The Mystery of the missing Black & White photos

One of the things that I really love about Lightroom are its Smart Collections – a way to organize photos automatically by certain criteria. Now one of my smart collections shows me all Black & White photos that I’ve made within a year. Lightroom has a field “Treatment” in the catalog that helps find them. But while browsing these smart collections recently I noticed that some photos where missing. What was going on?

The explanation is simple, of course. I develop an image in black & white in Lightroom, and then take it into Photoshop or a plugin (Nik etc.) for finishing touches. For that, Lightroom creates a copy, and that copy is a TIFF file – and the “Treatment” metadata for that copy is set to… color!

Now for my usage, that sounds a bit counter-intuitive (and a configuration setting that allows to preserve the treatment setting in an external copy would be quite helpful), but who knows what other people do with their photos? 🙂 Once the image has left Lightroom, the program of course doesn’t know what you’ll do with it, and whether the resulting file will still a black & white – or whatever else.

A simple filter setup revealed the black & white photos that were missing from my smart collections, as illustrated in the screenshot (click to open larger).

There’s no way around a manual selection at this point. So with the CTRL key pressed, I selected all photos that are actually black & white. With a right-click I then opened the context menu, navigated to “Develop Settings” and selected “Convert to black & white”. The black & white images then immediately disappeared from the selection, and showed up in my Smart Collections.

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