Black and white is a classic look in photography that highlights line and light. In this article, we went looking for the best black and white app for photography. Some apps turn your phone into a black and white camera. Others let you convert colour images to monochrome. Let’s start with the apps that let you see the world in black and white.
Creating Black and White Photos in Camera
First, we look at some apps that create black and white photos. Each of these apps creates a black and white aesthetic in camera.
1. IOS & Android Native Cameras
The native cameras on both IOS and Android phones allow you to make black and white photos. Click the filter icon. It looks like three connected circles. Depending on your phone, you will have one or more monochrome filters. The iPhone has three filters: Mono, Silvertone, and Noir. The newer iPhones have two more black and white options in the Portrait mode: Stage Light Mono and High-Key Light Mono. These options work best when taking portraits.
The native camera on your phone may not be the best black and white app, but it is available without a download. Let’s take a look at some better black and white photo apps.
Camera1 is our favourite black and white photography app. With this app, your phone becomes a manual black and white camera. You can change exposure and manually adjust focus. Whenever you change exposure settings, a histogram pops up to guide your choice. Red zebra stripes appear if you are overexposing. A magnifying glass helps you dial in focus. You can lock in the settings to take a series of black and white images.
You can shoot in various raw formats. These keep colour information as well as monochrome JPEG. When you apply colour filters to your photos, you can see the effect in real-time. This shows you exactly how each filter affects the colours. The Zen mode (Z) hides all the controls to let you focus on composition.
Vistax is by the same developer as Camera1. The app includes many presets, both colour and black and white. With Vistax, select the preset, and you decide how much of the effect you want. The app goes beyond the presets. It allows you to control your camera’s exposure settings manually. The price of these apps is high in comparison to the others on this list, but you get much more with your purchase.
Hypocam is a free black and white app that comes with five black and white filters and textures. You can buy more in the app. On top of the basic filters, you can add a colour filter to emphasise or minimise certain colours in the scene. Once you have taken the photos, you can apply texture, grain, vignette, and fade to get the look you want.
Hypocam also works as a black and white filter app. You can apply the filters to photos in your camera roll and edit the effect in the app. This app is an easy and flexible tool. You can expand your filter collection, and the editing functions are simple yet powerful.
4. Black and White Camera
Black and White Camera lets you take photos with film effects. Some filters simulate the look of damaged film with flares, discolourations, and scratches on negatives. If you are going for an old film vintage look, this is your app.
There are many filters included, and you can buy more in-app. The app works with your phone’s camera. But you can also apply the filters to images on your camera roll. The free version of this app watermarks your images and popup ads can distract from your image-making. If you like this app, you will want to upgrade to the paid version.
5. Argentum Camera
Argentum Camera simulates the look of famous black and white photographers. These include Ansel Adams and Henri Cartier-Bresson. The app is free to download and comes with the Ansel Adams filter. You can buy others in-app. Read the introductions to the filters. There is a lot of information about the photographer and how they achieved their specific black and white aesthetic.
There are many adjustments hidden within the app. You can adjust the exposure, shoot in Live mode, use a flash or constant light, change orientation and aspect ratio, and choose to shoot in JPEG or raw. In a nice twist, the DBLEXP setting captures allows you to layer photos in a double exposure.
6. BlackCam & BlackCam Pro
BlackCam by developer Pierre Gougelet lets you make a black and white photo by using adjustable filters. The filters simulate classic black and white looks, including colour filter effects. There are a few pro filters, but most come free in the app. Click the plus button, and you have even more control over your photos. Use sliders to change exposure, vignette, fade, and the amount of desaturation.
Lenka is a free black and white app that turns your phone into a black and white camera. Using sliders, you can control exposure, white balance, and contrast. You can also manually adjust focus. Flash photography is disabled, as are the phone’s many lenses. This is a simple tool if you want a no-fuss black and white app on your phone.
8. Provoke Camera
Provoke Camera is a popular film simulator app that includes about a dozen 1960s-style film effects. These are based on the styles of famous Japanese photographers like Daido Moriyama. Their names are not very descriptive. On the developer’s website, you can get the description of each simulation. This would be very helpful to include in the app. For instance, HPAN is High Contrast. H100 is High Contrast with Blur.
You can change the exposure of your photo. With a double-tap on the screen, you can change the focus point. With this app, you can make photos, and you can apply the film effects to photos already in your camera roll.
9. Hipstamatic X & Classic — Vintage Camera
Hipstamatic X is the free version of this vintage camera app. The developers also make a TinType app and Hipstamatic Classic.
The entire app experience is retro. The graphics look come straight out of the 1960s. You can select a look or choose an analogue camera simulation. You can also build your own vintage camera simulation with different lenses and film options. After you take a photo, you can apply various filters. There are only a few free options in the app. Most options are only available to club members who pay a subscription. Hipstamatic is not only a black and white app. But if you like a vintage look to your images, Hipstamatic will help you get it.
Converting Colour to Black and White
Editing apps convert images you have taken in colour to black and white. With these apps, you do not have to think about composing in black and white when you take the photo. You can use a familiar camera app and decide on the monochrome style later.
Snapseed is a popular photo editing app. It is one of the best choices when converting colour images to black and white. The app walks you through the process of editing your photo starting with a filter, then a look. The number of editing tools is almost overwhelming. You can change nearly any aspect of your image. Select a tool, and click through the options. Tools like Vintage, Retrolux, and Noir, and Grainy Film will give your image an old-fashioned look. You can add text, frames, and even a second image as a double exposure. There is a lot of editing power in Snapseed and the app is free.
11. Dramatic Black & White
Dramatic Black & White is a powerful photo editing app by JixPix Software. Select an image from your phone to start applying filters. The purchased app comes with dozens of black and white filters, including many infrared filters. A randomise button lets you try out different ones to see what works best. You can also customise the filters. You can change colour tone, softness, brightness, and contrast. You can also add colour filters and grain. What makes this app unique is the ability to add spotlights. These are extra areas of light and shadow that you can resise, tilt, and strengthen as you like. You can layer several spotlights for a more complex effect.
12. Carbon – B&W Filters & Effects
IOS [Free with in-app purchases]
Carbon by Livintis W.L.L. is an elegant black and white app. You can edit your own photos or demo portraits. The app focuses on portraits, but you can use editing tools on any style of photograph.
Start with the included monochromatic filters. You can adjust how much of the filter shows through. The app has a full editing suite. You can adjust exposure, sharpness, vignettes and many other settings. You can even add a tilt-shift effect to your image. You can also add grain, dust, light leak, and lens flare textures and a border. Some of the effects are free; others are available to buy through the app. The filter packs can be pricy. But if you like the dramatic black and white photos produced by the app, the cost is worth it. You can only export your own images, but the demo portraits will help you edit like a pro.
13. Monokrom B&W Photo Editor
In this black and white app, you move coloured circles (or pucks) around the image. The pucks adjust brightness, contrast, tint, grain, and vignette. It takes a little getting used to, but once you do, editing your image becomes interactive.
Import photos from your camera roll and start moving the circles around. These increase or decrease the effect. You will immediately see changes in the preview. Editing this way removes the technical details. You will see the changes, but your brain stays on the creative elements of the image. If you like an effect, switch to the Memory tab and save the ‘recipe’.
We went in search of the best black and white camera app and the best black and white photo editor. The best included many presets and let you explore your own black and white aesthetic. Our favourite black and white app was Camera1 because of its functionality. If you want a simpler filter app, then Hypocam is your best bet. Snapseed tops our black and white photo editing apps. Especially if you already use the program to edit your colour images. But Dramatic Black and White is not as overwhelming and is highly flexible.
Black and white is one way to be creative with your photographs. If you want to learn even more, read our Creative Photography Cookbook.