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Smartphone Editing Tutorial

How to Create the Best Black and White Travel Photos

by | Mar 18, 2019 | editing tutorial, smartphone photography

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Snapseed Black and White Tutorial

What is it about Black and White Photography that makes it sort of indestructible? It is as old as photography and although photography has been through many changes and developments Black and White Photography is still here. And it will never go away.

When you convert an image to Black and White a few things happen.

By taking away color somehow the underlying qualities emerge. It stirs a feeling of timelessness and emphasizes the things we share over time and place.

Black and White Photography is perfect for your travel photos, the portraits of your travel gang, the breathtaking landscapes you encounter, and the buzz of the streets you find yourself in. Especially if you have a lot of different subjects and styles of photography converting them to Black and White can make the story come together.

It’s The Instagram Trend

I read an article the other day on the editing trends on Instagram for 2019 and apparently Black and White Photography is making a comeback! Actually, I never knew it was gone in the first place. Well anyway, I figured this is the perfect motive to show you how to convert your travel pics into Black and White the right way!

If Snapseed is totally new for you I suggest going to How to Edit Your Smartphone Pictures and Get the Best Out of Them first.

It shows you the first basic steps in finding your way around Snapseed.

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There are a few things to keep in mind when you’re converting an image into Black and White.

Shoot in Color

First of all, and possibly the most important one, do not shoot in Black and White!

I know all smartphone cameras give you that option but you shouldn’t use it because it’s there. It’s useless. Because when you shoot in color you’ll keep the option for both color and Black and White photos.

Also with the editing, it’s better to have a color file because in some editing programs you can affect the colors separately even if you converted to Black and white.

Is It The right fit?

Second, not every picture is a good fit for Black and White.

The most important thing in a Black and White picture is the tonal contrast. And if that contrast isn’t there in the color version it’s gonna be hard to get it in the Black and White conversion.

Imagine if you take a picture of something that mostly has red, orange and yellow tones. If you convert that to Black and White it’s gonna be all greyish tones. Not very eye-catching!

Contrast, Texture, and Structure

And third, when converting to Black and White we mostly work on the contrast. There need to be white and black tones in a Black and White picture. And then of course, as many grey tones in between as possible.

Getting out the contrast and in many cases, the texture and structure is the goal of Black and White conversions.

As with just about everything in photography and life for that matter, there are a number of ways to go about that. I’ll show a few of them but honestly, the possibilities are limitless.

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Working on Contrast

Obviously, you can just apply a Black and White preset and leave it at that but where’s the fun in that!

So I’m gonna show you how to create Black and White pictures in Snapseed using the Black and White filter and working on the contrast in the Tools Section.

Working on contrast is not a matter of sliding the contrast slider to the right. It’s a little more subtle and complicated than that.

The 2 main things to consider when working on the contrast are:

  1. the possibility to adjust the bright and dark areas separately.
  2. creating as many grey tones in between as possible.

When you increase the contrast in Tune Image using the contrast slider you increase the contrast the same amount in both ways so that doesn’t give me the control I’m after.

The Highlights and Shadow Sliders in Tune Image does give that control. With the Curves Tool, we’re also able to work on the bright and dark areas separately.

SNAPSEED B&W TUTORIAL

Download Your FREE Step-by-Step Guide Now & Get Instant Access to the Free Resource Library!

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Second, I want to create Black and White images with as many different grey tones as possible. To get there I need to decrease the contrast first.

So what I do in Tune Image is darkening the highlights and brightening the shadows. Why do I decrease the contrast first you probably wonder? We’re aiming toward more contrast, right? Yes, we are but if you just increase the contrast chances are the highlights will blow out, the shadows become pitch black and you have very few grey tones in the middle.

By decreasing the contrast first we introduce more grey tones. Then after increasing the contrast again using the Curves Tool, the image has more grey tones in between the black and white tones.

The Editing Workflow

I always start with cropping the image if that’s necessary, then I work on the brightness and contrast of the entire image.

After that, I hone in on separate areas of the picture to see if they need to be adjusted. The last step is always sharpening the image and saving it.

The Dog | Tonal Contrast

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Step 1:

Once I open the file I select Tools and tap on Black & White. I’m gonna leave the filter in Neutral.

Step 2:

Then I select Tune Image and darken the Highlights and brighten the Shadows. This will decrease the contrast and the image will become flat but we’re gonna fix that in the next step.

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Step 3:

I select Curves to increase the contrast. Curves is a great tool to increase (or decrease) the contrast. In the Curves Tool, the point on the bottom left is pure black and the point at the top right side is pure white. When you drag the line between the 2 points upward the image gets brighter and when you drag it down it becomes……..? Yep! Darker!

If you pick a point at about ⅓ of the line from the top and drag it upwards it makes the bright tones brighter. If you pick a point at ⅓ of the line from the bottom and drag it down the shadows will become darker. 

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Step 4:

I’m still not totally convinced. I’m missing structure and detail in the sand so I go to Tonal Contrast to emphasize the details.

Step 5:

Last step is always sharpening so I select Detail and increase the Structure by 44 and the Sharpening by 22.

That’s it! All I need to do now is save the image.

The Wave | Drama Filter

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Step 1:

My first step for this photo is to crop it just a little bit to emphasize the diagonal line the 4 people are making.

Step 2:

Then I select the Black & White Tool and leave the filter in Neutral.

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Step 3:

I believe this image has potential but it’s a little flat and underexposed. To add contrast and at the same time brighten it up I’m gonna apply the Drama Filter. I select Drama, choose the Bright 2 preset and leave the filter strength as it is.

Usually, the Drama Filter is very strong and can easily overpower a picture. In most cases, I recommend to tone down the filter strength a lot when you apply the drama filter.

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Step 4:

The next stop is Tune Image where I decrease the contrast by darkening the Highlights and brightening the Shadows.

Step 5:

Then I select Curves and increase the contrast again.

Step 6:

I then select Detail to sharpen the image and save it.

The Coast | Brush & Selective

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So far we’ve been making adjustments to the entire image but sometimes it’s necessary to make an adjustment to a smaller part of the image. There are 2 ways to go about that in Snapseed: the Brush Tool and the Selective Tool.

Brush Tool

The Brush tool does exactly what its name implies. You paint with your finger over the screen to select the area you want to make an adjustment to.

Options are Dodge & Burn, Exposure, Temperature, and Saturation.

To change the brush size you zoom in and out of the image by pinching the screen.

If you want to make an area brighter tap the upward arrow to indicate the amount. For darkening tap the downward arrow.

When you click the little eye icon you can see the area you selected.

SNAPSEED B&W TUTORIAL

Download Your FREE Step-by-Step Guide Now & Get Instant Access to the Free Resource Library!

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Selective Tool

The Selective Tool lets you select areas of the same color.

Tap in the area you want to adjust and the letter B for Brightness will appear. When you swipe up you can choose between Brightness, Contrast, Saturation, and Structure. Sliding to the right will make the image brighter and sliding to the left will make the image darker.

If you want to adjust areas of different colors you choose Brush and when you want to change areas with the same color you pick Selective.

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Step 1:

The first thing I want to do is crop the picture to make sure the horizon is at ⅓ of the frame.

Step 2:

Then I go to Perspective. This tool gives you all the options you need to adjust the perspective. The most important one is Rotate for straightening the horizon and such. So that’s what I do in here.

Step 3:

Well, of course, I first converted the image in Black & White but I thought that step is well-known by now. So we’re going straight to Tune Image to decrease the contrast.

Step 4:

Next stop is again the Curves tool where I darken the shadows more than I brighten the highlights.

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Step 5:

To darken the sky I select the Brush tool and choose Exposure. For this picture, I selected -0,3 to make the sky just a little bit darker. I also want to make the foreground darker.

Step 6:

I’m not completely happy with how it looks. So I go to Selective, tap on the grass and decrease the brightness to make the green tones darker. This will also affect the green tones of the faraway mountains.

Step 7:

The last step is again to sharpen the image.

There it is……….3 roadmaps for converting your awesome travel pics to Black and White!

Tell me, what do you like the most about Black & White Photography?

You can share your black & white pictures in the Photography Playground Facebook Group!

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Hi, I'm Karin!

A pro photographer bringing 25+ years of experience to your table. Dedicated to teaching you how to capture your wonderful world in expressive photography using ANY camera. Because honestly…..it’s not about the camera. It's about your vision!

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