Black & White Post Processing


Introduction to Flash for Children and Family Images


Lesson Info

Black & White Post Processing

That photo looks really nice. I like it in color to be honest with you, but we'll see what it looks like when we do the black and white conversion which is where we're headed now. Let's just cycle through a few of those real quick to look at our handy work. You girls can see what we've done. We'll start here near the top and we'll go full frame. That one's so good. I think we'll mark that one. That was a good one too. We'll just mark that one temporarily. Number two. Maybe start there with that one. And then three. The over the shoulder look. We'll go there. I like that one and then finally the heirloom portraits. After we got those all dialed in, let's find a pose that works for all the girls. I don't know. Sometimes I like straight on for these heirloom portraits. I like them to be really formal, almost statuesque in shape. Sometimes that's a good look. We'll go with that though. We'll choose that one for her. We'll just choose kind of similar but opposite angle for her. There's our ...

photos. Let's do a real quick black and white conversion on one of the first ones and then we will do the heirloom portraits as a group. We'll go here to D for develop. I'm gonna go back to color. When we do the color photo, all of that Lightroom work also carries over to black and white. Global contrast, global brightness, global clarity, all of those things matter, but in this case since we are going to black and white, I like to start with black and white and start with that look first. In Lightroom, there's two ways to convert to black and white. The first way is here in the basics section, you click black and white right up there in the upper right. That takes it out of color mode and now you're working in black and white mode. The other way is if you are in color, you just type the letter V on your keyboard. V obviously stands for vlack and vite for those of you from Transylvania. Now that we're in black and white mode, all of your color data is hidden but the weird thing is is that the color information can still be used to adjust the photograph. That's cool. We can actually go into something like the HSL, the hue saturation lightness section, and now you'll see it's been rebranded. This is the B&W section. We can adjust things like the oranges. Look at when I adjust orange, you can see how that's changing the tonality, another word for brightness is tonality. It's changing the tonality on her face. A lot of times you can impact let's say the blue in someone's eyes by adjusting the blue slider. Her dress maybe had a little bit of blue in it. This is really neat. That's the great part about Lightroom is we can actually work in the color data but view it in the black and white version. All the other stuff that I taught before around dealing with facial imperfections and dealing with those situations, you know that. I'm not gonna rehash that. Let's look at a few different tools that we can use inside of Lightroom. One of my favorite tools for black and whites is clarity. Clarity really can bring out almost not a hyper realistic look but, I'll use the term, hyper realistic look. I'm gonna go full frame on that just so you can see what it did for her hair and her eyes, her face. That's a really nice look overall. All I did was adjusted the clarity. Clarity is definitely your friend in black and white. Don't be afraid to amp it up. A lot of times black and whites are designed to look more intense overall, have deeper shadows overall. Maybe bring the highlights down a little bit off of her forehead. Get rid of a little bit of that shine there. Then, sometimes with black and whites, I also will use my brush tool to burn and dodge different areas of the face. I'm gonna zoom to one to four aspect ratio. There we go. We'll pull open this menu on the side just so you see what I'm doing. I'm finding areas that are already dark like here on her cheek, and I'm gonna make them even darker. I'm gonna double click the effects slider and it zeroes everything out. I bring down the exposure, maybe a third of a stop, I reduce the size of my brush and now I find these areas that are already dark and I paint over them just to make them slight darker, give the face a little bit more shape. This isn't always the right choice and typically on these lines here on her cheeks, I wouldn't go so dark but I definitely would do it here off the edges of the face just to get a little more shaping. Bring it up there. Nice. That's enough for now. I'm gonna hit the backslash button, that's above the return key on the keyboard, just to make sure I haven't gone over the top. It feels like I did go over the top a little bit for this photo. She looks a little bit too realistic and I already know what I did. It was there in the cheeks. I went too dark underneath the cheeks. I'm gonna fix that. Go back to my brush tool, that's the letter K. High activate it, there we go, and I'm gonna undo the painting. I'm gonna type O or I'm gonna click here for show selected overlay. I'm now going to hit my Alt or option key and paint that out, get rid of it. There we go. That photo's gonna be a better result. I type O for overlay, hit done, go back, go full frame. Nice looking black and white photo. Very little amount of work that you actually have to do to get a nice black and white photo. Compare that though to the default black and white. What's the quickest most efficient way to do this? Let's do this. I'm just gonna reset this and go V. That's the default black and white. Then I go back two steps there and that's the way that I've adjusted it. A little more clarity and darkening the shadows a bit. Cool, nice looking black and white shot. Good job team. If I like that general overall look, what I will often do is I will click on that one and then I click the copy button here on the left and I can decide what to copy. Here's a little workflow tip for you all. I can decide to copy the white balance and the treatment which is black and white, but then not copy things like the local brush adjustments like painting in the shadows and that type of thing. Anything that's localized, I generally don't copy. Anything that's global, I will copy. Clarity, tone curve, sharpening, all of that stuff. I hit copy and then I go to this next one here and then I can click paste and right away just applies that general look to that photo. That's basically how I'm gonna work on those heirloom shots is I'm gonna get one of them looking just perfect with all of my sliders then I'm gonna copy and paste over to the other ones. Let's do this shot next. Overall, I'm gonna hover my mouse over her face there, open up my histogram, look at the brightness, and I'm in the 60 to 70% range. It feels a little bright for me so to solve that problem, I am going to reduce the highlights right there. The highlights get rid of some of that shine off of the face. Increase my clarity a little bit. There's clarity. Then go to V for black and white. I should've done that first. I probably need to even a little more clarity. Nice. She's a little older and as you all know as you get older, stuff happens on the face. We'll check there. Her face is actually very clean. Not a whole lot of issues to deal with but I would like to soften it overall a bit. I think I'll zoom out. I'll go to my brush tool, custom, skin softening, I told you I was gonna go fast but you all are smart people now. You can track along. I'm gonna reduce my clarity to about 30 or 40. Paint there on the face just to smooth things out a little bit. One other thing, I haven't taught this yet today, this is a good trick for you all. You should sharpen the lips. At least your female portraits, you should sharpen the lips. I'm gonna grab a new brush here and I go to effect and I choose sharpen. Where did that sucker go? There it is, sharpness. You can see what it does. It just adds some sharpness. It zeros everything else out. When you sharpen the lips, if you use too much softening it looks funny. You always want those lips to be crisp, sharp. There we go. Sometimes I also will sharpen eyebrows. This is real subtle. It's probably hard to see this at home on your computers but it's making an impact. Nice. Let's look at before and after on this guy. Shift + Tab, LL. Stand back. Stand back from the screen. Look at it. Nice. Pretty look. Two more shots to edit and then we'll be ready for final questions and the end of the class. L for lightness. We're gonna edit this one here. Then we'll go to our heirloom shots. What's going through my mind here is I want that white stuff to look bright, shiny, pure white but it was kind of a translucent material and really to make that stuff look really white, it should've been almost like a sheet. It shouldn't transmit light through it. We may have a difficult time getting that stuff to look pure white. We'll see, we'll try. I'll give you my best effort. I typed the letter V to go to black and white. I'm gonna add some clarity. I'm gonna add some overall exposure. It's actually looking pretty good. One of the things I'm noticing is her dress. Even though her dress is a different color, let's look at that, go back to color. Her dress is pink but when you go back to black and white it's almost the same tonality as the sheet there in the background. I might have a little bit of hard time painting in a brighter background and not hitting her dress. Little more clarity there. Now I'm gonna go to my brush tool, that's the letter K, zero it out, go a little bit brighter on the exposure and a bigger brush and start painting in some brightness around that. Not perfect but I've talked through my foibles and my mistakes and you guys can correct them on your own when you try this at home. Another thing that I like to do when I do my black and whites is, I'm gonna hit done here for that, is I like to make my blacks even darker. Look what happens when I bring down my blacks. It's a really good technique for a lot of your black and white work to have a nice, solid, dense, black somewhere in the scene. You gotta be careful that you don't overdo it. A lot of times I'll bring down my blacks and then at the same time even bring up my whites to add even more contrast. Let me look at that from a distance away. It's not bad, not bad at all. There's a little bit of a bruise on her arm. I can fix that. There's a little bit of a cut on her hand. Before I gave this to the parents I would do that. Have I shown how to do a larger area yet? I can't remember. Let me just real quickly fix that bruise 'cause it's gonna bug me if I don't. I go up here and I grab the, not the brush tool, the spot healing tool. There we go. I'm gonna zoom into her arm, choose a little bit larger brush size and just paint like that. That should fix it. Over here on the little bruise on her hand, we'll fix that one. Excellent. Hit done. Go back to F for full frame. Excellent. Then the final one, the final group of photos that I wanna look at are the heirloom portraits. Type the letter G to go back to grid. Since the lighting is pretty much the same on each of these heirloom portraits, I probably don't have to worry so much about individually editing each photo. We'll save time here. Convert it to black and white. Now, when you do convert it to black and white, look at that backdrop. It just kind of glows, separates out a little bit, separates her from the backdrop. Her dress could be photographed in any era. Go back to D for develop. I'm gonna add some clarity. I'm gonna add a little bit of brightness, a little bit of exposure. Now I'm gonna bring down the blacks so those blacks are nice and solid. Liking it. A little more exposure. I'm bringing up exposure and I'm reducing blacks at the same time. It's a little bit oxymoronic but, it's a black and white and we do weird things when we convert black and whites. I'm going to crop so I type the letter R. Get rid of that foreground a little bit. I'll hit done. Let's go full frame. Just for the sake of time, I'm not gonna go in and edit every little blemish on her face, but I think I am gonna-no actually I like it. What I was gonna say is that I might actually brighten up this side of her face, but I like it at it's current tonality. I'm gonna make one more check here and that is I wanna make sure that I haven't blown out any skin, overexposed any skin. I'm gonna go back and open up my histogram, hover over that side of the face and I'm in the 75th percent area, which could be a little bit hot, a little bit bright. I'm gonna take those whites and bring them down a bit. Let's add a tiny bit more clarity. When I do this, a lot of times I like to move that slider way over to the right and then way back to the left just to see what I've got to work with. I'm gonna end at about plus 25, plus 30. Nice. Hit command + C for copy. It asks me what do I wanna copy and then I go to this one and I hit paste or command + V and since she's turned more towards the light, you can see it's a little bit too bright overall. I'm gonna reduce the brightness there and crop it. I think that's close. I was off on my angle a little bit. Hit enter to set that in stone. Hit F for full frame. Again, step away from your screen, look at it. Then the last one. Command + V. (chuckles) That look on her face. I think that's great. Fantastic. Bring down the crop on her, bring it up from the bottom, rotate ever so slightly. Cool. Now what we need to do is show all three of those together. Make sure that our overall tonality and our overall brightness is consistent and it looks like the photo on the right is too bright. I'll bring that down overall by about a third of a stop and then we're pretty close to done on that edit. L for lights out. Bring the exposure down. Back to G for grid and then back to this one. What's the keyboard shortcut for that? Survey view, letter N. A little bit more adjusting with the girl in the middle to get her brightness in line. That's close. Black and white photography, totally different look. I love black and white photography. I like how it makes me feel. It makes me feel a little bit more professional, to be honest with you. Parents like the look a lot of times. When you post stuff like this to social media and Facebook, you get a lot of people going oh my gosh, what a gorgeous photo versus color. Color is great and we all do color. I don't wanna discount color but black and white to me is very special. I love black and white conversions and black and white photography. With that, any questions? You mentioned that with the RGB range for Caucasian people is like 60, 70. What is then the approximate number for African American people or for Latin American kind of skin type? Perfect. She asked what's the RGB range for different skin tones. When I use the term tone, that's important. Tone means brightness, reflectance. Tone doesn't necessarily mean color. In common parlance we say what's that guy's color? What's her color? A lot of times in photography we're referring to the tone. To reiterate what she said, a Caucasian skin typically in the 60 to 70% range, Latino, Asian, Pacific Islander, tan people, not me, typically in the 50% range. Darker skin, let's go with African American, typically in the 40% range. If you're really dark, I'm thinking some of the musicians, there's a very dark man who's a musician, he's a singer, he's very dark and so he's more probably 30-35%, somewhere in that range. Your skin tone, it's important to pay attention to that skin tone. I've seen some really cool photographs of African Americans with very, very dark skin. You just have to make sure that that is way down there from an exposure standpoint or from an RGB standpoint. Love that question. Where did we go today? This morning we started photographing a single person, a single kid, and I showed you how to produce that look using a variety of lighting styles, using an umbrella, using a soft box. In general, I think the big learning of the day was bigger is better when it comes to your lighting equipment. Remember when I was photographing that family, the family of all six of them, or maybe it was just the dad and the three girls, and I used the smaller soft box? That three foot by four foot soft box was still too harsh for that group of four. That's why you'll always see my having these big lighting modifiers. If you haven't bought one yet if you're watching at home today, get online and go buy one right now. Everyone here in class today did. It's all good, it all just helps you be a better photographer. Sometimes gear matters. I always tell people your gear doesn't matter until it does matter. What I mean by that is the most important thing is here. If you don't know how to use your camera and if you don't know how to use your umbrella, then the gear doesn't matter 'cause you're just gonna do a bad job anyways. Once you skill up, once you know the fundamentals, then your gear does matter. That's what we showed here today. We did our heirloom portraits, we did our black and white conversions, I showed you a little bit about photographing a family. The one final note I wanna leave you with is with a big group of people, make sure that your light is a little bit more on axis with the camera. On axis, the light a bit higher, and you're kind of shooting underneath that so everyone gets even lighting.

Class Description

When capturing images of families and children, you preserve memories for generations. Learning how to use flash opens up so many options, as you now longer have to be constrained by weather or location. Photographer Mike Hagen will help you incorporate flash into this genre of photography to create family heirloom images that also capture a moment in time.

In this class, Mike teaches you how to:

  • Create looks that wouldn’t be possible in natural light
  • Use your flash to freeze action
  • Use reflectors, modifiers and other lighting equipment to enhance your flash

Learn to harness the power of flash photography to make their memories last a lifetime. Give clients those special images by using flash photography to preserve their special moments.


Jayne Fletcher

Amazing class! Lots of information


Love the natural way Mike has to explain and to work on the studio. Plenty of tips and clear knowledge transfer for me that I manage quite well natural light but that I still mess with the on-camera flash.

Robert Spencer

The class seems great, but my connection - even at 20MB still give me 20 seconds and then butts out for a minute :(