{ Sharing the Sweetness :: Equipment and Black & Whites }

Okay, so the tutorial / faq series still doesn’t have a proper name!  I suppose we could stick with Ask Me Anything… here are a few more ideas, some from me, some from reader submissions.  What do you think?    Ask Me Anything    ::    Little Lessons    ::    Get Schooled    ::    Minute Mentoring    ::    Lunch Break Lessons    ::    Classes over Coffee    ::    Coffee & Class    ::    Quick Questions    ::    Mini Mentoring    ::    Sweet & Simple Tutorials    ::    Sharing the Sweetness   ::    Fresh FAQ    ::    Sharing in a Snap    ::    Holly Would…    ::    A Snappy Lesson    ::    Advice to suffice    ::    Sweet Knowledge    ::    Looking Beyond the Lens   ::    Real Life in Real Light

Anyhoo onto the Tutorials!  Today’s questions are from Amanda, Jolene, and Patricia!

Amanda said, “Guilty! I check your blog a couple times a week! I love your work. The lighting in your images is gorgeous! I am curious what you shoot with and what your favorite lens is. I shoot with the Mark II.”

I shoot with a Canon 5D Mark II. I love the full-frame, and high-sensitivity sensor for lower light situations.  Favorite lenses – anything that lets that gorgeous light in!  My favorite and most-used lens is the Canon 85 1.2L.  I love the ultra-wide aperture!  For the way I work, it is the perfect focal length, and gives that gorgeous buttery bokeh that I crave!  It’s a fixed lens, so that means more moving around, but it is SO worth it!  Runner-up would be the Canon 70-200 2.8L for versatility.  This is Jamie’s #1 lens!

Jolene said, “Kristen, this is great! I do have a question- I love the look and feel of your black and white images. I’m wondering about your process of converting images to B&W & what software you use? Thanks!”

And Patricia said, “I’d love to see a tutorial on your b&w images! Thanks so much for paying-it-forward back to the community :)”

I love the look of a good black & white image!  Before even thinking about processing, the image has to be captured in-camera with a good, dynamic range of shadow and highlight.  That’s what makes b&w images so stunning – that play on light, shape and form. So first, you need to SEE that light, see how it plays on your subject, and feel the mood it creates.  Once you have your image, there are many ways to convert it to black & white.  You can convert it in Lightroom, but I typically prefer to make the conversion in Photoshop.  I feel like I have more control over the end-result.  (I capture everything in color, and make the conversions in post-processing.  But it is a fun and enlightening exercise to shoot in black & white every now and then.  If you have a film camera, break it out with a roll of b&w film!)

In Photoshop, start with a clean image.  I love how the light falls on her face here:


Like I said there are MANY ways to do this, including using purchased actions.  But it’s important to know how to do it yourself, and it’s really simple!  Under the Image tab, go down to Adjustments>Black & White.  You’ll see that you can customize how the grayscale is interpreted by the breakdown of colors.  I like to keep skin bright, so I bump up the reds and yellows.  For this image, I left the rest at their default settings.


Once I have a good grayscale image, I go back into the Image tab under Adjustments>Levels.  Here is where I bump up the contrast.  You can go to Brightness/Contrast, but you have more control here.  I bring the left tab over until I have nice dark blacks, and bring the right tab over until I have pure whites.  The middle tab is for fine tuning, I tend to go a pinch bright (to the left).


That’s it!  Don’t be afraid to play with the image, try making your black & whites using this method, try the brightness/contrast, try using curves, etc.  See what works for you!


Extra credit:  I like to warm up my black & whites to give them a subtle vintage look.  To achieve this look, start with your clean B&W image, make a new layer, fill it with a light peachy color, turn the layer to Multiply, and adjust the transparency.  Voila!

b&w tutorial

Thank you for reading, I hope this was helpful!  Keep those questions coming, and help me choose a name!

Also, if you’re thinking about scheduling a private mentor session, let me know asap. I am accepting them for only the next few weeks!


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  • Matt Fouty - This is great Kristen. Looking forward to more in this series.

  • Emily - Thanks for sharing, Kristen! It’s so wonderful to get tips from someone as talented as you!

  • David Buchanan via Facebook - Great tutorial. I also like creating Black & Whites in Lightroom.

  • Ash - I think photoshop is one of the few programs I still can’t grasp. I actually bought a Rebel back in January and started doing some more technical stuff. I love reading over this series though great tips and great conversation! Good luck on picking a name!

  • Tricia - Thank you so much for taking the time to do this! It is nice to be able to go somewhere with our questions! Do you batch process your black and white pictures or do you work on each picture individually?
    Regarding the name for the segment, I like: Looking Beyond the Lens and Real Life in Real Light.

  • Dwayne D.C. Tucker II - I like what you are doing here, nice teaching! Just passing by with some love while on my blog tour! Keep on hustlin’ P.S. Ewww you’re a canon shooter. I am a Nikon guy haha but it’s all love in the photo world! –DT. Tha Hustla – Nassau, Bahamas | Miami, Florida

  • Jolene Wivinus via Facebook - the B&W info is extremely helpful- thank you sooo much for sharing your secrets, kristen! 🙂

  • Genevieve McKeiver - I love your black and whites so thank you for sharing your process. Also I love the new look to your blog, it looks fantastic!

  • Julie Essenberg Meadows via Facebook - Thanks for your great tips!

  • Kristin Nicole - Very nice Black and White.

  • Kristin H - thanks! this is great! I can’t wait to try this.

  • Colleen @ Soundtrack To I Do - Your blog and photos are beautiful!! Personally, I would choose “Holly Would…” because I love cheesy puns. 🙂

  • Becky - Great B&W tutorial!!! I love your conversion!

  • BEth - i like A Snappy Lesson for the tittle

  • Bethany - Dear Kristen,
    I follow your blog because I’ve always loved photography, and your photos are amazing! I want to get into photography more, but I’ve never taken a formal class, and dont know if my camera is up to snuff to even take ‘quality’ pictures. I have a Canon PowerShot SD890 IS.

    I’ve been wanting to upgrade to a more professional camera, but also dont want to break my bank. Is there a decent quality camera for a beginner that you would recommend??

    Thank you, and much love!

  • Christy - Your pictures are amazing! what kind of actions do you use to edit your photos?