Photography Ideas

Make Your Photos Black and White and Revel in the Glory of Yesteryear

Make Your Photos Black and White and Revel in the Glory of Yesteryear

Make your photos black and white with this quick and easy tutorial. You’ll be time warping in minutes!

We love black and white photos (we=society=you=all of us). How to describe them? Classic, vintage, eclectic, timeless. Ironically, black and white photos seem to never grow old. And, maybe that’s why we love them so much—vintage air travel photos, hard-boiled noir, that photo you took yesterday, or the one you’ll take tomorrow—make a photo black and white and it becomes immortal.

We’ve written before about how to take beautiful black and white photographs, but you don’t have to be a professional (or burgeoning) photographer in order to capture this classic look.

We’ll *briefly* talk history, show you how to quickly age your pics, and leave you with a few design ideas. Home décor, social posts, marketing materials—there isn’t a wrong time or place for photos of yesteryear!

*Brief* History of Black and White Photos

Black and white vintage photo camera.
Image via Olesya Kuznetsova.

Today, we can capture, save, and edit colorful photos with just a few taps on our smartphones. Not sure how Joseph-Nicéphore Niépce would feel about this—he was the French inventor credited with taking the first ever photograph.

This photograph, View from the Window at Le Gras, is . . . well . . . a view from a window. But hey, the first ever movie was of a horse running. You gotta start somewhere.

Soon after introducing photography to the world, Niépce became buds with Louis Daguerre. Together, the two invented the physautotype, a process for producing images using lavender oil, alcohol, sunlight, and petroleum fumes.

Luckily, their hard work set the stage for photography to evolve—a lot—and it would see a huge boom in the early 20th century, thanks in part to a company we’re all familiar with: Kodak.

Interestingly enough, colorphotography experiments started as far back as the 1840s. The Lumière brothers debuted a (somewhat) practical coloring process in 1907, called Autochrome. Then, a little over two decades later, Kodak introduced Kodachrome, a color positive film.

However, the cumbersome efforts of producing early-age color photography, along with hefty expenses, kept black and white images front-and-center until post-WWII. Even then, they never really went away.

Black and white image of cameramen gathered to record event.
Our ways of making black and white photos have changed, but their popularity hasn’t. Image via The Everett Collection.

Beyond their timeless nature, black and white photos offer a variety of artistic opportunities. They’re distinct, with monochromatic color schemes that can enhance subjects’ features.

Unlike some of the loud and vibrant images you might come across while scrolling through your Instagram feed, B&W photos err on the side of subtlety and minimalism (even though you’re almost guaranteed to stop scrolls if you drop them on your social channels).

Lastly, no level of muted color palette will capture the nostalgic, ripped-straight-out-of-history vibe that black and white does. So let’s make one!

How to Make a Photo Black and White

You do want to play by a few rules when deciding what photo to make black and white. Images with apparent subjects, strong contrast, and defined shadows tend to translate nicely to B&W looks.

We used PicMonkey to add a black and white effect to our image. It’s super-quick and loaded with design options.

1. Open Your Image in PicMonkey

PicMonkey Editor with image of woman in pink blouse open for editing.
Image via StarlingRU.

In PicMonkey, click Create new and choose the location of your photo (computer, Google drive, etc.). You can also use a color photo from PicMonkey’s stock photo library—it’s full of Shutterstock images!

Notice our chosen photo: a clear subject with a bit of helpful contrast thanks to our subject’s brightly-colored shirt, plus some interesting shadowing on her face.

2. Add a Black and White Effect

Effects menu open in PicMonkey, highlighting where to find the following Black and White Photo effects: Black and White, Super B&W, Tri-X, Silverscreen.

Click the Effects tab on the left and you’ll be met with a glorious list of photo effects. Scroll down to the Black and White category and try out the effects.

There are four—Black and WhiteSuper B&WTri-X, and Silverscreen. Each provides its own unique style, pending the makeup of your photograph.

3. Customize the Look

PicMonkey Editor, with Black and White effect added to image of smiling woman.

Click on the effect to apply it to your photo (we chose traditional Black and White). Use the control sliders available to finetune your look. When it’s exactly how you want it, click Apply to save your changes.

4. Download Your Finished Design

Download menu in PicMonkey, showing how to download black and white photo of woman as JPG file.

Click Download on the top toolbar to export your work as a JPG or PNG. After that? Print and frame your photo, add it to a collage, or use it in your next big marketing campaign—up to you!

Make Black and White Photos on Your Phone

Three screenshots showing how to select a photo, add the Black and White effect, and save it in the PicMonkey mobile app.
Image via VISKA.

Good news, 21st century photo editors—you can also add a swash of black and white to your photos with the PicMonkey mobile app!

To do so:

Start a new project.Tap Effects on the editing toolbar. Scroll through the effects—we suggest using B&W or Monochrome.Tap Save in the top-right corner to save the photo to your camera roll, Hub (PicMonkey’s cloud storage), or even share directly to Instagram!

5 Ways to Use Black and White Photos in Your Designs

Just like B&W photos are timeless, ways to use them are endless. Here are a few to get you started.

1. Embrace Your Inner Minimalist

Elegant Woman

Spiral Staircase
Images via Nadya Korobkova, and sergeymansurov

Less is more with black and white photos. They’re not meant for loud and brashy YouTube thumbnails or look-at-me-until-your-eyes-gloss-over Instagram posts. If you’re gunning for a minimalistic design, then a monochrome palette can help. It’ll complement your subject material (which, hopefully, is equally minimalistic). Use negative space to your advantage.

2. Create Striking Contrast

Silhouette of Woman

Noir Style Image

Man in Raincoat
Images via iiiphevgeniy, alexkoral, and alexkoral.

Here’s something straight out of film noir’s lesson book. Depending on the photo(s) you use, it’s possible to create a whole lot of contrast. Just choose a high contrast photo to begin with (bold colors, bright highlights, dark shadows, etc.).

3. Create Striking Contrast with Color

Black and white street with bright gold street car for color splash look.
Get the color splash look using PicMonkey. Image via Vaflya.

Speaking of contrast . . . if you want to make something in your image P-O-P, create a color splash. In other words, turn your photo B&W, then pick something in it to “splash” with color. (WandaVision did this quite effectively).

A color splash is artsy and plenty usable in personal photos or marketing materials. How about an eye-catching color splash advertisement?

4. Add a Refined Touch to Product Photos

Instagram design template featuring black and white image of glasses with text
Start your next design with a template.

When used effectively, black and white can offer your design a friendly helping of elegance and modernity. It’s that “timeless” aspect, pumping your image full of refinement and sophistication. Then, pair your image with a gentle contrasting color (like the teal in this design) for something sleek.

5. Focus on Your Story

Happy Friends

Grandchild and Grandfather

Depression Concept
Images via GLRL, Dobo Kristian, and eranicle.

If photos capture moments in time, then B&W preserves those moments better than anything else. Since it’s such a superhero design choice for evoking feelings of nostalgia, yearning, and even sadness, think about the story you’re trying to tell.

How do you want people to feel, and will black and white help with that?

Welcome to Color 101—class is now in session:

25 Brilliant Examples of Black and White Designs5 Folk-Inspired Color PalettesThe Designer’s Toolbox: How to Use Color to Evoke Emotion in Design10 FREE Fall Color Palettes With a Neon Twist101 Color Combinations to Inspire Your Next Design

Cover image via Nadya Korobkova.

The post Make Your Photos Black and White and Revel in the Glory of Yesteryear appeared first on The Shutterstock Blog.

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