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Fun with Black and White

Taking Black and White Photos with your Smartphone

Some photographers believe colour to be the worst thing to happen to photography and shoot entirely in black and white. Fortunately for the rest of us, the digital age makes it easy to keep a foot in both camps thanks to easy in-camera/smartphone image processing.

Looks good in colour – looks better in Black and White. Taken with an iPhone SE


When we talk about contrast – we are talking about the difference between the lightest and darkest tones within a scene. Black and White photography helps us express extreme contrast without the distraction of colour.

Both the guitar and floor share similar colour making for a very flat photograph. With the colour removed, we can focus on the difference in shape and texture. Taken with an iPhone SE.


Scenes with extreme contrast are difficult to correctly expose. Expose for the tree and we end up with a blown out sky (pure white – no detail). Expose for the sky and the tree will appear with little or no detail. Happily, this does not have to be a bad thing and by applying a black and white filter we can remove any washed out colours and create a dramatic silhouette.

This is an easy one to try. All you need is a reasonably attractive tree and a bright sky. Shoot up and apply a filter. Taken and edited on iPhone SE.

In the shadows

If you start to see in terms of light – you begin to see how our landscape is carved up by light and shadows and how even the mundane can appear dramatic. I find it a lot of fun trying to capture interesting images of largely ignored subjects – in this case, my kitchen floor.

A battle between light and dark taking place on my drafty kitchen floor. Taken with an iPhone SE.


I took the photograph below because I liked how the tones, curves and shadows interact and eventually, intersect. Prior to editing, the colour overpowered the scene – removing shape and flattening the photograph.

A bunch of plant pots at my local garden centre. Taken with an iPhone SE.

Give it a go

Colour can add-to or detract from a scene and you should not automatically consider colour requisite for a good photograph. For all its brilliance, colour can bury tone and obscure shape and texture.

Try going for a walk when the sun is low, bright and casting strong shadows against objects. You’ll notice how textures will appear more detailed and the patterns and shapes that emerge where light and shadow meet. You may already have dozens of images that would be better served by removing the colour and thanks to modern technology – it only takes moments to try.

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