Punch Your Images by Setting the Black and White Points

Gerry van der Walt All Authors, Gerry 4 Comments

Processing your wildlife images does not have to be a mission and definitely should not take a long time.

On all our Lightroom courses as well as on photographic safaris we spend a lot of time assisting our clients and guests with streamlining their processing workflow.  One of the most overlooked techniques for getting your RAW files, and those of you that joined us for our 2015 Wildlife Photography Seminar will recall that Marlon mentioned this in one of his presentations, is to set the black and white point in your images.

Let’s keep this one nice and simple.

Most RAW files looked washed out and flat and you have to process it in order to make the image come alive.  By setting the Black and White point in an image you are helping Lightroom define the entire spectrum of colours as well as give the image that extra little punch of contrast to make it look more like you saw it in the field.

Looking at the histogram of the RAW file below you will see that it does not touch the left, which represents pure black, or the right, which represents pure white.

Gerry van der Walt - Wildlife Photography - Lightroom

The image looks quite flat due to the fact that there are no pure blacks or whites in the frame.

By simply adjusting the black and white sliders and getting the histogram the ‘touch’ the side the image now looks like this.

Gerry van der Walt - Wildlife Photography - Lightroom

Huge difference don’t you think?

Can you see how this could very well be the only adjustment needed when processing an image like this?

All I did was to move the black slider to the left to pull the blacks down and ultimately reach pure black and then moved the white slider to the right until the histogram touched the side which meant I know have pure white in the frame.  The image below shows the amount of adjustment, from red to green, I had to make in order to get the black and white points set.


Like I mentioned to someone on the phone earlier today I would much rather spend my time out in the field with a camera than spent time fighting with an image in post processing.  Give this technique a try and leave me a comment to tell me how it worked for you or if you have any questions.

Until next time.


About the Author

Gerry van der Walt

I am a private and specialist photographic safari guide, public speaker, co founder of Wild Eye and wildlife photographer. Visit my website at www.gerryvanderwalt.com or follow my journey on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter a look forward to changing the way you see the world.  I also host a Wildlife Photography Podcast and I Vlog!

Comments 4

  1. Craig

    Very good information, sometimes the minor tweaks are all that is needed to bring out the best.

    In Lightroom 6/CC you can hold the Shift key and double click the words White & Black and Lightroom will have a pretty good stab at what the white and black points should be, you can tweak from there if not happy. I turn on the highlight and shadow warnings (click the little triangles in the corners of the histogram) to give good visual warning you have gone too far and clipped either end. Highlights will show red and shadows/darks will be blue in the image when you go too far, from there you can quickly pull it back for a more natural looking images.

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