How to Convert Color Photos to Black and White in Apple’s Photos App

Black and white photos are an acquired taste. Some people love them, some people hate them. I’m in the former camp myself, in part because the history of photography started out in black and white, and so many great photographers used that type of film, even after the advent of color. But I also like the way black and white photos reduce a subject to its barest elements: light and shadows, lines and contrast.

If you do like black and white photos, you might want to try converting some of your own. In Apple’s Photos app, there are two ways to do this.

Start by viewing a photo in Edit mode; to do this, select the photo, then press Return. Next, click the Filters button; Photos displays a column of filters:

You’ll see that at the top is None; that’s your original. Below that are three black and white filters: Mono, Tonal, and Noir. The first is a straight conversion of your photo from color to levels of gray. Some photos look wise like this. Tonal is similar, but with less contrast. And Noir offers a higher contrast version of your original.

If one of these suits you, select the filter and click Done, or press Return.

But you have other options. If you click the Adjust button, you’ll be able to access Photos’ advanced adjustments.

Start in the Black & White section, dragging the slider to either side. You’ll notice that it cycles through a range of black and white renders, each of which is based on converting specific colors into darker or lighter tones.

Once you’ve found the tone you want, you can move up to the Light adjustments. In many cases, just dragging the slider at the top helps you find how light or dark you want the photo to be. In the above example, I wanted much higher contrast, so I tweaked the Brilliance, Shadows, Contrast, and Black Point. Try each of the sliders and see what the results are.

With a bit of practice, you’ll be able to get the black and white versions of your photos that fit their mood. And don’t forget, if you have a number of photos you want to convert to black and white in exactly the same way, use the batch processing in Apple Photos shortcut.

Note that if you want to convert your photos on an iPhone or iPad, you have similar options. Check out the filters and adjustments available on those devices.

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You have many of the same options, but the interface is a lot more cramped on an iPhone. It’s a lot easier to make these changes on the Mac or on an iPad.

6 thoughts on “How to Convert Color Photos to Black and White in Apple’s Photos App

  1. Kirk, how does editing a photo in the Sierra Photo App effect syncing the photo to my iOS11 iPad Pro? When syncing in iTunes 12.6.2 w my iOS11 iPad Pro, iTunes seems to be skipping some photos from various PHOTO ALBUMS in Sierra Photos App.

    I suspect, that if I edit a photo in Photo App on either the iPad Pro, or in Sierra Photo App, I am not allowed by iTunes to sync the final version of an edited photo. I get around 100 messages: “fullsizeoutput_XXXX.jpeg” was not copied to the iPad “JRs iPad Pro” because it could not be found.”

    Am I correct that editing eliminates a photo’s syncing between my devices? Or am I misunderstanding what is happening?

  2. Kirk, how does editing a photo in the Sierra Photo App effect syncing the photo to my iOS11 iPad Pro? When syncing in iTunes 12.6.2 w my iOS11 iPad Pro, iTunes seems to be skipping some photos from various PHOTO ALBUMS in Sierra Photos App.

    I suspect, that if I edit a photo in Photo App on either the iPad Pro, or in Sierra Photo App, I am not allowed by iTunes to sync the final version of an edited photo. I get around 100 messages: “fullsizeoutput_XXXX.jpeg” was not copied to the iPad “JRs iPad Pro” because it could not be found.”

    Am I correct that editing eliminates a photo’s syncing between my devices? Or am I misunderstanding what is happening?

  3. Update, the only way I can get all photos in albums to sync, is to sync ALL ALBUMS. I cannot choose which albums to sync, because they always sync incomplete. ONLY choosing All ALBUMS will copy all photos in the albums I want.

    Is this an issue in iOS11 or is it prevalent in systems before iOS11?

  4. Update, the only way I can get all photos in albums to sync, is to sync ALL ALBUMS. I cannot choose which albums to sync, because they always sync incomplete. ONLY choosing All ALBUMS will copy all photos in the albums I want.

    Is this an issue in iOS11 or is it prevalent in systems before iOS11?

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