High Contrast B&W Photos

Anyone who looks at a lot of my pictures knows I love lots of contrast. I mean it has it’s place, but when I can give a photo punch with contrast, I will!

So how do you give a black and white photo lots of contrast? It’s easy, I’ll show you!

Open up your photo in Photoshop Elements (I’m using 7).

Here is a picture of my boyfriend on his 1960’s motorcycle that he just finished refurbishing. I love this photo in color, but it also has a lot of dark and light elements, which makes it perfect for a high contrast conversion.

Go over to your layers menu and click on your adjustments layers drop-down menu (black/white circle) and select “levels” from the menu.

A histogram will pop up, and take a look at where the “hill” (what do you call that thing) drops off. Mine dropped off a little before the edge on the black side, so I slide my black slider over until it lined up with the beginning of the “hill.” (I really need to find the real name for that thing). Adjust the white side if you need to, but don’t bother with those eye droppers, I hate the results they usually give anyways. Once you have made your adjustments, click OK.

Click on the adjustment layers menu again and this time select hue and saturation. In the menu that pops up, slide the saturation slider all the way down to -100. This will make it completely black and white, but you can also experiment and leave a little color in.

If you want to make a sepia tone photo (or any other color), check the colorize button, and then adjust the hue button until you find what you want.

But I just wanted to do a plain old black and white conversion, so I just left it at -100 in saturation and clicked OK.

Okay, one more layer adjustment, so click on the layer adjustment menu and then Brightness/Contrast.

When that menu pops up, you want to then adjust your contrast levels, this is what will give you photo that punch. I like to slide mine pretty far down, usually all the way to +100. Then play with your brightness slider until you see what you want, it’s totally up to you.

What a little more punch? You can change the blending mode to soft light, hard light, or even vivid if your daring. I like to change it in the levels layer (click on the white rectangle), but you can experiment however you would like, that’s part of the fun. Don’t forget about opacity!

Once your done, flatten and viola! You now have a rockin’ high contrast b&w photo to impress your friends with!


Don’t have Photoshop Elements? Don’t feel left out! Let’s try this in Picnik. I’m lazy and don’t feel like taking screenshots, so I’ll talk you through it instead. In the edit tab, click on color, and slide the saturation slider all the way down, till it’s black and white. Then click on exposure and slide the contrast slider up, till it reaches a point that you like. If you click on advance then another little menu will pop up, and you can play with the shadows and highlights, and the brightness. A tada! Now that was easy huh?


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