You might have seen a sudden spurt in the number of black and white photographs of friends on your Facebook timeline. Monochrome photography, it seems, is back in vogue. And the craze is being fuelled by social media platforms where you can share your pictures instantly.
As if the smartphone makers saw this coming, manufacturers such as HTC, LG and Huawei have added a dedicated monochrome sensor to the camera set-up on their phones.
But you do not need to spend a lot to buy one of these smartphones to be able to take good black and white photographs. A number of apps available for Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS devices do the job pretty well. And we are not talking about the filters in apps like Instagram. There are now apps dedicated to black and white photography.
Here are some to get you started.
Simply B&W allows you to convert your existing images into black and white shots (you can take new photographs from within the app too). Once you have picked your image, you can choose from eight effects that have different contrast levels and saturation. And if you are in the mood, you can add a colour filter (choose from red, green, blue, yellow, orange, polarizer and infrared). There are tweaks for brightness and contrast, and a vignette if you wish to highlight a particular portion of the image. Think of it as Instagram for black and white photography.
Dramatic Black & White
Rs.120 (iOS); Rs.130 (Android)
This app offers a host of editing options. It does not let you take a black and white photograph from the app itself, so you have to choose an image from your phone’s gallery. You can focus on a particular area of the photo (called the spotlight) where the effect you choose will be most strongly visible. You can take your pick of three categories of filters/effects—Black and White, Dramatic Black and White, and Infrared—and even play with the tone, sharpness and contrast levels. The effects are quite dramatic, with sharp contrast and some grainy elements thrown in.
This is a powerful editing app currently available only on the iPhone. When opened, the app will show, by default, your phone’s picture gallery in black and white. Once you choose a picture, you can opt for either a preset filter or edit the warmth, contrast, exposure and sharpness; you can even play around with grains and gradient. Those who love the bokeh effect can try the vignette and fade-out effects. The interface might seem a little overwhelming, but it’s well worth a try, given the enormous amount of control you have over your images.
Designed by visual artist and photographer Kevin Abosch, Lenka is a flexible monochrome photography app for Android and iOS devices. It has been made for actual photography rather than just editing existing images, so you cannot use it to change the pictures that are already in your phone’s gallery. The app’s simple-to-use, built-in camera offers you manual control over a photograph you click. You can use the phone’s flash as a source of illumination, but this can only be used with the primary
camera on the phone, and not the front-facing one.
Hueless calls itself “the black and white camera”. Like Lenka, it is also about photography rather than editing. You get an idea of what your image will look like right when you are clicking it, and you get plenty of control over how it will come out. There are options to adjust the contrast and exposure, and you can add a filter if you want a slight yellow or blue tint to the shot. You can use either camera on the phone (front or back), and use the flash too. While it is not as simple as the Lenka app, it is a delight for those who love to explore settings and controls.