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Handsome B&W Filters with Black

There was a time when I would download just about any photo editing app and give it a try. But like many things, I found that having too many tools led to paralysis of choice. I would want to edit a photo, but I couldn’t decide which app had just the right filters I was looking for.

These days I use the built-in Photos app for most of my photo editing, but I keep a handful of other apps around, and periodically add one or two to the mix on a trial basis. Not many of those trial photos apps stick, but recently I’ve been trying Black by Peter Stojanowski, which features ten attractive black and white filters based on classic film types and a few manual controls, and it’s stuck with me.

What I appreciate most about Black, is its simplicity and focus on my photos. Import any photo from your Camera Roll into Black using the ‘+’ button at the bottom of the Collection screen. Black immediately opens your image in its editing view, displaying a greyscale version of your photo. You can apply any of the ten black and white film filters by simply swiping back and forth among them. The names of the filters are overlaid across the top of the photo you are editing in a way that maximizes the size of the photo during editing and I didn’t find distracting. When you reach the end of the list, it cycles back to where you started in an endless loop. With only ten filters, it is easy to quickly compare them and decide on one you like best.

After you save any edits or cancel out of editing mode, you are taken back to the Collection view that includes thumbnails of each photo you have imported. In a nice touch, Black uses one of the photos from your collection to create a handsome header for Collection view. Selecting an image in the Collection view gives you the option to reopen it in editing mode or share it to a variety of built-in services or via the system share sheet. Selecting more than one image eliminates the editing option, but lets you share multiple images.

From the top left: Marina City Tower filter: GP3 100 Shanghai; Michigan Avenue Bridge filter: Tura Expired 2002; and Sears Tower filter: GP3 100 Shanghai

From the top left: Marina City Tower filter: GP3 100 Shanghai; Michigan Avenue Bridge filter: Tura Expired 2002; and Sears Tower filter: GP3 100 Shanghai

Black also has ‘Fade,’ ‘Curves,’ and ‘Vignette’ manual controls for fine-grained adjustments. The three parameters can be adjusted all you want, but saving a photo with manual adjustments requires a $0.99 in-app purchase. The pricing and placement of Black’s in-app purchase is fair. You can do a lot using just the free filters. Each of the photos in this review were taken with my iPhone 6s Plus and edited using Black’s free filters with no manual adjustments. If you do want to do some fine tuning of your photos, however, the manual tools are excellent.

Manual controls like Fade and Curves require an in-app purchase.

Manual controls like Fade and Curves require an in-app purchase.

It is a shame that Black is iPhone-only. I might be more understanding of this decision if Black took photos too, but it doesn’t. Black is for post-processing only and an iPad version would do a better job of showing off your photo collection and editing. Yet, despite the lack of an iPad version, Black has quickly become one of my go-to photos apps for the speed and ease with which I can create good looking black and white versions of my photos.

Black is free on the App Store with a $0.99 in-app purchase that unlocks the saving of edits made with its Fade, Curves, and Vignette manual controls.

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