How to convert Photos to Black and White in Lightroom Mobile

Black and White photos work well in many photographic genres, e.g., people, landscape, or architecture, just to name few.

There are some good reasons to convert your photos to black and white. And these are my top 3 reasons why I convert photos to black and white:

  • Make the subject stand out. If the background is uninteresting or too distracting, I convert the photo to black and white to make the main subject stand out.
  • Enhance Texture. This works particularly well in portrait photography, especially for distinctive faces that say „I’ve lived.“
  • To emphasize light and shadows.

To illustrate the above reasons, here are some black and white sample photos that work way better in black and white than they would do in color. Note that I took the two portrait photos almost a decade ago with a DSLR but include them in here as an example for black and white conversion.

As Adobe Lightroom Mobile is my main photo editing app, I converted the photos in Adobe Lightroom. It makes it quite easy to convert photos to black and white and even to adjust them afterward. If you're curious why I prefer to use it, I wrote a review of Adobe Lightroom earlier.

How to convert a photo to black and white in Adobe Lightroom Mobile

To convert a photo to black and white with Adobe Lightroom Mobile on your iPhone:

  1. Tap on the photo you want to convert in the Lightroom Library to open it in editing mode
  2. Tap the Color adjustment group in the lower toolbar
  3. Tap the B&W button in the upper left corner of the drawer.
how-to-convert-to-black-and-white-lightroom-mobile-step-1.png

Your photo has been transformed into black and white. It doesn’t get any simpler than that.

But you’re not done yet. Now you can adjust the intensity (Luminance to be exact) for each color channel to further enhance your photo.

Adjusting Luminance of Color Channels for Black and White Photos in Adobe Lightroom Mobile

Now, that you have converted your photo to black and white, you can adjust the luminance of each (former) color channel. That means if you reduce the luminance of e.g., the (former) blue color, those areas will get darker towards black. If you increase the luminance, those areas will get brighter towards white.

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You can do that with each single color channel: red, orange, yellow, green, cyan, blue, purple, and pink.

So, for example, if I want to tone done the sky in this photo and want to make it black:

  1. While still in the color adjustment group, tap the color wheel in the upper left corner
  2. You’ll see all of the colors I mentioned and right below is a slider labeled Luminance
  3. Tap the color you want to adjust; in this example, well use blue.
  4. Move the Luminance slider to the left and watch the sky get darker.

But as you can see, the sky does not entirely turn black. But there is an easy way to achieve that:

  1. Tap the Light adjustment group
  2. Increase the contrast to 100. You’ll see that the entire picture gets darker now, but we don’t want that. We want the building to stand out and be brighter.
  3. To make the building brighter, increase the shadows. For this example, we’ll move the shadows slider to +100.
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If you want the building to stand out, even more, increase the highlights, too. But be careful with that, if you have clouds in the photo like in this one, increasing the highlights too much may blow out the clouds and they’ll become a bright, white, area.

Looks quite right, doesn’t it?

What you’ve done right now is sometimes referred to as Fine Art Edit, where you use hard contrasts and more blacks and whites instead of grayscales.

Once you’ve converted a photo to black and white, the Vibrance and Saturation sliders will be disabled, but all other sliders will remain active and have the same effect as for a colored photo.

I’ve been running this blog under different names for a while now. Originally it was a blog where I showcased some of my travel and concert photos. You can still find these in the Pre iPhone Photography category. I’ve used the above method of black and white conversion for all the old concert photos in the blog that I took with a DSLR.

If you're still unsure if you should subscribe to Lightroom Create Cloud, here's a review that outlines what's included in an Adobe Lightroom Creative Cloud Subscription. It's more than you may think.

And now, let’s create fantastic black and white photos on iPhone.

If you found this post helpful, please feel free to let me know in the comments below. Also, if I couldn’t answer all your questions in this post, leave a note in the comments below.