Before and After: The Magic of Lightroom (Updated 4-24)

The top of the Pyramid is framed through an archway, with a portion of the Richelieu Pavillion visible through its glass.

Lightroom black and white post-processing brings depth and clarity to I.M. Pei’s modern glass Pyramid, seen through an alcoved archway of the Louvre Museum.

A 4-Image Gallery: Original, Color Processed, B&W Processed, B&W Processed2


April 24 Update: One of my fellow photographers, Jaime Perez, kindly commented that the tone of my “black & white” photo was more aptly described as “sepia.” And as I looked back at the photo with fresh eyes, he was absolutely right. Jaime was also right that more contrast was needed to separate the two pyramids from the sky, the building behind them, and from each other. I decided to use Jaime’s suggestions to process the photo one more time. Judge for yourselves, in the slideshow and the separate photo below, but I think the more involved process of dodging and burning the two pyramids yielded a much better monochrome result than my original choice of the relatively quick process of split-toning the highlights. Jaime, your comments were spot on and I hope I did them justice. Thanks for being willing to honestly answer my question, “So, what would you do to make it better?”!


Yesterday, I stepped outside my comfort zone and decided to submit my photo toΒ Monochrome Madness, a wonderful challenge hosted by Leanne Cole and Laura Macky, now in its eighth week. The challenge encourages photographers to explore black and white photography.

I’ve never photographed in black and white. But I’m getting fairly comfortable with post-processing and knew I could convert a color photo and process it in black and white. I also had a photo in my archives that I thought would work well for this.

It was such an interesting and fun project for me. Using Lightroom 5, I processed my original color photo to a point I was happy with. Simply turning it into black & white, however, left the photo flat and, to me, uninspiring. And so I set to work playing around with all L5 had to offer.

For those interested, here’s a general description of what I did (if not, feel free to bypass and go to the gallery, below!):

  • Increased the exposure, highlights, whites, and blacks.
  • Decreased the contrast, shadows, and vibrance.
  • Cranked up the clarity, which decreased the shadows on the interior left wall, providing subtle highlights to that portion of the photo.
  • Played around with the B&W mix, decreasing all but the blue, purple, and magenta. Increased each of those just a bit.
  • Added punch to the shadowed pyramid by using split toning. By choosing a golden hue and increasing the saturation, it gave just the result I wanted, both on the pyramid and on the inside surfaces of the arch.
  • A bit of sharpening and some post-crop vignetting.

And as they say in France, voilΓ !

For fun, I’m including my original no-filter color photo with all its warts and the post-processed version. I certainly have as my goal to one day be able to capture beautiful images right in my camera with only minimal need for processing. But until then, Lightroom is my best buddy!

A request before you look at the gallery: I’m thinking of making a before-and-after post a weekly item on my blog, highlighting one of my pictures from each week. (Before-and-After Friday? No cute alliteration, but at least there are “f’s” in before and after. Show-and-Tell Saturday?) Perhaps I could even use a weekly poll so you could choose which one you’d like me to post? And I probably wouldn’t include as detailed a description of my process. Maybe just a mention of one specific tool or adjustment I used that I think made the most difference in the photo.

Anyway, If you enjoy seeing these images, please let me know your thoughts, yay or nay. I’d even welcome name ideas. I think this could be fun! And by all means, let me know which of the three images you liked more (but hopefully not the original, no-filter one!).

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The top of the Pyramid is framed through an archway, with a portion of the Richelieu Pavillion visible through its glass.

Lightroom true black and white post-processing, with increased contrast and clarity of the two pyramids.

36 thoughts on “Before and After: The Magic of Lightroom (Updated 4-24)

  1. Good for you for taking suggestions Stacy! I’m partial to the final shot and agree B&W/sepia is the way to go. I kind of prefer the B&W treatment. Have you tried Nik’s tools? They give you much more capability with really customizing B&Ws. Enjoyed following along with your exercise!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much for your input, Tina. This one was a great learning experience for me because of the input I received. You are the second to suggest the Nik plug-in. I have been remiss in looking into it, but with your reminder, will definitely do so today!

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  2. Love this post Stacy, and I think this is one of the best and most original images of the Louvre I’ve ever seen! I like the colour version, I’m a sucker for the beautiful colour of those buildings. I think both the sepia and b&w work well too, the b&w perhaps slightly better due to the contrast adjustments you alluded too.

    I also really like the way you presented the 4 shots in that slideshow, I might have to steal that idea for some before and after on my blog! I’ve dabbled with videos before but they do take a long time to record/edit etc.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so very much for you comments, Ben! Taking the plunge into experimenting with b&w has already provided me with great learning opportunities, and the lessons learned I believe will carry over into my color photography.

      As for the slideshow, it’s really very simple and not at all time-consuming. There’s no video. When you add media to your post, select gallery, and then select slideshow. You can place the pictures in whatever order you like. WordPress takes care of the rest! If I can do it, you can πŸ™‚ And it would be fascinating to see some of your before and after shots!

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      • Completely agree on the black and white, it’s made me much more aware of contrast in colour scenes as well.

        Thanks for the tips on the slideshow! I’ll have to give it a try sometime soon πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

  3. As an amateur, I am learning to appreciate the art of photography even more than before due to the creative components of your blog. I look foward to each new post. In this one, the color enhanced photo immediately carries me to the double pyramid points while traveling through a golden kaleidoscope. However, my fave is the b&w. If offers a view of Modernism through a Goth eye. Captivating! Oh, and I love Before-and-After Friday and your ‘engaging’ weekly poll idea!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Debby! Thanks so much for leaving your comments here. You are just the best. And, by the way, I love the imagery you paint with your wonderful descriptions! FYI, with your vote, the original b&w is ahead 4-2 (though that could change since I have now processed one more version as a true b&w – see the update). Only one other taker on the Before-and-After Friday, but I’m thinking I’ll give it a whirl. Who knows? It might take off down the road πŸ™‚

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    • Thanks for chiming in, Robin! Seems I’ve got a mixed vote, which shouldn’t come as a surprise πŸ™‚ Did you submit a photo to MM? I haven’t yet had a chance to spend the time I want to go through the submissions, but I seem to recall an incredible shot of a waterfall. I definitely want to go back and really give each photo the time it deserves! Fun to undertake something totally different!

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      • After looking at the updated variations, I prefer Number 3 in the slide show sequence. The sepia tone gives warmth plus a wider dynamic range. The pure BW that follows (Number 4) seems to lose detail in areas surrounding the window. I think that is because the added contrast pumped up the brightness in the center a bit and the viewer’s eye is drawn to the bright spots. But that’s just my take. As I said before BW (and monochrome) are not my strong suit. Oh, and to answer your question, the waterfall shot on Leanne’s MM post was mine; Yosemite Falls taken last year. Thanks for the comment. Look forward to future posts on your site.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Robin, I appreciate your “take” on the photos. It could well be I was a little heavy handed with my dodging and burning; I’m definitely finding processing in monochrome to be a perceptual challenge. I’ll be sure to revisit that technique in future Monochrome Madness submissions!

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  4. I like the sepia version. Very nice for your first monochrome! I find the color filters work nicely…several photographers are using Nik software plug-ins for Lightroom, more control than LR, easier than photoshop. I’m downloading the free version to give it a try.

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    • Thanks, Sally! So interesting that my processing choices ended up making the image much more sepia-toned than I realized. Perhaps I should look into the Nik plug-in πŸ˜‰ Actually, I really appreciate that information and am definitely going to check it out.

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  5. My favorite is the color processed Louvre Pyramid. I’m not a real fan of b&w but do enjoy it sometimes if done in a smokey dark way that is kind of spooky or industrial. I hardly ever do b&w so probably why my choice preference. Though I do like the b&w more than the original. Just as with me, the originals do not always capture what we are seeing and I thank the enhancement software for allowing us to bring back what we see. πŸ™‚

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    • Thanks so much for your feedback, Karen. I can certainly envision the circumstances you are describing, and I agree, those kinds of pictures would absolutely lend themselves to b&w. I don’t think I will ever stray very far from color photography, but I think I will find this educational, knowing absolutely nothing about the nuances of b&w photography or monochrome processing. Always enjoy and appreciate hearing from you πŸ™‚

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  6. I don’t like (that) B&W version (I feel it needs much more work on that, besides it is not a B&W properly said, but a kind of sepia tone). For me, the color post-processed version is the best. Good job Stacy!

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    • Hi, Jaime πŸ™‚ Is it the original no-filter photo or the b&w post-processed version you don’t like? I ask because the original does have a sepia tone to it, while the b&w only hints at it in the Pyramid. If it’s the b&w version, I am absolutely open to any suggestions as to how I might make it better. Love learning from others!

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      • I refere to the b&w post-processed version Stacy; but remember, there’s no accounting for taste. If you like it like that, it’s ok and it’s valid. I’d eliminate that trace of sepia tone trying to get the largest pure gray range as possible and, maybe, I’d add a bit more of contrast in that zone, at the botton, in order to separate those structures from the sky and between them.

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        • Jaime, thank you for the clarification and for such wonderful feedback! So much to learn on so many levels. I love being able to “see” my work through someone else’s eyes. I now realize from your comment that I could have provided the punch I wanted to the Pyramid AND stayed true to the monochromatic theme by approaching it as you described, instead of choosing my method of toning. In fact, I’m going to play around with the image based on your suggestion and see what I can do with it. If I can do it justice, I might even add it to the post at the end. Many thanks for your continued support!

          Liked by 1 person

        • Oh oh oh, wow, IΒ΄m not only okay, but pleased and flattered by this dedication Stacy. Definitely, “I” find this last version much much better! Delightful result, very well done.

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    • Erin, thanks so much for chiming in – I really appreciate your input. It will be interesting to see if this idea flies. As for which version of the photo – I really did love the color version, until I finished the b&w. My favorite too. Thanks!

      Like

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