grain, but I personally am not a fan of the grain that is showing up. It doesn’t quite look like a nice fine consistent film grain, so I am just going to kill the noise by adding +40 to my Luminance noise reduction.

Lens Vignetting Amount +10, Midpoint 40 – Just to slightly brighten the corners for consistency in the tone graduation, I am adding a slight bit of reverse lens vignetting. Again, this is really a minor adjustment and just preferential at this point.

Great job guys, we are done, now your final image should look like the following.

If I were submitting this image to a magazine or competition, I would open it into Photoshop and remove that slightly distracting little strip of houses showing in between the rocks. But, that is a simple adjustment and unnecessary for the purposes of this tutorial.

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Post originally from: Digital Photography Tips.

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Black and White RAW Processing for a Landscape Image – Weekly Lightroom Edit Episode 2

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