As a landscape and cityscape photographer, I’ve found that around sunset is my time to take the best photos. I don’t even bother pulling out my camera during bright daylight because I know that the scene in front of my eyes will be ten times better around sunset. While I was in Paris, however, I decided to take every opportunity to take photos. So, the following are my best tips to render a very basic daylight photo into a fine-art, black-and-white photo!
Shooting Black-and-White in Daylight
Tip #1: Play with the patterns of light on the ground, and you’ll get a natural dodge-and-burn from the trees.
Tip #2: Shoot opposite the sun. If you’re shooting a beautiful blue sky with puffy clouds, the blue from the sky will be very deep, and will be a nice contrast when you convert the photo to black-and-white. Also, the sun will fully wash out your photo if you shoot toward the sun.
Tip #3: If you’re shooting something reflected in water, you’ll want to get low and use the reflection as a foreground element.
Tip #4: Use natural elements in the landscape, such as flowers, pretty bushes, a puddle, a rock, etc., as part of your foreground element.
Tip #5: Also use natural elements to frame your photo; for instance, you could use a bridge, trees, arches, etc.
Creating a Black-and-White Photo
Once you shoot your daylight photos and go to Lightroom to develop them, the first thing you should do is review all your photos and rate the ones that have the most potential. That way, you won’t waste time, and you’ll get the best results quickly. If you’re faced with multiple images that are the same or very similar, and you don’t know which one to pick, use the Survey mode to compare them, and see which one you prefer. (Select all the similar images and press N to go into Survey view.) [Insert PHOTO 6]
When you find that one really good shot, start developing it. I chose this shot with a water reflection in the foreground and a bright, blue sky with puffy clouds in the background. Now, let’s transform this very basic daylight photo into a fine-art, black-and-white image!
Step One: First, at the top of the Develop module’s Basic panel, click Black & White next to Treatment. It will make your photo grayish, but we’re going to tweak it.
Step Two: Now you can play with white balance and lower the Temp to about 4,177. Be gentle; don’t overdo it.
Step Three: Because you selected Black & White, the HSL/Color panel becomes the B&W panel and you get access to the Black & White Mix, which means that you can play with colors and add some contrast. Don’t go below –30, because it will create weird halos and other inconveniences. Also, drag the Blue slider to –30 to get a denser, darker sky.
Step Four: Next, let’s fix the horizon line by going to the Transform panel. Click the Auto button and pray it will be perfect, or you can fine-tune it with the sliders. Here, the Vertical slider is set to –7 and Rotate to +0.3.
Step Five: We can now start doing some local adjustments, starting with the Graduated Filter. I like to set a graduated filter on top of the photo, and then a second one at the very top of the photo. In this example, I added a graduated filter over the sky and another one over the top half of the sky, (as shown), and set the Exposure to –0.76. I also added a graduated filter over the water at the bottom of the photo to attract viewers’ eyes to the center of the photo.
Step Six: Now, we’ll play with light and contrast using brushes. Get the Adjustment Brush (K), double-click the word “Effect” near the top left to reset all the sliders, and lower the Exposure to –0.58 (make sure that Flow and Density in the Brush settings at the bottom of the options panel are set to around 80), then paint over the monument, as shown here. You want to lower the intensity of the brightness in those areas, because it’s a bit too extreme. Once you paint over the building, press-and-hold the Option (PC: Alt) key to transform the brush into an Eraser, and erase some parts of the painting. This will break that even light, add contrast, and make your subject much more interesting.
Step Seven: To create contrast, give more depth, and make the photo more alive, let’s paint over the clouds. Click New at the top of the tool options to create a new brush, boost the Exposure to 1.35, Shadows to 44, and Whites to 100.
Step Eight: Use the same concept for the reflection on the water. With a new brush, set the Exposure to 1.47 and paint over just the reflection of the building to give a nice touch of light.
Step Nine: Lastly, we’ll fine-tune the photo with a general retouch in the Basic panel: Set the Shadows to +89, the Highlights to –57, Blacks to –41, and the Whites to +28. This will enhance the contrast and give the fine-art touch.
Voilà, mesdames et messieurs. I hope you like these tips and that you’ll make incredible fine-art photos in black and white! [ENDMARK]
ALL IMAGES BY SERGE RAMELLI