Apple Removes Black and White Photo Conversion Tool in iOS

Black and white photography has a long history, and black and white conversion is one of the powerful tools available to photographers to create striking photos. Monochrome photos have a great deal of meaning, and offer a way of showing a reality that is present, but that we do not see.

In the beta versions of Apple’s iOS 13 – and we are nearing release, so the current versions are nearly finished – the Photos app has a new set of editing tools, but there is no black and white tool. Currently in iOS, if you select a photo, tap Edit, then tap the adjust button, you have access to a black and white adjustment tool, as you can see below.

Ios bw

The slider below the photo lets you choose how Photos converts the photo to black and white, making certain tones in the photo darker or lighter.

In iOS 13, the only option you will have is to fully desaturate your photo, then work with adjustments such as shadows, highlights, contrast, and black point. While I sometimes use these adjustments to create monochrome versions of my photos, the color-based conversion is a standard tool, and is often ideal to find the appropriate contrast.

iOS 13 has also removed the global Light adjustment, which lets you change the appearance of a photo by dragging one slider, which then affects the brilliance, brightness, exposure, shadows, highlights, and more. This uses an algorithm that ensures that when you want a photo to be “brighter,” that brightness is balanced, because, for example, more exposure in a photo often requires more contrast to compensate for the additional light. That one-drag adjustment is very easy, and ideal for those who don’t understand the more arcane adjustments available.

It is surprising that Apple has removed these two adjustment tools. For the first, because black and white photos are an essential type of photo, and for the second, because the simplicity of this single slider makes it very easy for anyone to make adjustments to the brightness of their photos. Both of these tools remain in the Mac version of Photos, and, while Apple has added more adjustment tools to Photos for iOS, it’s odd that they would remove these two.

Again, iOS 13 is still a beta, and it’s possible that these tools will be restored, but given that it is nearly ready to ship, I doubt they will be. This is a big loss for those who want to edit their photos on iPhones or iPads.

8 thoughts on “Apple Removes Black and White Photo Conversion Tool in iOS

  1. iPadOS beta includes in the filters tab a mono, silvertone, and noir button for quick conversion to b&w and each has a slider to adjust the overall effect. Also the Auto button has a slider that functions similar to the old Light slider. Not quite the same but still pretty much one button effects with some adjustment capabilities.

    • There have always been those filters, but they are bludgeons; they don’t offer the more detailed BW conversions available with the other tool. And those sliders only affect the saturation.

      The Auto button’s slider doesn’t just affect light, so it’s not the same thing.

  2. I would also prefer the current tools. Let’s hope they make it back in the final release versions. Changes like this make me wonder how/why they comes up with these “improvements”. Of all the things that could be improved, someone comes up with these two? Crazy.

  3. I can understand adding features. I can understand modifying present features particularly if they were “buggy”. But totally removing well respected & well used features is retrograde in philosophy as well as in function.

  4. For professional photographers, the elimination of the B&W conversion slider is a giant step backwards. The previous filter provided a digital tool which duplicated the effect of color lens filters on B&W film over an unlimited range, and with no other impact to the photo. The new “presets” are akin to snapchat, Instagram, etc fixed filters for non-professionals. Does Apple not emply actual photographers on its development staff? Bring the old filter back!

  5. I agree, some of the new tweaks are useful (Vividness, being able to adjust the strength of each filter) but I miss auto light slide and bw slides.

    Plus let me add this:

    One thing that I don’t like is that the editing options on IOS now are different from Mac OS, and this cause me confusion when I need to edit photos on both.
    Just 2 examples:

    – on IOS you have a “Vividness” slide, totally absent from Mac OS.

    – on IOS, once applied a filter, you can select the “strength” of the filter (a very useful option actually!). Absent from Mac OS.

    I can understand IOS having less controls than Mac OS, but not the opposite!

    Hope they fix this discrepancy.

    • You clearly don’t know how the black-and-white conversion tool works. It’s true that reducing saturation is one way to make a black-and-white image, but the other way is to act on the various color channels, and that is no longer available.

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