creating a black and white photo

editing a photo in black and white by Celeste Pavlik

When taking a photo, I often visualize it in black and white.  Before I even click that shutter, in my mind I already know that particular photograph will be displayed in black and white.  I love hand editing each of my images and always start with a clean edit in ACR (Adobe Camera Raw).  There are many ways to create a black and white conversion but today I will show you how I converted this photo starting in ACR and then applying my final finishes in Adobe Photoshop CS5.

editing a photo in black and white by Celeste Pavlik

Black and white photography appeals to me so much because I am immediately drawn to the emotion of my subject. Starting with a great straight out of camera photograph and then a clean edit allows you the option to take your photo to the next level.  Don’t be afraid to get creative and bring out the best in your work!

Celeste PavlikCeleste Pavlik, Maryland
CM Mentor
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Known for her dramatic use of light and admiration of black and white photography, photographer Celeste Pavlik has a gift for capturing a wide array of emotions in her honest and organic imagery of her subjects. While the subject of her lens is most often one, or all four of her sons, she also immerses herself in the quietness of macro and still life photography. Receiving acclamation in several juried shows, she is finding herself happily pulled in to the fine art world. Celeste is a Canon photographer and Lensbaby lover.

Read all photography tutorials by Celeste Pavlik.


  • Laura says:

    Hi Celeste! Great tutorial, thank you! I do have two quick questions.

    1. Why do you convert to 8-bit vs leaving at 16?

    2. Do you have a reason for the order you finish a photo of? I.e. crop, re-size, sharpening last, etc. Or is it mainly just a workflow preference?

    Thanks so much again!

    • Hi Laura! The only way you can print a photo is if it’s been converted from a 16bit to an 8bit. I keep it in 16bit as I am working in Photoshop so that the photo quality does not become degraded as I make changes in levels and curves adjustments. After I convert the photo to 8bit and sRGB I then crop, then sharpen, then apply watermark if necessary. Convert to 8bit for the reason above, crop before sharpening so that you are sharpening based upon your photo size. Hope that helps!!

  • Dina Farmer says:

    Oh fantastic tutorial thank you so much!

  • Loved your editing video, Celeste. I am continually learning from you, thank you! <3

  • Brittany says:

    Thanks for this video Celeste! Dodging and burning isn’t something I usually bother with much (out of purse laziness), but I was editing right along with your video and this step really made a difference, so I’ll definitely be adding it to my B&W workflow!

    • I’m so glad you found it helpful Brittany!! I love the dodge/burn tools and use them frequently in my editing! It’s an easy way to add depth and shadows to areas that are lacking.

  • Kim Peterson says:

    Thank you for a great tutorial!!

  • Megan says:

    Fabulous tutorial, Celeste! <3

  • Amanda says:

    Fabulous video! I can’t wait to try your techniques in my own black and white photos. I, too, love the darker, moody black and whites and typically edit according to my mood. I am wondering about something though. I saw that you edit in 16-bit then convert to 8-bit at the end of your workflow. I read a while back on another blog that editing in 16-bit and then converting to 8-bit can result in nasty color shifts and banding. What is your take on that? From what I can remember, I used to edit in 16-bit and then convert to 8-bit but I think I remember seeing nasty banding and/or pixelation on areas of my photos. Of course, now that I edit in 8-bit those problems occasionally arise still but it’s just something I’m curious about. Thank you so much for the wonderful video.

    • Hi Amanda! I learned in photoshop 101 as well as reading/researching online that you can most certainly edit in 8bit, however if you have the ram to edit in 16bit then your photo quality does not become degraded as you add levels and curves layers. The banding in a photo may occur when you do not flatten your layers prior to converting to 8bit. If you convert without flattening first you will most likely noticed some banding in your photo. I’m by no means an expert in this aspect of editing, but something I learned along the way. Hope that helps. :)

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