Selective Colour In Black And White Photography Can Look Good!

Whether you call it selective colour or selective desaturation, selective colour in black and white photography often seems to get a bad rap.

Selective colour is one of many photographic cliches that some photographers think is a practice that should be stopped straight away.

However as long as photography is regarded as an art form, and its appreciation or otherwise is therefore subjective, then I believe there is a place for colour highlights in black and white photography. Besides, as the saying goes, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder“.

I have to say that I quite like the effect, except when the colourised parts are garish which can tend, in my view to make an image look amateurish. Again – that is purely subjective.

So I decided to give it a go so spent some time trolling through my photo archives finding images that I thought would suit the selective colour genre.

What follows is a small collection of black and white images – all of which started out as colour images – in which I have indulged myself and introduced, in hopefully a somewhat subtle manner, some highlights, or accents, of selective colour.

old petrol pump grunge - selective colour
Run out of gas?
bicycles in Amsterdam
Bicycles in Amsterdam


grafitti on a wall in amsterdam
Graffiti in Amsterdam


old stone cottage near Ophir Central Otago
An old cottage probably dating from the Central Otago gold rush


stone ridge winery Waiheke island
Stony Ridge Winery

This final image in the series is one in which I have (in my opinion) deliberately overdone the saturation and vibrancy of the selective colourisation – an effect that doesn’t sit very comfortably with me.

letterboxes on waiheke island
Letterboxes – Waiheke Island

All of the images above were processed in DxO Photolab 4 then taken into Nik Silver Efex Pro where the selective colour (colour accents) were applied using control points.

There are many more examples of selective colour in photography to be found on the Internet, such as those here and here.

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