There are many ways to achieve great black and white images in Photoshop. In this tutorial, you will learn a 2 step process that will take your black and white photos from blah to BRILLIANT!
The first thing I do after I open my photo is run the action: Clean Workflow. I literally use this action on every photo I edit. This action is part of the free action pack you receive for subscribing to our newsletter.
The next step is to add a gradient map. Your gradient map should be set to black on the left side and white on the right side. You can do this through the adjustments panel.
or you can do this through the layers panel.
You should now have a black and white image.
The reason you should use a gradient map adjustment over a black and white adjustment is because a black and white adjustment is turning everything in your photo to gray instead of black and white. It takes a lot more work to add in contrast and get the nice blacks and whites you're wanting.
The next step is to add a little more contrast. There are many ways to do this in Photoshop. Brightness/Contrast, Levels, Curves, and Exposure are all great options for adding contrast to your photo. One of my favorites is curves, which can be found in your adjustment panel:
or at the bottom of your layers panel:
Now I know a lot of people swear by the S-curve, but you can achieve better results by pulling the two points away from the wall. See example below.
This may be different for every picture so play around, but the values for this curves adjustment mask are: 18,0 36,26 and 233,255. If the effect is too strong you can adjust the opacity of the layer. This layer was set to 65% opacity on this image.
The final image:
And a comparison between the black and white adjustment vs the method used above:
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