A black and white image is just a desaturated image, right? Not necessarily. There’s more than one way of making a black and white photo, and depending on the effect you want to achieve, you might be missing out on options to enhance your creativity.

Desaturating an image in Lightroom is a quick way to turn an image from color to monochrome. Grab the Saturation slider and drag it all the way down to zero. Done. However, this isn’t always the best way to create a black and white image.

Creating a black and white image this way gives you almost zero control over the balance of dark and light in your image (beyond the standard editing tools like exposure, contrast etc). Instead, try this way to give you more control.

Making a black and white photo in Lightroom

In the Edit panel, switch the Profile to Adobe Monochrome. Scroll down to the Color panel, and you’ll see B&W Mixer. Open this and you will have a set of sliders that affect the brightness of each color in your image.

lightroom black and white
Lightroom’s B&W Mixer is an effective way to balance the tones in your image for different effects.

Using these sliders, you can target specific areas of your image and determine how black and white that color should be rendered in your final image.

You can use these sliders to make your subject stand out more from the background, for example by darkening green for an outside photo. Targeting the skin tone colors in your image can help you smooth redness and imperfections and create a flawless finish — no healing tool required.

Making a black and white photo using the B&W Mixer gives you much more control over the final product, and that means more freedom in your creativity.

What’s your favorite method for making black and white images? Do you shoot for black and white, or convert in post-production? Share in the comments below.