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Black and White Part 4: Selective Color

This is final of my four part black and white series. This post will cover how I edit photos with selective color. It will also cover some tips on when to use selective coloring.

Note: I will be showing Camera Raw, which you can navigate to through Adobe Bridge. Camera Raw will work with .JPG and any RAW files. It is packaged with Adobe Creative Cloud Suites which include, Photoshop and Illustrator. I do basically 95% of all my editing in Camera Raw.

In Camera Raw it is really easy to change a photo to selective color.

Here are the basic steps. First edit the color version of your photo. Then switch from Edit to Color Basics and slide the sliders to the far left (takes out color). Leave the color or colors you want in the photo.

In this case, the green shirt pulled out the boys green eyes. The story to this photo is all about the boy and his eyes.

I left the photo with the Color Mixer editing tools on the left sidebar. You can see where I left only the green and some of the light blue color in the photo. That green shirt actually has some light blue in it which made the color pop a little more.

It really is that simple in Camera Raw to edit photo for selective color.

The biggest thing to remember about selective color is make sure you are creating a story with your photo. When using selective color your eye will go to the brightest spot on the photo. In the photo above it will the color green.

Things to keep in mind. Is the color you chose to use, enhancing to the photo. Does your eye go to the spot where you want to tell your story?

Here are a couple of selective colors that really don’t accomplish telling a story.

One thing I love taking photos of a single shoe left behind. This shoe was left as you see it on picnic table by the beach. Here is a selective color showing the green grass.

The first place your eye goes is to the green. The grass has some bokeh to it so the part that is highlighted is blurry and doesn’t look attractive. The gray at the top of the photo is a blueish-green ocean. The spots that have green show up and makes the grass look weird, because the green from the ocean is bleeding through. Also, notice he shoe which I consider to be the main focus of the photo blends into the gray scale of the table.

Now this is how I would tell the story of this photo in selective color. I did leave the red and magenta colors and a little of the yellow. The yellow pulls out some of the color of the strap on the shoe. The yellow also shows a hint of yellow in the picnic table. Now the shoe is the main focus of this photo.

Here is another bad example

In the photo below, you might think by keeping the color red would help tell the story of the musician, but there is just way to much red everywhere in the photo. There are ways of fixing this, you will see in the last example of this pos how to fix this problem..

I rather like the colored version of this or the black and white version. See below.

This next photo is of a cat I with stunning green eyes and a green collar. So I quickly edited my photo and then took out everything but green and some yellow. As you can see, there was green left on the bottom of this photo with misc. leaves and moss. I don’t like the distraction of that green.

I chose the Adjustment Brush (4th icon down on the far right) under the bandaid.

In the middle column, adjust the brush to whatever size you want. I usually use between 5 and 10.

Color over the green leafy and mossy areas with the bush.

Then in the middle column go to saturation (you will probably have to use the scroll bar to see it). You are taking out all the color in the areas that you paint over. The on the saturation bar move the slider all the way left. Don’t worry about being to careful, since the photo basically has all the color out already, you won’t be changing the black and white part.

Make sure you get the yellowish-green along the right side of the photo.

Below you will see the photo without the extra color.

If you are wondering, yes I left the nose pink too.

Other Black and White Posts

Black and White Part 1: Easy Techniques To Try

Black and White Part 2: Post Editing Basics

Black and White Part 3: Editing Using the B&W Mixer in Camera Raw

I’ve gathered a list of challenges and their hosts.  So if you know a challenge host, please direct them to my blog.  Feel free to contact me anytime.  I hope everyone will be able to use my lists.

Qi (energy) hugs


20 replies »

  1. I have experimented with selective color as well. You are spot on that some images don’t translate well. I have “rescued” some by using layers. In your example, if you only wanted the red in the accordion, a black-and-white layer mask would be the dominant layer. It would be a lot of manual editing from there to reveal the color layer only where the accordion is visible. Lots of detail around the hands.
    It would be a lot of work at the computer and require some expertise at layer masking, but it would be a worthwhile lesson.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I always wondered how this was done, and I was talking about it with someone the other day. Thank you Cee! So informative, and helpful.


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