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How I converted this dull photo to high contrast black and white photo

Dull colours in the living room on a cloudy afternoon turned high key black and white image. 

An image, no matter how well composed with expressive subjects can fall just that little bit short due to the dull light of that cloudy day, especially when taken indoors. But with the use of a few mobile photo apps, a little bit of time, the mood of this photo has lifted from drab and dull to spare but eye-catching.

Here’s how I did it on my iPhone for the colour to black and white conversion of the recent A third black, two thirds white post.

I used the apps – Snapseed and VSCOcam – mainly to resize and adjust the mood of the colours before converting it to black and white. Note: I’m sure you can convert it to black and white directly, but this is how I did it as part of my usual process of seeing whether I can get it to look good in colour first. :P

Screenshots ordered according to sequence of use

  1. Snapseed
    • The controls are lined up at the bottom of the screen.
    • Used Crop to get it to the 1:1 format required for Instagram.
      • This is not required if you are not preparing the image for Instagram, although from a aesthetics point of view, cropping the image here definitely gave it more focus compared to the original image.
      • Generally, it would be good practise to complete all the edits you would like before cropping the image. I started by cropping the image first because I wanted to get an idea of how the image will work in the square format, rather than waste my time here and later decide the image doesn’t work for me after the edit. Cropping right at the start means that I have more or less limited myself to this specific square format and area of the image already.
    • Used Tune image > Brightness to brighten up the image to a level I liked. I may have used Contrast or Saturation sparingly. (Been a while back so I can’t say for sure, hence the word “may have” :P) 
  2. VSCOcam 
    • The colour filter options are lined up at the bottom of the screen.
    • Applied the Mellow(F2) filter, which changes the colour temperature towards the cool-blue spectrum. That’s sort of the mood I like for this picture since Donna is just lying there slightly pensively.
      • Choose the filter you would like to use. Click on the slider symbol so that it appears for you to toggle and adjust the strength of the filter to be applied.
      • Depending on the effect, I may return the VSCOcam filtered image back to Snapseed to refine further the brightness, contrast, etc.
  3. Snapseed – Back to Snapseed for the colour conversion to black and white. While I liked a moody feel for the image I also wanted the gate of the crate to stand out strongly, hence the choice of a brighter black and white filter, which pick out the highlights off the gate and also brightens up the dog inside nicely. 
      • If brightness +20 is too bright for your image, you can always slide left to tone it down :) Snapseed gives you the options to do so.

The original photograph and…

the final black and white.

The mobile photo apps used in this post can be downloaded for free. And while each individual app may take some exploring and getting used to, I am pretty happy with the results that I can get just by editing the image on my phone. So that is broadly what I did for this photo. It is not a step by step with detailed pictorial instructions so I’ll be happy to answer any questions regarding the above. I am also to hear if you have other ways of editing to share and other comments. :)

This is part one of two posts looking at the high key images first published on the post Photography Rules, on request of sassmuffins. Look out for part 2 if you are interested! :)


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  1. Oooo, love that. It looks much better that way. Much more dramatic.

    ~ Amy

  2. I like the after effects. I downloaded snapseed to my galaxy 4 and really like it. I will have to look into the other app. Do you use camera 360? And how is it different?

    • I do use Camera 360 at times because it has certain features that I like such as the sketching feature, which I blogged about before. I don’t use camera360 for image editing – crop, colour adjustment, etc – because Snapseed works for me so well that I haven’t found a reason to use Camera360 that :P Also, I haven’t really done an actual comparison, perhaps I will one day, but I get a sense the picture quality from camera360 gets degraded more, the more one tinkers with it.

      Camera 360 tries to be a lot of different things, but the user interface can be confusing and while I like its mirroring feature, it really has not been developed very well. :P I’m keeping it for the specific features I like but it is not my go-to app for everyday image editing ;)

      The colour filters for Camera 360 and VSCOcam are quite different. At the end of the day, it really depends on one’s own preference what filters is more aesthetically pleasing to them… taste also change with the times and trends of course :P

  3. Wow! What a clever innovation. It’s so effective. I’m awed by anyone who has photographic skills because I don’t even own a camera.

  4. Finally catching up on posts from the week and downloading new apps. Love the learning.

  5. Thanks so much for writing this! I use Snapseed all the time, but have never used VSCO cam before, so you know I will be checking into that. Can’t wait for part two!

    • No prob, I use VSCOcam for the colour filters… so its really whether you like the colour filters or no… it may not be to everyone’s taste. :)

  6. Interesting. I must fidget with the camera apps on my phone. I like how your picture came out.

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