Black & White conversion workshop

Here are my reflections on what I found to be a very useful three hour workshop with Mat Hart on black and white conversion using Lightroom and Nik Silver Efex Pro.

Hart is a professional photographer of many years, and a self-confessed late adopter of digital photography. His story, work and blog can be found here (see also link below). He explained that once he made the switch to digital, he spent a year of intensively working out how he could achieve the same control over output he was used to with film. It is the outcome of this experience and his subsequent digital work that he shared during the workshop.

My motivation for attending the workshop was to further explore the tools of photography, in this case the digital dark room. Something that I consider important alongside the study of the art of photography to develop my own practice and refine an approach to giving voice to my vision. I’m not comfortable that I’m approaching post-processing in the most efficient way to obtain the results I am looking for; it can sometimes feel that I’m working in circles, in a sea of technical advice absorbed from books and the web.

The detailed content of the workshop will not be repeated here (for that attend a workshop!), but a few high level lessons and an example of an image reworked using the approach to black and white conversion suggested by Hart.

  • Always work with RAW files – processing needn’t be hugely time consuming and, as is well understood, the offer far more flexibility in post.
  • Presets (even your own) waste time – undoing adjustments made by the preset that do not fit your vision for a specific image.
  • Use the algorithm in Nik Silver Efex Pro to do the conversion (with basic adjustments as explained in the workshop) and then fine-tune the image in Lightroom.
  • For a speedy LR workflow, only the basic adjustments panel for overall image adjustments and the brush for specific adjustments can be used to great effect and with excellent control over the effect on the image.

The workshop shared several practical examples and also considerations when shooting for black and white. Overall money and time well-spent!

Finally, before and after images. This was a low-contrast image in poor light and serves as an exercise to show the improvement in speed of processing, as well as contrast:

Caravab #1
Post workshop – 3 minutes
Caravab #2
Pre-workshop – time not measured, but much longer.






Matthew Hart Photography [website]. Available from: [accessed 4.9.16]

Nik Collection [website]. Available from: [accessed 4.9.16]

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