[Making photo] Black and White processing in Photoshop

Which one, Lightroom? Or Photoshop?

The original photo, shot with Mitakon 50mm f0.95 lens and processed minimal in Lightroom.

So far, I’ve been used Lightroom presets extensively for black and white photography. Lightroom preset is a very convenient on working with large amounts of photographs (= time saving) and useful to check a variety of film simulations in a minute. Photoshop, on the other hand, is a powerful tool with layer function, for more sophisticated correction.

This particular photo is not difficult with Lightroom. I tried own ‘Tri-X preset’ and pretty much satisfied with the result. But for Photoshop workflow, I restart from Color version and build up 5 steps as a baseline.

Photoshop black and white processing steps

Photoshop is not so hard to learn, well, once overcome a barrier, too many choices & method scattered around. Key to learn is going simplicity. Just learn couple of key functions which can’t be done in Lightroom.

Black and white photo processing takes following 5 steps. Of course, depending on photographer’s vision, more or less steps required. But generally speaking, these 5 steps are essential of BW conversion in Photoshop I think. The steps goes bottom to top on the above screen shot.

  1. High Pass filter
  2. BW conversion (gradient)
  3. Foreground adjust
  4. Background adjust
  5. Global sharpen

1.  High Pass filter

This is the work step to enhance the finer detail of photograph. Especially, large aperture lenses like Mitakon 50 /0.95 used in here is not tack sharp at widest open. It is understandable considering gorgeous f0.95 aperture, but why not get extra help from software?

  • Select Photoshop menu > Filter > Other > High Pass filter

   At pop up menu ‘High Pass’, adjust radius to appropriate level to show contour line slightly. In this picture, I set it at 3.3

  • Select Layers menu> Overlay
  • Move the Opacity slider to control how much (0% – 100%) effect applied


   100% magnification, before High Pass filter


   100% magnification, after High Pass filter, see the texture of the fabric become clearer 


2.  BW Gradient conversion

  • Select Gradient layer located at the bottom of layer menu to convert to a BW photo.

    BW gradient result

3.  Foreground adjustment

The foreground, main character in the case is too dark, because I did not use any reflector or flash in back lighting situation. Will brighten model’s face selectively.

  • Add Curve layer on top & raise curve to make the photo brighter in the graph below.

     Use brush to select only model to apply brightening effect (see ‘Foreground’ layer) 


    Result of Foreground adjustment

4.  Background adjustment

The background is the burst of light drops. I lowered the exposure by adjusting the curve to make them pronounced.

      Use brush to apply the effect whole area except the character  


     Result, background become slightly darker, thus light drops more visible

5.  Global sharpen

  • Copy entire layer; CTLR + ALT + SHIFT + E
  • Select the copied layer
  • Select Filter> Sharpen> Smart sharpen or Unsharp mask

There is no specific criteria when to use ‘Smart sharpen’ or ‘Unsharp mask’. The algorithms are different, but the effect is more or less the same. Here I use Smart sharpen with setting as below.



Final result

Photoshop BW conversion brings more flexibility, and the best of all, store the layers after adjustment. After days or weeks, I can visit the photo and see if correction fit well for me or tweak if not.

A matter of fact for me, Lightroom makes 95% complete photos as mass production manner, while Photoshop refines the remaining 5% to make 100% work done with expense of extra time.



글쓴이 Leo_KHIMME

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