Review: The Art of Black & White with Lightroom by Serge Ramelli


Serge Ramelli is a French Movie Producer, Photographer and Director. In his professional photography work, he mainly produces fine-art prints (e.g. for hotels). He is very active as a teacher, selling photography tutorials on his website and publishing a video podcast about different post-processing techniques on YouTube.

When he was in his 40s, Serge made the transition that many hobby photographers dream of: He quit his day job as sales person to become a professional photographer.

In his photography and in his teaching, it shows that he has come home to what he always wanted to be: a creative artist.

The Topic

Black & white photography is about much more than just taking the colors out of your images. It is about turning color into contrast. The act of taking the color out of a photo seems to be a sever limitation of the possible range of visual expression. But that is not necessarily true. In fact, it really opens up endless possibilities for working with the contrast of the image which is an art in itself.

It is challenging to make a black & white photo really work, and it requires a special workflow which is different for different types of photos.

The Tutorial

This video tutorial is really a series of videos in which Serge shows a number of different black & white techniques using different photos. He shows you how to use the different tools available in Lightroom and Nik Silver Efex Pro to turn different color photos into great black & white images.

While he goes along in the video and processes the images, Serge shows you a number of important tricks for getting the best results. For each photo, he presents the entire workflow, starting with the preparation of the RAw image, the retouching, the black & white conversion and finally the finishing touches. So, you will learn black & white from start to finish.

For each step, he points out the specific requirements for black & white photography. For example, removing blemishes and spots is more important than in color photography because the tones in the images are manipulated in a completely different way, making these artifacts more visible.

Throughout the 10 lessons of this course, you will become familiar with Serge’s workflow as he applies it to different photos and tweaks it for the specific properties of each image. This repetitive style of teaching turns out to be very effective.

Lesson Overview

  • In the first lesson, Serge shows you the basic workflow based on a regular photo shot during the day.
  • Lesson 2 teaches you the specific methods required for long exposure photos. This type of photo is particularly suitable for black & white conversion because of its smooth transitions and dramatic skies.
  • Lesson 3 is about converting a long exposure architecture shot – a very popular black & white subject.
  • Lesson 4 shows you how to convert a panorama photo. This lesson shows that you can actually deal with some common problems in panorama photography (changing exposure and color casts) very effectively by converting them to black & white.
  • Lesson 5 is based on the converted panorama photo and shows you how to add colors back in again by using a split-toning technique.
  • Lesson 6 shows you a selective color technique where you convert some parts of a photo to black & white while leaving the color in other parts.
  • In lesson 7, Serge shows you how to create black & white portraits
  • Lesson 8 introduces you to using the Nik Silver Efex Pro software for your black & white conversion. Silver Efex Pro is a software that is specifically dedicated to creating impressive black & white photos in a very efficient way.
  • In lesson 9, Serge talks about using Lightroom presets for your black & white conversion. Presets are a good way to start your work on an image and avoid doing all the basic work from scratch. The course comes with a bonus pack of black & white presets that you can easily install and use in your Lightroom software.
  • Finally, in lesson 10, Serge shows you how to give your photos a vintage film look by adding grain to them.

Other Things You’ll Learn

  • How to work on the contrast in your images selectively using gradient masks and adjustment brushes.
  • How to work with virtual copies of your images to create separate versions of an image.
  • Which gear you need. Specifically, Serge shows you how to get an inexpensive ND filter for long exposures.
  • How to use adjustment brushes in Lightroom.
  • How to do some basic skin retouching in black & white portraits.
  • In lesson 4, Serge even shows you a quick way to create an impressive panorama shot using Photoshop (a few tricks included).

The Style of Teaching

Serge has a very charming and relaxed style of teaching. The Frenchman in him comes though in his style of presenting things, which makes this a very relaxing and enjoyable but still very informative course. Serge take the time to explain all the steps in great detail. So, even if you are not an expert in Lightroom or image editing, you will find it easy to follow his explanations. Having said that, even experts can still pick up a lot of valuable insights and tips.

The Summary

The Pros The Cons
  • By seeing the techniques being applied to photos of different nature, you can really get a deep insight into the workflow.
  • You will pick up a lot of different tricks and tips as you watch the videos. Add then to your personal tool box!
  • Apart from learing about black & white post-production, you will also pick up a lot of general tips for working with Lightroom.
  • The original RAW images included in the course material make it very simple to follow along. As Serge explain the different techniques, you can simply try it yourself.
  • The included bonus Lightroom presets give you a quick start to your black & white work. If you want to, you can let Serge’s presets do the heavy lifting for you while you concentrate on tweaking them to your liking.
  • This video tutorial is a long one (well over 2 hours). So you should bring some time to really take in all the techniques Serge presents.
  • The course comes as a set of 10 individual videos. The fact that it is split into shorter lessons is positive as to gives the whole course a structure. But it can also be challenging to retain the overview and to find the pieces of information you found most interesting later one.

My Personal Tips for this Tutorial

Here are a few personal tips on how to work with this tutorial:

  • You should create a document where you take notes about this course as you consume it. Simply open a new Word file or a simple text file and write down the little tips and tricks you pick up while you are watching. Also write down the number of the lesson and the time index. This way, your learning process will be very effective, and you can build your own little path through the course.
  • Open the RAW photos that Serge provides with this course and try to replicate Serge’s steps as he goes along. Pause the video while you explore the different techniques until you’ve got your head around them. Combine this with the notebook technique sketched above and you will learn a ton from this course.
10 HDR Top Tips for FREE!
Join our newsletter to get this eBook and step up your HDR skills today!
You will receive: The free eBook + our regular email newsletter with tips, tutorials, news and product information… all for free!
100% Spam-Free - Easy Unsubscribe
0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *