Converting a color image to black and white is very easy with the help of Photoshop and/or Lightroom, but a simple conversion will only change your color image to a greyscale image and may not give it the best results. Lightroom’s develop module includes some settings that give you a great deal of power to influence how your finished black and whites will look, and those settings are called Black & White Mix.

While you can use global settings like exposure, contrast, and clarity that will impact all of the colors in an image, Black & White Mix gives you more precise control of the individual colors. Essentially, you can choose how dark or light a particular color will show in the greyscale image. The best way to explain this is with a demonstration.

Here is a sample color photo.

Working with the Black & White Mix Settings in Lightroom

To convert the image to black and white in Lightroom all you need to do is click on “Black & White” for “treatment”.


Working with the Black & White Mix Settings in Lightroom


After converting the image to black & white it looks like this.

Working with the Black & White Mix Settings in Lightroom

In the color photo you can see that the canoe is red and blue, but in the black and white version it is very difficult to see the difference between those two colors. We’ll use these colors as the basis for our example of how the black & white mix sliders work.


Below the tone curve, at the right side of the screen, you’ll see “HSL / Color / B&W”. When you are working with a black and white photo the B&W section will be active automatically. It contains a slider for red, orange, yellow, green, aqua, blue, purple and magenta. By default each slider will be set to zero.

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Working with the Black & White Mix Settings in Lightroom

Moving a slider to the left will darken the color, and moving it to the right will lighten the color. So if we decrease the red slider to -40 and increase the blue slider to +25 you can see that it creates a clear separation between the two colors on the canoe.

Working with the Black & White Mix Settings in Lightroom

You could make the contrast between those two colors even more drastic be lowering the red setting or increase the blue setting. The image below is how it would look with red set at -80.

Working with the Black & White Mix Settings in Lightroom

However, keep in mind that these sliders impact the whole photo. There is not much red in the photo aside from the canoe, but there is a lot of blue in the photo because of the water and the sky. So the changes you make to blue will impact the water and sky as well as the canoe.


With this example you can see how the black and white sliders give you a great deal of control over your images. You can also use the “auto” function to let Lightroom apply what it thinks will be the best settings.

Working with the Black & White Mix Settings in Lightroom

After using the auto function the photo looks like this.


Working with the Black & White Mix Settings in Lightroom

And here are the settings that Lighroom has applied automatically.

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Working with the Black & White Mix Settings in Lightroom

When you convert a photo to black and white you can use these settings to get just the right look and it will really improve your results.

Here are the settings that I would use to manually adjust this photo.


Working with the Black & White Mix Settings in Lightroom

And with those settings like looks like this:

Working with the Black & White Mix Settings in Lightroom

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