Cover image for free classic black and white lightroom presets

Classic Black and White Presets

Classic Black and White Preset:

My first experience in photography, probably the moment I fell in love with it, was when my sister taught me how to develop a black and white print in the glow of the red lamps.  I watched a blank piece of paper slowly drop below the developer and waited, not knowing what to expect.  Suddenly, splotches of black began to grow across the face of the paper, like someone had spilled ink and it was running slowly across the face of the print.  But the inky spill gave way in areas to a relief of white where the lamp of the enlarger had not exposed the paper and I began to see an image appear.  Honestly, I don’t recall what the first image was that I saw printed.  I am sure it was a meaningless high-school yearbook photo, but the experience is forever burned (exposed and fixed) in my memory.  In honor of those experiences in the black and white darkroom, I have created three Adobe Lightroom classic black and white presets for you to enjoy.  They won’t give you the magical experience I had in the darkroom, but they will give you the beautiful tones I was able to create after years of study and practice.

Of course, unlike in the darkroom, with digital images, we start with a color image.  The images I am using here is the original color RAW image directly from Lightroom.  What you will see in each subsequent image is a one click application of one of the three black and white lightroom.

Black and White Curves Lightroom presets example image - original color version

 

Classic Black and White Preset:

One thing that was lost in the digital world of high contrast, smooth, textureless images and poppy colors and has only been brought back by digital nostalgia, was the beauty of seeing all the zones in a black and white print on fiber paper.  If you don’t know what I am talking about, Ansel Adams (I sure hope the name rings a bell) developed a method for seeing and printing identifiable zones from pure black to pure white (Zones 0-10).  High contrast prints on glossy or pearl paper could never really exhibit all of those zones because they would invariably skip a zone here or there and head directly from black to light grey or white.  This was something my film students would get a bad grade for doing, and now almost every photographer on the planet does daily because they are in love with the contrast knob in Lightroom and they print only to glossy or pearl papers.  Well, I have created a Black and White Lightroom Preset for you that will take you back to the Classic Black and White era, and if you have a proper exposure, you will feel the the beauty of a full tonal range black and white print on beautiful fiber paper, even if you are using a pearl surface paper.

Black and White Curves Lightroom presets example image - classic black and white

 

 

Ultra Contrast Black and White Preset:

And for those of you who still want your contrast, you can get your fix with a truly high contrast black and white preset that comes from a place of subtlety and beauty rather than the brutish, blunt force of the contrast slider.  That’s right, there are other places that provide much better contrast than the slider that bares the name!  The tone curve is where contrast was born, the contrast knob is just a cheap imitation!  Well, give it a whirl and see what you think.  I’ve also added some rich and toothy grain to complete the look that you might get when you push your B&W film (which is where you would see such contrast emerging).  I like to think of it as a bit of a TMAX grain.  It always felt a bit like sandpaper.  Very beautiful sandpaper.

Black and White Curves Lightroom presets example image - ultra contrast black and white

Toned Black and White Preset:

Finally a bit of warm toned black and white for those who can’t stay away from color.  Now in the olden days of film, we bought warm tone paper, or cool tone paper.  Or we dropped our silver prints in a bath of sepia, or selenium toner.  This was very different then adding a wash of color over the top of our prints.  True print toning doesn’t stain the paper, it stains the silver (the dark parts of the print), which means that the paper stays white while the shadows change colors and do so a rate somewhat proportional to the amount of silver that is congregating together to make a deeper shadow.  The easiest way to accomplish a toned print in Lightroom is to add color to the shadows in the Tone Panel.  But I have taken you into a deeper, more robust realm… the tone curve.  Oh, yes, it seems I am in there a lot.  It is a very powerful tool.  Here I can change the response of each color channel to respond to the tone curve independently.  This give me complete control over the colors and allows me to create subtle toners that create depth and contrast in my toned black and white prints.  And I give you a taste of a warm toned preset from my upcoming collection of toned black and whites.  Don’t just use it.  Study it and play with it.  Get to know the Tone Curve panel in Lightroom.

Black and White Curves Lightroom presets example image - classic sepia toned black and white

Learn More About Lightroom Tone Curves:

Each of these presets are heavily based in the Tone Curve pane in the Lightroom Develop module.  To learn more about using the Tone Curve, make sure to watch this free video about using Lightroom’s Tone Curve pane.

Cover image for free classic black and white lightroom presets

Sign up now for three free Classic Black and White Presets

Arizona Biltmore wedding photography by Jared Platt (6)

Sean & Lexie’s Wedding at the Arizona Biltmore

Sean and Lexie were married at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix, Arizona.  I couldn’t help but add a peppy song to their slideshow because they are such a fun couple.  They just didn’t fit with a soft song…  I also considered a bit of hard rock, but ended up selecting this song by Gordon Pagoda (courtesy of Triple Scoop Music).

Here are some of my favorite images from the wedding.

This was a gift from Sean, delivered to the bride’s room.  Lexie was getting her makeup and hair done in front of the window, so the light was perfect already.  I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect moment.  I love the quietness of this shot.  She is so peaceful, it makes me think I should be whispering right now.  If ALL CAPS is yelling when you write… what is a whisper?  lower case italics?

Arizona Biltmore wedding photography by Jared Platt (1)

On this wedding, I was carrying an extra camera with me, the Leica M Monochrome rangefinder camera.  This is a digital M series camera that only shoots Black and White.  This means it is like carrying a film camera with only black and white film.  The advantage to doing this is that your chip is not recording four pixels of separate colors which the computer later must interpret and sharpen, but rather, each pixel is its own pixel, no trickery needed to create the final image.  The result is a sharper file.  This black and white of the dress is from the Leica M Monochrome.  I love this shot.

You will also notice a few other items.  The dress is hanging in the middle of the door.  This is due to a removable 3M hook we placed on the door.  No need to try and hang the dress on a door jam, or a curtain rod.  This was the perfect spot for the dress, so that’s where we hung it.  Oh, and I did remove the door knob from the door.  It was ugly.  I debated on the hinges, but left them for a little asymmetry.  The dress has such a beautiful satin glow and such soft undulating curves to it, that is contrasts well with the right angles of the door and windows, but at the same time, the hard surfaces still have the same soft glow as the dress.  So, while there is a contrast in shapes, there is a comparison in reflective and tonal qualities, so the whole thing works cohesively.

Arizona Biltmore wedding photography by Jared Platt (2)

There is something about a rangefinder camera and the way it forces you to shoot.  You get very different shots than you would with your DSLR and a zoom lens.  With the Leica, I was shooting a 35mm lens the entire day (because that is all Leica had to lend me).  It forced me to shoot a little differently.  In this shot, the little boy is playing his video games, and I forget what excited his face, but it was perfect, whatever it was.

Arizona Biltmore wedding photography by Jared Platt (3)

I definitely do not miss the color in many of these hotel room shots.  Hotels have a way of choosing fabrics that compete with the subject for attention.  By keeping things in black and white for these getting ready shots, it becomes all about the composition and the light, and the close to obnoxious curtains don’t detract for the shot at all.  In fact, the texture and pattern on the curtains are quite nice in B&W.  Had I shot this with my Canon 5D Mark III, I would have turned it to black and white anyway.

Arizona Biltmore wedding photography by Jared Platt (4)

The first look at the bride is always a favorite for me.  The anticipation and the payoff is great, and it is so intimate, as opposed to seeing her for the first time in front of the entire crowd.  I don’t actually have a preference between the traditional and the more modern “first look” concept, I enjoy them both.  But there is a completely different feeling to that moment when the bride first reveals herself to the groom.

Arizona Biltmore wedding photography by Jared Platt (5)

And here is the payoff.  Sean was struck!

Arizona Biltmore wedding photography by Jared Platt (21)

Arizona Biltmore wedding photography by Jared Platt (6)

We were taking portraits of Lexie (in color and tighter) but Sean was hanging out to the side, just watching, which, to me meant a lot more than the portraits we were taking, so I went to the Leica, which is always wide (remember, all I had was a 35mm lens), so I quickly grabbed this shot.

Arizona Biltmore wedding photography by Jared Platt (7)

I think my favorite thing to do with the Leica was to take loose portraits of people with it.  This kind of shot takes me back to shots of ancestors I have at home next to their old Model T cars and on the front steps of their homes and churches.  I really enjoy looking at them.  Keep in mind, I wouldn’t need a Leica to shoot this shot.  I could have put a 35mm lens on my Canon and did the same thing, and in fact, I have to say (in interest of full disclosure) that the Leica M Monochrome presents a set of challenges that are unique to itself because it does not capture color at all, so like B&W film, when a bright blue sky is in the background, the intensity of the light overpowers the sensor and you loose the sky completely, while a Canon 5D Mark III sensor (which is reading the sky’s blue color can capture the information in the sky and then use that information when converting it to black and white.

 I have placed this image in twice so you can see what happens to the sky if you try to burn it in.  There just isn’t any information there because the blue color of the sky is actually very intense energy that is pounding the sensor, and because it is not seeing in color, it can’t deal with the extreme difference between the sky and the open shade.  So as much as I loved the idea that shooting with a Black and White camera forces you to think in black and white when you are shooting and that the black and white sensor yields a bit more sharpness and clarity in the file, a color sensor  has a real advantage over a monochrome sensor where exposure latitude is concerned.

Of course, I could have put an orange or a red filter over the lens and that sky would have become a nice dark grey.  And that method of pre-vissualized filter control does not work on a color sensor.  But I didn’t have a orange or red filter to fit the Leica, so using the red filter method was not going to happen in a fast paced wedding environment.

Arizona Biltmore wedding photography by Jared Platt (8)

Celebrations in Paper did a wonderful job with all the stationary, announcements, programs and other printed material.  Although that aspect of a wedding is not as obvious, it is important enough that it certainly adds to the experience in a subtle, but meaningful way.

Arizona Biltmore wedding photography by Jared Platt (9)

Arizona Biltmore wedding photography by Jared Platt (10)

I love this shot.  That is a great moment.  But here is the other thing I like about this shot: the entire wedding, we fought with the lighting on the audience.  The left side is in shadow and the right side is in highlight.  But here, it works in my favor.  The bride is in white and stands out perfectly when placed in front of the shadow side of the audience.  The groom, in black, wouldn’t stand out against the shadow side of the audience, so fortunately for me, he is on the right side, so he gets placed over the brighter side of the scene, so he stands out nicely too.  I couldn’t have planned a better scenario for something like this.

Arizona Biltmore wedding photography by Jared Platt (11)

I know, I know, details are always in color to show off flowers, etc, and we have plenty of those, but Lexie was going for a bit of a Hollywood Glam style for her wedding, so for me, a rich black and white of the dinner table with the room in the distance was just right!

Arizona Biltmore wedding photography by Jared Platt (12)

In France, there is a bridge, near the Louvre called the Pont des Arts where lovers lock a paddle-lock on the bridge with the name of the person they love on the lock, then they throw the key into the river.  Lexie and Sean had their guests choose a lock, sign it and lock it to a small iron fence which will become decor in their home and presumably they will throw away the keys.  There were new locks and old locks, small and big.  I thought that was a fantastic idea for a signature “book.”

Arizona Biltmore wedding photography by Jared Platt (13)

Here was another great idea.  The seating chart was hand written on a large mirror.  The flower petals and candles were another nice touch.  There were so many nice touches, and I have to give a round of applause to Danielle at Outstanding Occasions for doing such a wonderful job with the event planning and coordination.

Well, when I saw this, I has a few options.  Most of them involved shooting the mirror from an angle so I would not be in the shot itself.  But upon better reflection on the problem, I decided to pull out my Leica and shoot this like a true street photographer and get myself in the reflection.  After all, if Lyonel Feininger or Henri Cartier-Bresson can enjoy their own reflection in a shop window, I can enjoy mine in a mirror at a wedding.

Arizona Biltmore wedding photography by Jared Platt (14)

This was the parting gift for everyone at the wedding.  Except for those under the age, of course…

Arizona Biltmore wedding photography by Jared Platt (15)

The first dance is best shot in black and white anyway.  Add the Hollywood Glamor concept and using the Leica was an imperative.

Arizona Biltmore wedding photography by Jared Platt (16)

And this is my absolute favorite portrait of the day.  Hands down.

Arizona Biltmore wedding photography by Jared Platt (17)

And who wouldn’t like to have some fireworks at their wedding?  Seriously?  This was a nice touch brought to you by the Arizona Biltmore.

Arizona Biltmore wedding photography by Jared Platt (18)

Sean has a iron clad habit of never wearing matching socks.  So his socks are as important as Lexie’s shoes.  Now, normally, Sean’s socks are not even color coordinated, but Lexie bought him a special pair of socks so he could not match and still be color coordinated.  That is love!  Don’t try to change him, just give him the tools to be the best version of himself.

Arizona Biltmore wedding photography by Jared Platt (19)

This party was brought to you by the Arizona Biltmore, JJ’s Band (who rocked the night away), a lot of rowdy guests, this guy’s sexy dancing, Canon Speedlites and a little shutter dragging!  That is one inviting dance floor!

Arizona Biltmore wedding photography by Jared Platt (20)

 

Lexie and Sean also chose to have a photo booth at their wedding, which was provided by ShutterBox Photo Booth.  They also have someone there pasting the photos into a book so you can sign a note to the bride and groom.  Well, Ted (from Ted and Ali’s wedding a few months back), insisted that Sean, Lexie and I do a shot in the Photo Booth together, since I look a bit like Sean (we bald people all look alike).  So we photographed a story of mistaken identity in the photo booth.  I love the look on Sean’s face as he strangles me in the photo booth…

It was a very fun night for everyone.

Arizona Biltmore wedding photography by Jared Platt (25)

It was an honor to be a part of your wedding Sean and Lexie.  What a great event.  And I can’t say enough good things about everyone involved in the event, from the flowers by Petal Pusher to the wedding design and coordination by Danielle at Outstanding Occasions.

Wedding Photography by Jared Platt, Platt Photography

Location: The Arizona Biltmore, Phoenix, Arizona

Event Design and Coordination by Outstanding Occasions

Flowers by Petal Pusher

Cake by Classic Cakes and Confections

Stationary by Celebrations in Paper

Music Entertainment by JJ’s Band

Slideshow Music by Gordon Pagoda (courtesy of Triple Scoop Music)

Photo Booth by ShutterBox Photo Booth