Ricoh GR: B&W RAW Conversions in Lightroom

A walkthrough and example

By Jorge Ledesma in Ricoh GR on Sep 8, 2013

The Ricoh GR is like a Swiss Army Knife of the camera world. It can play with the bigger boys and surely competes with and beats many at the 28mm focal length. One of my favorite things about the GR is the versatility of its RAW files when it comes to black and white conversions.

Everyone has a method of converting their images to BW. Some may stick to in-camera processing and others may use simple adjustments like de-saturation, but you'll want to go a bit farther than that for the best possible results.

Today, I'd like to talk about my own black and white conversions in Adobe Lightroom.  While I also use Silver Efex Pro and Photoshop CS5 as part of my digital darkroom, I really wanted to concentrate strictly on Lightroom to see how far it would take me.

Here's the original photo, shot in RAW of course. As I was talking a stroll I noticed this teenager was playing hoops and I wanted to get a shot of him. I framed it in my typical street photography way and captured this image.  Unedited, this file is nothing crazy and a rather mundane image. Because I knew I had the razor sharp lens of the Ricoh GR and loads of detail in that RAW file, I knew I could make it better. So with that said, let's take a look at what I did next.

I usually start from top to bottom on the Lightroom sliders. For this particular example I went down to the HSL / Color / B&W slider and converted the image to black and white by clicking on B&W. This gave me a basic conversation but with the option to play with the individual color channels much like Photoshop "channel mixer" function.

Immediately after this part, I applied a slight "s" tone curve in order to add a bit more contrast to the tiles on the ground. This gave my image a richer black and a greater range in the mid tones. Then after this I went back to the  HSL / Color / B&W sliders and started playing with the three main color channels― red, green, and blue. By playing, I mean moving the sliders to the right or to the left and to adjust the image until it starts to transform into more of what I had in mind. I also play with the other colors, but I start off with the main ones first as they will give me the larger tonal shifts.  I usually only make subtle adjustments to the other sliders based on how the image turns out after the initial adjustments.

At this point the image starts to pop a bit, in my humble opinion. One thing I need to make a note of is that dodging and burning are important tools in your black and white conversions. I then went to the concrete on the left used the brush to start burning areas that I really wanted to stand out. In addition, since the sun was blasting in certain areas so I dodged those parts to bring down the exposure values, thus harmonizing the image a bit.  Notice how different parts of the image jump at you in the converted image compared to the original.

Now we're really getting somewhere, and I'm starting to like the image more. What next? Well, after burning and dodging the image, I jumped to the "clarity" slider and moved it to the right to about +25 (you can of course add more, but I start at +25 and move from there if needed). Next, I added some sharpening and a slight vignette to draw your eyes to the kid himself.  That's all, my friends!  Here's the final product:

To recap, I stepped you through a simple black and white conversion in Lightroom without having to jump to any other 3rd party applications or plugins, keeping it nice and easy. Notice the variations in the mid tones, and harmony between the shadows and highlights. Whether or not you like this image, I hope that you find this tutorial helpful or at least interesting.  So here's to keeping it simple in Lightroom. Cheers!

-Jorge Ledesma

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