Shooting in black and white can be incredibly striking and powerful. Photographer Ansel Adams showed us the true beauty of mother nature with his striking black and white landscape photographs, while Sally Mann's stunning black and white portraiture paints a picture of people frozen in time.
If you're looking to snap some killer black and white photography with your iPhone, there are some handy tools, tricks, and tips you can pull out of your back pocket to shoot something that's truly breathtaking.
Here's how to shoot the best black and white photos on your iPhone.
- Texture, texture, texture
- Look for the lines
- Shoot in color
- Editing & contrast
- Lighting matters
- Lens up your life
Texture, texture, texture
If you're looking to shoot in black and white with your iPhone, one thing that you might want to keep your eye out for is extreme/varied texture.
This could mean the rough, crumbling brick of an older building downtown, the jagged, sharp glint of broken car window glass in the sunlight, the wispy, matted fur of your grandmother's 19-year-old gray cat, or the soft, swirling lines of a soggy piece of driftwood.
Texture can be as simple as the gravel on the sidewalk or as complex as a massive wall of flowers and vines. You could even use a macro lens to pick up on textures of tiny little things you wouldn't normally be able to shoot: you just need to think outside the box and shoot a variety of subjects!
When you shoot textures in black and white, if the contrast is high enough and the photo is clear enough, you'll get a striking, captivating, interesting-to-look-at photograph: all you need is your iPhone and a whole lot of texture.
Look for the lines
One key thing that makes black and white photography of any kind stand out is straight, bold, clean lines. If your black and white photo is contrasted enough, then even a simple line on the street can make your photo all the more powerful and interesting to look at.
You can start practising shooting straight lines by looking around your house and finding straight lines around your environment before snapping and editing them with your iPhone. Do you have a bookshelf full of DVDs? Have a large window that sun beams come through for some added awesome contrast? Are the tiles in your shower picture-ready?
Experimenting with lines that go in different directions can also be an incredibly cool way to play with people's eyes, especially since your black and white iPhoneography photos need to depend on the shape of things rather than the color to draw in attention.
Shoot in color
It may seem a bit backwards to shoot your black and white photograph in color and then convert it to black and white, but there are a couple of reasons you do this:
- If you shoot a beautifully colored, graffitied wall in only black and white, not only will you limit yourself to an only black and white photo, but you'll never be able to play around with the colored version, edit it, and maybe even discover it's better than the black and white version of the photo. TLDR; more options in the long run.
- Shooting in color allows you to see little details and things you might miss when you shoot in black and white, so it's always best so shoot in color and edit your photo to perfection in black and white.
- Speaking of perfection, you'll have the most editing control over the overall quality and final product of your black and white masterpiece if you shoot in color. Adjusting things like tone and saturation matters, regardless of whether or not there's color at the end of the editing process.
Editing & contrast
Editing is probably one of the most important things you can do to make your black and white photo POP — even more so than shooting in color!
When you typically edit a color photo, you need to be careful that you aren't over-saturating things, making colors too loud and obnoxiously vibrant, and making sure your contrast doesn't turn your subjects into noseless, hyper-exposed monsters.
When you edit your iPhone photography into black and white, you can be a lot more extreme with your photo editing levels, playing around with huge bursts of contrast, adjusting saturation to extremes to make certain portions of your photos look more emphasized and detailed, and so, so much more.
You can also try editing with specifically designed filters that can turn your iPhone photos into black and white beauties with just a few swipes and a tap. VSCO does a really good job of providing a variety of modern, sleek black and white filters for your iPhone photography.
Of course lighting matters with all types of photography (you try taking a breathtaking portrait against a window during a sunny day or snapping a landscape shot at 3 in the morning with a little point-and-shoot camera), but it especially matters with black and white photography.
Having stark, sharp, bright, bold lighting can turn a portrait, landscape, or object shot from average to spectacular; it just takes a bit of stepping out of your comfort zone, creativity, and a shift in perspective.
If you're someone who's frustrated with shooting with their iPhone because they think their low-light photos are poor quality and not as crisp, or if you're someone who struggles with shooting high-quality iPhone photos like that which are displayed online and in Apple ads, try shooting in bright lighting, or with different, stark, bold, lighting choices, like christmas lights or sparklers!
Get creative with your lighting and your black and white photography will shine.
Lens up your life
Changing your perspective is key to shooting in black and white, and one tool that can help is an external lens.
Whether you're looking to get the texture on a shattered piece of glass with an intimate micro lens or looking to spice up a boring downtown cityscape with the pop of a fisheye, using an external lens for your your black and white iPhoneography can really spice things up.
External lenses can also amp up the quality of your iPhone photographs, even making them look like they were captured with a DSLR camera.
How do you shoot your black and white world?
Do you have any sure-fire tips and tricks to shooting black and white photography with your iPhone? Are there any tools that you use to get you that perfect iPhone masterpiece?
Let us know what your best advice is for shooting in black and white, and don't forget to link to your social media accounts so we can see your beautiful black and white photography!
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Cella writes for iMore on social and photography. She's a true crime enthusiast, bestselling horror author, lipstick collector, buzzkill, and Sicilian. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @hellorousseau
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