Ansel, iPhone apps, black and white photography, iPhone photography

Ansel ($1.99) is a great app for converting your photos and videos to black & white. The App Store is crowded with sub-par iPhone apps and at first glance, it’s easy to dismiss this app as another one. But Ansel is a hidden gem and is definitely worth a look.

I nearly overlooked this one myself when it was first released. It’s easy to overlook as there isn’t much to the App Store description:

Ansel makes creating stunning black and white photos and videos easy.

• Use the free photographer-designed presets to achieve the perfect look

• Use all of the same tools to edit your videos

• Customize your workflow by pressing and holding to rearrange the tools and presets

• Tweak things like the RGB mix with simple controls

Yep. That’s it. All five lines. A short, vague description to me is usually a huge warning sign to avoid an app.

I’m glad I checked Ansel out. I really like its black & white conversion tools. Like the best black and white conversion apps, Ansel filters your image rather than simply desaturate the color, giving you a great deal of control over the conversion.

There are six preset filters – five adjusted and a None. Don’t be put off by the small number of presets. All six are good recipes for great black & whites and make good starting points for your own custom conversions.

Converting Photos to Black & White

Ansel, iPhone apps, black and white photography, iPhone photography

The magic happens in the Mix tool where you adjust the single RGB color slider. Basically, what you’re doing here is creating a color filter for your color-to-black & white conversion. It’s similar to the way the best B&W conversions are made on iPhone except Ansel gives you infinite variations. Move the target toward the green corner of the spectrum for more even skin tones and darker blues and reds. Move it towards the red corner for some dramatic contrast and deep skies.

Check out the vertical Gradient tool at the end of the toolbar. I used it to help enhance and make some really deep, awesome sky.

Ansel has a thorough tool set for tweaking your images before you even get to the Mix tool. In addition to the standard Contrast, Exposure, and Color Temperature tools, Ansel has excellent Shadows and Highlights tools which are responsive and don’t blow out the tones. It has excellent Crop and Straighten tools with plenty of options and aspect ratios. Flip, rotate, straighten a horizon, and crop. There’s also a built-in perspective correction tool.

For adding finesse to your work, the app has a great looking Vignette tool with a very organic roll-off. You can add a touch of subtle grain to give your work a more authentic film look.

All of Ansel’s tools feel right. I had no problems with the sliders even with my big fingers. Another really nice detail is that Ansel previews all images in your camera roll in their original aspect ratio. At a glance, you can tell if your photo is landscape or portrait. Also, everything previews in black & white. In fact, other than a few spare color splashes in the tools, Ansel’s lean and modern interface is completely monochrome.


Converting Video with Ansel

Applying settings to video is as fast and easy as a still photo. The effects and conversions of stills look just as nice on video. Using the scrub bar, you can advance and preview any frame in your clip. Applying effects to video previews live. Ansel renders the effects when you save or export. Although it renders pretty quickly, it still may take a few minutes depending on the size of your video clip.

Ansel downsized my 1080P HD video to 720P. Still HD, but not as HD. There’s also an option to output square video with letterboxing for Vine and Instagram videos.

Ansel saves still photos at full 8 MP resolution. In fact, even after adjusting the image with the perspective tool — a move that would normally trim off a few pixels in the final file, Ansel resampled the final image so the image size was unaffected.

The Bottom Line

Really, I don’t have major issues with Ansel at all. In the latest update, the Noise tool is mislabeled “Gradient” – not a problem for me at all. It would be nice in a future update to be able to load from all albums on my iPhone, not just my Camera Roll. I sync a lot of images back to my device for processing this way.

With a name of Ansel, this app sets high expectations for itself. I think of photographer Ansel Adams and his striking black & white photographs. Ansel (the app) did not disappoint. The app gives you a lot of high-quality options and tools to work with and yields good results. It lives up to the expectation it sets of creating stunning black and white photographs on the iPhone. It’s no secret that I love black and white photography. I’ve been using Ansel a lot since getting it. For a couple of bucks, I highly recommend it.


Download Ansel:

iphoneography, iphone photo, mobile photo, photo app, free download

App Store link: Ansel – Tiny Teacher Apps


(Hat tip to LoFi reader Steve Gowin for pointing out on the blog about Ansel’s previews.)


Ansel 0.2.0

Effects Quality
Resolution and Image Quality
User Interface

Highly Recommended

A great tool set for editing images and creating stunning black and white photos.

User Rating: 4.63 ( 2 votes)