Java, 2013

Following on from last weeks Photo Tip about vignetting, I thought it would be interesting to look at how skin tones translate from colour to B+W.

In general, skin is red, tending towards orange, and is somewhat unsaturated. This means that when you convert to B+W from colour you need to pay attention to the way the reds and oranges are translated to grey values. I like skin in B+W images to be quite light, a pale grey rather than a middle grey.

Screen Shot 2014-04-21 at 11.04.05 am

In Lightroom I find that if I increase the Luminance of the Oranges at the same time as slightly reducing the Luminance of the Reds, I get a nice light skin tones but also with good texture and separation between the lips and the surrounding skin.

Original colour version
Default B+W conversion


This last version has increased Oranges, decreased Reds and decreased Yellows to darken the background a little. I think you’ll agree that the first B+W looks quite muddy whilst the second one has more life in it. The increased lightness and contrast now draws your eye to her face rather than being distracted by the bright background to the right.

Like most things in B+W, the differences are subtle but critical.