A quick Lightroom tip for B/W Photographers

Rickshawdriver Rickshawdriver-2 This picture  of a rickshaw driver in Fort Cochin, Kerala, India was converted to Black & White using Silver Efex Pro from Nik Software. I subsequently added the old-school film border (they’re sometimes referred to as ‘sloppy borders’) with Photoframe from OnOne Software. Of course, as I point out in my book ‘Lightroom 2 Ontmaskerd’ (which, by the way, makes for a great New Year’s gift (as long as the one you’re giving it to speaks Dutch :-) ), you could also use a scan of a sloppy border, and apply it in Lightroom as an Identity Plate in the Print Module.LightroomBW But that’s not the actual tip. The actual tip is about Lightroom’s filtering capabilities.

In Lightrooms Filter Bar, one of the metadata criteria you can filter on, is ‘Treatment’. That criterium can be ‘Color’ or ‘Grayscale’. Say you want to submit a picture to a B&W photo competition, and you want to use the Filter Bar to only show your Grayscale (btw, they’re called B&W as from Lightroom 3) pictures, you’d choose that option. However, if you look closely at the screenshot above, you’ll notice something wrong: there are at least two pictures that definetely are B&W, yet the Filter Bar doesn’t seem to find them. It categorizes them all as ‘Color’.

The reason is that the ‘Grayscale’ criterium only recognizes photos that have been converted to grayscale in Lightroom itself. If you use a plugin, even if you call it from Lightroom, as I did with Silver Efex Pro, the picture is not recognised as a B&W. Not even if you convert it to an 8 bit grayscale  image (Image > Mode > Grayscale) in Photoshop. The solution is to ‘fool’ Lightroom by actually ‘converting’ your already grayscale pictures a second time to grayscale by hitting the Grayscale button in the Develop panel or hitting ‘v’, which is the shortcut for ‘Convert to Grayscale’. This will not change the look of your pictures, but it will make the Filter Bar recognize the pictures as B&W, and they will show up in your search results as the screenshot below shows. LightroomBW2

This entry was posted in Lightroom, Lightroom Boek, Lightroom Tip of the Week, Nik Software, OnOne Software, Plugins. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to A quick Lightroom tip for B/W Photographers

  1. keith says:

    ‘ConVert to Grayscale

  2. I stand corrected. I should learn my alphabet :-) But I still think it’s a strange shortcut…

  3. thx for this usefull tip !

  4. Pingback: Lr+ps - Belgiumdigital forum - Digitale fotografie

  5. Jim C says:

    Thank you very much for this tip. I have a great use for this technique and appreciate you sharing your considerable knowledge. The use of the filtering was every bit as helpful as the ‘V’ solution!

    I’ll be back to visit this site more often!


  6. Sergio says:

    Um, a “BW Photographer” shoots the real thing not imitation color converted gray scale.

  7. @ Sergio: if you imply that only analogue photographers can shoot B&W, please allow me to strongly disagree… If you want to put it that way, even an analogue black & white photograph is ‘only’ a conversion of the colour in real life, according to the way one particular B&W film translates the different colours and their spectral relations to shades of gray. Digital B&W does just the same, only afterwards, allowing you more options, control & flexibility.
    Or, put differently: the ‘real thing’ you refer to, is in reality colour, not black & white :-)

  8. Thomas says:

    Great Idea. BUT… what are you doing for images that are toned e.g. in sepia ? They will be changed by hitting V in Lightroom. Especially when you’re using NIK Silver Efex this is a common situation I think.

  9. Thomas, thanks for your input. I have to say I hadn’t thought of that, because… I never tint my images in Nik. Not that I don’t like the way Nik tints images, I just rarely tint B&W images. There is one alternative, and that is not to tint in Nik but to tint in Lightroom using the Split Toning Panel. In that case, you can still use my tip. If you like Nik’s tinting better (or use Photoshop for tinting), then I guess my tip does not work and you’d have to work with keywords to keep track of B&W’s instead of the ‘Treatment’ criterium in Lightroom.

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