"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderly again..." Cinematographer George Barnes captured the impeccable shading imbued by the iambic hexameter of this opening line of both Hitchcock's film and the book by Daphne DuMaurier. Brilliant white, creamy ivory, inky black, misty and haunting greys...the magic fabric of non-color photography.
Since the early days of film over a century ago, photographers have been fascinated by the slippery, but critical, relationship between color as it hits the eye and the effectiveness of black and white images. Studios in the 1880’s were furnished with backdrops, fabrics, and other props in specific hues chosen to show up or disappear when shot in black and white. The reds that became blacks, the pinks that became grays, the ivory’s that lent a glow to human skin, the textures of lace, satin, braid, and print that added dimension and depth to images. Such studies in variegated non-color hues became second nature to those behind the lens.
Today, as we shoot digital images, we actually shoot in color, and only in processing do we control those same depth of hue and glimmer. Those of us working seriously on iPhone images have the same choices as well as a few others. We start with a color image and using deep and powerful apps such as PhotoFX, can use color emphasis to strengthen an image before the BW transformation. We can pop the reds with to make the darks smooth and rich, use contrast and light options to add classic gleam, or imitate old films. In doing so, we relearn the relationships between color hue and resulting black and white shades, just as our forbearers did. For these reasons PhotoFX is my favorite app for creating strong black and white images, whether dramatic or subtle.
At first glance apps that allow us to shoot directly in black and white seem to be ultra-modern and a too-easy shortcut to the final image. Strangely, however, shooting with an app camera that directly produces a BW image actually recreates the process of the earliest photographers—we have to have a quick understanding of the colors and light in a shot to get a decent image. (The steps of developing, the scent of chemicals, and the magic of the darkroom are, however, lost.)
The first BW shoot-em app I used was OldCamera—and produced several BW images I still like very much. Results are random, however, even when choosing the filter ahead of time, and I lost more good shots than I gained. The app has a mind of it’s own and is as likely to provide muddy images as sharp and lively ones.
There are some options that others are passionate about, but which just aren't for me. Filterstorm made the ADD part of me very impatient. I keep trying it, but I just can't fall in love. Same goes for PS Express. And Hipstamatic has some nice BW effects, but like OldCamera, you are stuck with what you get and in danger of missing a shot if you rely on it in a fast draw situation. In addition users are always in danger of being drawn into the Great Hipstamatic Debate that has sidetracked so many iPhone camera users and critics!
I tried Lumiere (see below) on the recommendation of other iPhone togs. The quick switch between filters makes it easy to shift gears while shooting, and there’s not waiting for “development.” Images are not yet available at full resolution, but this is on the list of future improvements. My main complaint lies in the difficulty of getting to the settings in order to choose my output size.
Noir is a lot of fun, and I would've bought it just for the name. It is fast, versatile, and provides a variety of quick effects. My main complaint? A little soft. Nothing made me really happy in any of the shots I obtained.
Already I'm very fond of Old Photo Pro: crisp, a great deal of control, excellent detail. I was surprised by the sensitivity and richness of the images. My first image, shot on the fly, wasn’t half bad
and the upgrade to full resolution is well worth the two bucks. Even a quick snap in my living room acquires all the mystery, delicacy, and atmosphere one could desire. The editing option lets you easily adjust tone, brightness, and frame even after shooting. The only drawback I see is the very slow save at hi-rez.
MonoPhix has excellent controls, allowing a variety of looks from Hi-Con to pale color, a poster look to a fine grain product. This app goes in the post processing category as it doesn’t act as a camera.
Last night I dreamed I was back at Manderly... and all the images were evocative, mysterious, rich in honesty and shimmering with hope and fear. Well, they haven't an app that achieves all that yet...but I'm on the look out.