Take great black-and-white photos

Going grayscale can transform the way you see the world.

Black-and-white is much more than a filter section of your favourite photo app. It can transform an ordinary colour photo into an extraordinary one. Learning how to use the technique creatively is an art form all its own—but it’s not hard to learn. Here’s how to get started:

Come out of the shadows

VSCO’s B1 filter accentuates this photo’s shimmery shadows.

A black-and-white photo is about more than just the subject; it’s also about what surrounds the subject. With black-and-white, shadows come to the fore in a way they don’t with colour. Look at the shapes, lines, and angles around you.

Snapping photos when the sun is high brings out bold shadows and interesting geometries.

Refine your portraits

Black-and-white lends a whole new light to portrait photography—literally. It declutters the scene, adds drama, and allows the subject to shine.

While part of this comes down to how you frame your shot, you can work some magic in post-edit as well. The Darkroom app offers high-quality black-and-white filters and lets you fine-tune an image by adjusting highlights (the lighter pixels), shadows (the darker ones), and midtones (the grays). Experiment with these controls to darken a background or foreground or call attention to certain details.

And if you’re shooting against a busy background or your subject is wearing intricately patterned clothing, see what a difference black-and-white can make.

Don’t be afraid to push the contrast. Here, the subject’s jeans disappear into the background, but his form really pops.

Transform the ordinary

You know all those mediocre photos in our camera rolls? The black-and-white treatment can breathe new life into them.

In colour, the stairs below might not be that interesting. But in black-and-white (and with a tight crop), the shot immediately draws your attention to the lines and intersections.

We applied Darkroom’s B100 filter, then bumped up the shadows and midtones, as well as the highlights.

Get the right apps

VSCO and Darkroom are both great places to start growing your black-and-white filter collections. With tons of customisable presets to choose from, the only thing left to do is rediscover your camera roll.

    VSCO: Photo & Video Editor

    Creative Tools & Video Stories


    Darkroom: Photo & Video Editor

    Video, Portrait, & RAW Photos