Monochrome is back in fashion, as if it’s really gone. Despite the ubiquity of native color images from digital cameras, the drama of black and white photography is being rediscovered and people are once again connecting with its subtle beauty.
Manipulating ranges of monochromatic tones or single-color hues inject variety and depth into a portfolio. We’ve looked at nine shooting and camera editing apps that represent the many apps currently available. Most apps let you connect to social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Flickr, and several have special features to support Instagram’s square format. But even live shooting apps will be saved to filmstrip, another easy launch point.
Most of the entries are only intended for the iPhone, unsurprisingly, although one of them is only Android. The sleeker apps have both horizontal and vertical shooting and editing interface as well as native versions for the iPad.
We picked nine of the most interesting apps representing a range of functionality and complexity in the black and white genre. We stayed away from apps that mixed color or sketch effects. While there are many more, we’ve chosen them as prime examples representing a variety of features and, of course, great results.
Black and White Pro Camera
One of the few purely monochrome camera apps made exclusively for Android, Appija’s Black and white camera offers full monochrome processing. An application based on filters, you can apply five artistic artistic effects including sepia, red, green and blue effects.
A contrast slider lets you set the right tone for your photo. If you choose to share on Instagram, the app automatically gives you the option to crop squared.
You can take photos from the app or import a photo from your phone, turn it to grayscale and apply the effects. The pro version is ad-free, but there is also a free, ad-supported version available to try. If you are a regular user, just shell out the two dollars. You won’t regret not seeing the annoying ads. (Note: There is a Black & White Camera Pro for iOS, but by a different developer.)
Pacific Helm Black Camera is simplicity itself, letting you shoot those moody classics with just three convenient settings: high, medium and low contrast. Despite the apparent lack of variety, the photos were stunning. This is probably because there are a few intuitive controls that let you set up your shot first. Tap the screen to adjust focus and exposure, then use the built-in level tool to make sure the scene is aligned the way you want it to.
Operating in both landscape and portrait orientation, with the icons adjusting automatically, there is little other movement required. This app works well for quick shooting, and even quick editing of images on your camera roll, although you won’t get the pre-editing features with the photos you took earlier. Square crop marks guide you to the best Instagram photo.
?? Black Camera
Dramatic black and white
As the name suggests, JixiPix Dramatic black and white opts for the very dramatic and high contrast special effects form of black photography. This application allows you to take or recover an existing image from your camera roll to convert color image to monochrome. Launching and choosing a parameter gives you an adjustable area where the effects will be applied the most. The most unique part of Dramatic Black & White are its presets, which are so comprehensive and well done that I hardly ever adjust anything by hand.
The higher preset levels are Black & White, Dramatic Black & White, and Infrared. Within those settings are dozens of other presets that vary in drama levels, spotlight placement, tones, tints, and graininess.
The only downside is that every time you move the focus, the app automatically pops up even before you decide to keep that effect. A separate IPad HD version is also available if you would like a larger canvas.
Curious satellites without tint is a black and white camera app – not a photo editor – so when you launch it, be ready to take photos. Unlike many photo apps, you can easily use Hueless in landscape orientation, and it’s actually better that way, with the small rotating icons.
Hueless uses a series of press and hold interface elements such as the H button (for Hueless) and the hardware volume shutter button to let you set a variety of options ranging from recording images to TIFF or JPEG format or choose normal or press to shoot shutter modes. A manual slider lets you adjust exposure while the built-in presets give you other quick choices. Press and hold to lock the exposure anywhere on the screen.
Touch controls include a rule of thirds composition guide, a switch between front and regular camera and flash. A nice professional touch gives you adjustable photo filters in blue, green, yellow, orange and red. The interface of the app feels natural, but if you commit to using everything in the moment, it can feel overwhelming. Hueless lets you choose a detailed setup, but you can also go fast and fast.
?? without tint
Lenka, like Hueless, is a camera-only app, and it’s designed to let you take very dramatic images in a minimalistic package. Created by photographer Kevin abosch, Lenka works well in portrait or landscape orientation. Its monochrome interface offers two shooting modes: Normal and High Contrast, which you access via a toggle button. You can move the focus, change the composition and adjust the lighting, then take your shot.
Lenka only has two controls built into the camera and uses the flash setting to continuously illuminate the scene, if you turn it on. The high contrast and high lighting effects are very powerful, so use them with caution. While previewing the image, you can also choose between rectangular or square aspect ratio with a pinch on the screen, and you can also crop and rotate. There are no filters and no front camera, so everything is pure art and vision. And it’s not a bad place to start.
If cinematic black and white is the game, Red Giant’s Black Photo is the name. The app uses a projector vignette effect, somewhat similar to that of Dramatic Black & White, or various presets to help you start converting an image to color. You can reposition the thumbnail without waiting for a render.
The app is easy to navigate with three on-screen dials that allow you to separately adjust exterior and interior exposure and thumbnail contrast to give the image a unique look. If you particularly like the effect you’ve created, you can long-press any of the six preset buttons to save it and reuse it.
Photo Black is optimized for both iPhone and iPad and can be used in either direction. All images are saved in their original resolution.
?? Black Photo
by Fotosyn SimplyN & B takes any image, whether it’s fresh from your camera or taken from filmstrip, and lets you create a work of art from it. Some apps are minimalist without any controls, and others are packed with complex finger and memory exercises. Simply B&W is somewhere in the middle. This gives you a lot of optional stealth, but it also allows you to keep it pretty low-key if you want to.
Among its tools are presets like Landscape, Reportage, and Vintage, all of which deploy characteristic yet subtle aspects of the image. What really makes the app shine are the color filters, which are not tints, but traditional camera filters – also present in Hueless – which give the image a certain look.
The red filters are spectacular and provide high contrast, while the yellow filters will increase the contrast between the clouds and the sky. Sliders let you control brightness, contrast, graininess, while thumbnails and frames add a finishing touch. The app is optimized for iPhone and iPad.
?? Simply B&W
Spica – Super monochrome
Do you like your super high contrast monochrome photos? Likewise Spica – this app specializes in sharp contrasts. Spica lets you preview your photo in color, but as soon as you press the shutter button, the view changes to a very intense black and white rendering. This is the same procedure when using the app or the footage derived from the filmstrip.
Whatever the original tonal values, Spica will exaggerate them, and especially in a good way. Shooting with Spica is similar to other apps. You tap for focus and exposure, although with Spica there is also a zoom function. Shoot with the flash on, off, or automatically on.
Came IBD is intriguing in that it doesn’t let you do much, but what it does, it does quite well. Most of the iPhone and iPad apps here have plenty of controls, despite an attempt at simplicity. Vint MII doesn’t need to try – it’s very simple by default.
Launch Vint (short for Vintage), frame your shot, tap to control focus and exposure, then shoot. That’s it. The image you took goes straight to filmstrip, and the camera automatically configures itself for the next shot, without viewing in the app itself.
To see your photo in black and white or do something else with it, like edit or share it, grab it from Camera Roll, because Vint is done with its work. If you want to convert a previous color image to black and white, call it up from the Camera Roll directly in the app and press the shutter button. The same is happening. You may have less control over the outcome than usual, but the results are worth it.
?? Came IBD
These are just a few of the many great black and white apps available. Do you have any favorites? Please share them in the comments.