Duotone: Best Black-White Photo Conversion

I'm not going to lie, I'm horrible at containing my excitement. Sometimes it's embarrassing for the hubs, but luckily it happens in the privacy of my own office. Oh you know, could involve dancing that resembles Sandra Bullock on The Proposal. Now stop.. then wiggle with it.

This was one of those moments.

... I have found, in MY opinion, one of the BEST ways to convert your photos to B&W.

So here is the FINAL black and white image....



Oh, black and white. You slightly tricky thing you. I don't know about you guys, but I use to have a little battle with my black and whites. We'd arm wrestle every now and then, and sometimes I'd walk away in victory. Just enough contrast and just enough brightness. But then other times... my black and white felt CHEAP. You know what I mean.

I stumbled on this tutorial (via Michelle Herrick) that completely explained WHY and how presets/actions can sometimes change your photos ... for the worse. When I created my own B&W preset on Lightroom -- I was pretty excited. Then I later realized it just didn't work with every photo.

Let's take the original...


I loved my original exposure straight out of the camera (SOOC). And while I knew I wanted this in B&W, I was afraid it would take away the editorial feel of the image. The cleanliness. Let me show you.

This is a B&W preset I made on Light Room that I use for most of my B&W's...



Blegh. I mean, it's not horrible. Clearly I've been using this preset for a long time. But I knew this wasn't the style I was going for. When you look at the new B&W conversion (duotone) I'm using beside the LR preset -- you can REALLY see the difference then:



Look at the details (shadows) on his face. You lose a lot of that illumination on my LR preset (photo on the right). Plus, to me, my old Lightroom preset looks too processed. And because in this particular case I REALLY liked my original lighting (exposure), I didn't want my preset to change that.

SO. How do you do this? Here is the awesome tutorial by Jake Garn:


Boom. Exciting, right?!

Just to reiterate his point, typically with presets on Lightroom, we mess with the saturation level found on the right-hand panel -- which is then slid all the way to -100 (i.e. unsaturated).


And as Jake showed us on the video, that messes with the illumination!

Verses using your HSL panel and manually sliding ALL of the hues to -100.



You can see here the image (on the left) when I took the original photo and slid all my HSL hues in Lightroom to -100 and then the image with the duo-tones on the right...



They're very similar, right? The only difference is there is a "tone" to the one on the right, but my exposure hasn't changed. I used the Gray/Black duo-tone for my final image because that's more of my style.

If your original photo isn't exposed correctly, I would suggest fixing that first before starting the duotone process. Play around with the duotone presets on Photoshop and find what does and doesn't work for you. I know people mentioned using LR's split toning, but Photoshop came with some awesome Gray/Black duo-tone presets already.

One last look at the transition of the edits...



If you're a pro or advanced photographer looking for some good B&W's -- try this! Seriously, GO. I promise it's super easy. And if you like it, share with friends and let me know how it worked out for you!! :) My photoshop didn't have the presets tab, so I actually had to hunt for it. Let me know in the comments if you have any problems or q's and I'd love to help!

This isn't a one-size-fits-all... but to me this was one of those stop-then-wiggle-with-it moments. And who knows, it might be for you too ;)