The heart, soul, and inspiration for many aspiring photographers are personified by the universally beloved landscape photographer Ansel Adams, the Monochrome King. Despite the ubiquity of color images native to digital cameras, the drama of black-and-white photography never lost its allure, and people always seem to be able to connect with its moody monochrome magic.
With digital cameras, and those embedded in mobile phones, color is the default, and many learners never even get a chance to experiment with black and white — unless they make a special effort. Luckily, there is a huge variety of black-and-white apps that let you shoot and edit monochrome in its entirety. These apps produce an original image in black and white, and can also convert color images.
We looked at a variety of camera shooting and editing apps of the many available for iOS and Android — some cross platform, others not. Some apps also have a social media component that let you connect to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Here are a few of our favorites. And while you’re at it, check out our list of the best iPhone camera apps.
Whether you prefer the low-key quiet of grayscale or the high drama of contrast composition, Dramatic Black & White spans the spectrum. Dramatic Black & White lets you combine light, form, and contrast to create your scene, whether it is highly refined or gritty. The app includes a range of easy-to-use, customizable controls for contrast, texture, and light divided into three basic styles: Black & White Classic, Infrared Photo Modern, and Dramatic Black & White High Definition. You work with an easy ellipse spotlight tool to set up your light source with additional tools like Spotlight, Black and White Filters, Grain, and Vignette. The iOS app is $3, while the Android app is $2.
Hypocam lets you do monochrome from start to finish while controlling your shoot with a live view. The app offers numerous creative tools specifically for black-and-white photo art, and promises to inspire your creative instincts with its photo enhancing presets and tools. The app also features a social media style news feed with photo news as new black-and-white photos to inspire you. You can also post your photos to social networks straight from the app.
With the easy-to-use BlackCam, you can shoot impressive black-and-white photos with a live preview. The app lets you employ various colored filters as well as conversion filters and also lets you add simulated film grain, black vignetting, and EXIF data. You can achieve precise edits with the app’s contrast, brightness, and exposure sliders and output the final version in full resolution to share on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and via email. You can also add the monochrome filters to color photos in your camera roll.
Black and White Camera trades on the beauty of monochrome in all its forms. The app provides five monochrome effects: Black and White, Sepia, Red-scale, Green-scale, and Blue-scale and you can preview your photo live with effects in place. The colored filters give your photos that extra touch of nostalgia or whimsy and you can apply it to any existing color photo from your camera roll. The app also supports the front camera and flash. The app lets you share your black and white pictures to Facebook, via email or use them as wallpaper. The free version is ad-supported.
As a rather obscure pick, the simple, elegant Provoke Camera evokes the specific Provoke style of photography, and it can be very appealing for its grainy, somewhat grunge look offering plenty of noise, contrast, and blur. Glyn Evans, who coined the term, iPhoneography, helped to create the app, designed to be reminiscent of the Japanese photographers of the late 1960s, such as Daido Moriyama, Takuma Nakahira, and Yutaka Takanashi. You can output in two formats; square format 126 (1:1) and 35mm (3:2) format 135. It features nine black and white and four-color live view effects and supports uncompressed TIFF as well. You can even apply the Provoke effects to your own color photos.
This is one of the most popular black and white apps for iOS, and for good reason: It’s super simple to use and gives you gorgeous photos for minimal effort. Never mind that it was developed by photographer Kevin Abosch, it is designed for both hobbyists and pros. You can use either manual or autofocus, preview as you shoot, and pinch the screen to switch between full-frame and square format. The app lets you adjust exposure, contrast, and a cool/warm temperature tint with easy sliders. A lightbulb icon lights your subject without flash — flash is not in Lenka’s vocabulary, nor is the use of the front-facing camera. When you’re done, share your images via Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
If you just want to convert your images from color to black and white, have a look at Arto, a photo effect app that specializes in that task. Its algorithm is designed to transform native color photos by manipulating hue and lightness. A set of built-in presets, which you can dynamically customize and save, provide fast and easy processing in line with your vision. The app imports photos in three resolutions: Basic, such as 800p, 1024p, or 1280p, screen size, and original size, and outputs to the quality needed to share or print, and lossless.
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