I want to have that "feel" of black and white film with my digital photos. Would the Lightroom filters be enough?

I mean, if this is done with digital, can I make it so that somehow Adobe Lightroom can produce a black and white image that when printed is somehow close to something printed with B&W film?

I tried applying B&W filters filter from Lightroom but can't seem to come up with qualities close to those produce by film (grains and all).

Thanks in advance!


Use a "strong contrast" S curve in the Tonecurve panel in lightroom, adjust the exposure/contrast to taste and then add a film grain filter.

And that's it. There's really no magic to black and white film, it just has a different response curve, and high ISO emulsions shows a lot of grain which is slightly different character than digital noise (it's generally more pleasant).


Some black and white films have greater dynamic range than digital, so unless you have a good sensor to start with you won't be able to get the same results. As far as for printing, unless you have a full frame sensor you won't get the same results as printing 35mm professional film, and unless you have a Hasselblad or something with a big sensor you won't get close to the results of printing 120mm film.

You can emulate dyanamic range messing with lightning and contrast settings on lightroom. People tend to shoot high ISO black and white film so it's usually grainy, you can emulate that by adding grain to your pictures, or using a high ISO to start with.

Why don't you just shoot film in the first place? A SLR with a nifty fifty can be less than $40 on eBay, and low ISO black and white film doesn't age very fast, you can get refrigerated expired professional film on eBay for less than a dollar a roll, and you can't tell a difference from non-expired unless it's ages old.

  • 1
    Film does not have greater dynamic range than digital, it is actually significantly less. It does have a different response curve, with a gradual topping out of the highlights rather than the abrupt cutoff of a digital sensor but that's it. See: clarkvision.com/articles/dynamicrange2
    – Matt Grum
    Mar 19 '13 at 8:34
  • Regarding the highlights, see this comparison: 120studio.com/dynamic-range.htm
    – MikeW
    Mar 19 '13 at 9:01
  • 2
    Both of those links compare digital sensors with color film. This question, however, is about black-and-white phptography, where film can have an advantage, e.g. TMax with its 15...20 stops of DR
    – Imre
    Mar 19 '13 at 9:13
  • @Imre good point, I've edited the answer to be specific
    – Matt Grum
    Mar 19 '13 at 12:35
  • I was talking about black and white film since the question was about it, sorry for the ambiguity and thanks Matt and lmre for pointing it out.
    – Alex
    Mar 19 '13 at 12:50

I had surprisingly good result with the following setting: - Take your DSLR and set it up with high ISO. - Shoot your pictures in RAW - When converting the RAW disable the de-noising filter (in order to have more grain)

You will end up with picture having visible chromatic noise, not very pleasant in color, however when you convert them in B&W the chromatic noise will looks like a grainy film.

I used this solution at first for "saving" some picture of my children taken in low light environment, the result was good enough to push me to reiterate the process.

  • 4
    A film grain filter is way better than needlessly creating noise in your images. Digital noise tends to be more clumpy and exibits banding not seen in film images! Plus you can't reverse it if you decide not to convert to black and white.
    – Matt Grum
    Mar 19 '13 at 8:38

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