Artistic Black and White Processing

I have been producing Black and White images for as long as I can remember.  Actually, like many photographers, I started out shooting only for Black and White.  With nearly 20 years of Black and White processing, you’d think I couldn’t learn much more right?


There is always an opportunity to learn new things if you open your mind to them.  My great friend (and fellow educator) Jim Welninski has taught me so much about architecture and black and white photography.  I remember the first time I saw him instruct, I was jealous, the epitome of jealous.  “Why didn’t I think of that?” I thought to myself.

But then it occurred to me; there is no room for that jealousy.  If you focus on that, you will never focus on all that you can learn from a real artist like Jim.  I embraced the education I received from him, and from it, I have been a much better Black and White artist since.

Three Techniques for better Black and White Images

Jim has a new course out called, “Black and White Artistry” and it is incredible!  After watching it and talking to Jim, I asked him if it would be okay to share some of the things I learned and he happily consented!  You can read about them below, or watch the full-length video tutorial below.

1.  The Best Black and White Conversion

Jim and I firmly believe that the Gradient Map is the best conversion method for Black and White photographs.  It applies the proper tonal value to the hue of the colors in your image.  So your dark blues become a dark shade while colors like yellow become close to white.  This technique is few and far between when compared to the HSL desaturation method that simply desaturates your purest colors.

2.  Adding Local Contrast

Jim has this awesome trick where he makes two copies of the original photo.  One is an overexposed image; the second is an underexposed image.  He fills these copies with a Black Mask.  Then he selectively paints back areas that he wants lighter and darker with a white brush on the mask.  This tip might sound like dodging and burning, but it is much more effective, especially when done on curves adjustment layers.

3.  Punching Holes in the Darkness

Jim taught me this incredible trick for instantly adding drama to your black and white images.  It is a solid black fill layer set to normal at about 75% Opacity.  It covers your image in a dark veil that is almost spooky and eery.  The real fun comes when you “punch holes” in the mask to reveal all the work from steps 1 and 2.  This technique will add what appears to be a custom vignette but is much more fun to produce.


What I am sharing with you just scratches the surface of Jim’s course.  He goes into much more detail and is such an inspiration to watch.  I implore you to check out his full course, so click on that big orange button below!

Jim’s Black and White Artistry Course

*This is an affiliate link, but remember I would not recommend something that I did not think was TRULY awesome!  I know Jim’s course will dramatically change the way you see in Black and White!


Blake Rudis
f.64 Academy and f.64 Elite are the brainchildren of Blake Rudis. While he is a landscape photographer, he is most passionate about post-processing images in Photoshop and mentoring others.

For Blake, it's all about the art and process synergy. He dives deep into complex topics and makes them easy to understand through his outside-the-box thinking so that you can use these tricks in your workflow today!
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