How to Shoot Black and White Photos on your iPhone

If you have seen the photos I’ve been posting on this site in recent months, you’ll have noticed that I like taking black and white pictures. As I wrote recently,

I like black and white photos, and the camera has a number of interesting monochrome profiles, which I’ve been using. Setting a monochrome profile makes the image I see in the viewfinder black and white, which is interesting; I don’t view in color, and try to imagine how things will look later.

Viewing your scene in black and white helps you compose it differently. You’re not attracted by the colors, but rather by the contrasts. You can look at the balance between the dark and light sections, and decide how they should be framed. You can, of course, turn any photo from color into black and white, with any photo editor, or even with Apple’s Photos, but it’s more interesting to shoot in black and white.

You can do this in most cameras, even the iPhone. It’s not new that you can do this with an iPhone, but I was surprised recently to have read in an ebook by a photographer that this wasn’t possible; the photographer wasn’t aware of it. So I thought it would be useful to explain how you can shoot in black and white on an iPhone.

When looking at your scene on the display of an iPhone – or iPad, for that matter – tap the Filters button; that’s the one with the three overlapping circles. You’ll see a display like this:

As you can see, there are nine different filters available. These are the same filters you can apply to your photos later, in the Photos app, but you can also use them to shoot directly. The three black and white filters are Noir, Tonal, and Mono. The Mono filter is straight black and white, whereas the Noir filter has higher contrast, and the Tonal filter has lower contrast. Here’s how all three look for the same scene:

Depending on what you’re shooting, you may prefer the higher or lower contrast, rather than the straight monochrome conversion. But it’s worth trying each one to see how your scene looks.

Again, you can always shoot in color and convert your photos later, but if you shoot in black and white, you’ll notice that you view scenes differently. And when you shoot in black and white – or with any of the other filters – the iPhone stores both the unmodified color photo and the black and white photo, so if you have monochrome regrets, you can select the photos in the Photos app, go into Edit mode, then Revert to Original to get back the color version of your shot. So you have the best of both worlds.