Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Selective Color Good or Bad?

Recently I read a post on Facebook in which a rather busy and well liked portrait photographer made the following statement: " I do not and will not do selective coloring … I don't think I have ever seen it done where it looks beautiful."

I give her credit for saying hey I don't like this so I will not do it. Photography is an art and an artist must first off be true to themselves. Her work is beautiful with creative composition and style, so I highly doubt not offering selective coloring is going to hurt her business at all. However, while I wouldn't suggest or expect anyone to change their style or opinion just to please others, I was a bit taken aback by the second half of her statement.

I was even more surprised to read that out of the 12 comments only two people said they had seen a selective color image that they liked, and further surprised that four other portrait photographers (as determined by their business Facebook pages) had commented on the post, all of them agreeing with her original post. One going so far as to say "It's one thing that really bugs me.. Especially with professional portraits.. Makes them look cheap." Another individual commented that it "... was a trend a few years ago and some of the newer photographers still do it because they think it looks good and they haven't found their editing style yet." Now I am not sure if the last statement was made by a person that is a photographer or just someone who likes photography, but either way I  have to wonder if they look at photography as an art or a strict representation of reality.

I admit that I have seen more selective color portraits that I did not like than those that I like. I can also agree that depending on how it is done it can cheapen the look of the photograph. However, to say that all use of selective coloring cheapens the look of a portrait or that a photographer that does selective coloring does so because they are new and haven't found their editing style is just narrow minded. To me ones style is not a stone wall that one can not step beyond but is the foundation for future exploration and creation. Just take a look at the 50 examples shown in the article mentioned in the next paragraph.

In the article 50 Impressive Examples of Selective Color Photography  there are some beautiful photos that have been enhanced by the process of keeping part of the image in full color while the remainder is monochrome or black and white. Now while there are more in this article that I don't really like, I have to say there are others that I love. Of the 50 photos there are only 20 that I actually like and of them only three are portraits. Still, using selective coloring has in my opinion made some of these photographs more appealing than they might otherwise have been.

When I first started editing portraits I did a few selective color edits in which you turn the photo black and white and just keep a focal color, and while I did like a few done that way most just looked bad. But I had seen some really awesome photos with selective coloring so I didn't give up. I am glad I didn't give up because I have found that for some portraits the selective coloring can both achieve the look I am going for and be more stunning than the original color or black and white conversion.

Here is an example from the recent photo shoot with Emma. When doing selective color on portraits I have found that I prefer a monochromatic look for the bulk of the image rather than black and white. As with all photos on my blog just click on the photo to see the image larger.

I do like the full color photo however, the mahogany color of her eyes seem to get lost in this photo.  
The black and white is okay but I really wanted the brown of her eyes to pop in the photo. 

Tones on Tuesday Submission
To achieve this monochromatic selective color portrait I worked with three layers. The bottom layer is the original full color image. Over that I placed the above black and white. I then removed the iris and pupil portion of the eyes on the black and white photo, revealing the full color of the eyes. The effect was very dramatic but was not flattering nor did it enhance the image as I wished. Then I created an overlay with the full color photo at 24% opacity thus creating a more monochromatic image in which the mahogany color of her eyes stand out.

As with any art form there are always some that love it, some that are on the fence and others that can't stand it. What do you think? Do you like selective colorization, or do you think it cheapens the photograph? Go ahead don't hold back, I am very curious as to how many like it and how many dislike selective coloring.

Linking up with:

Scattered Horizons

Please stop over at Scattered Horizons for Tones on Tuesday.


Laura said...

I really like all three, but the third is my favorite, the most artistic.

lorik said...

Firstly, I enjoyed looking at your progression and I like your final one best. I also was interest to read about your processes. Thank you.
Secondly, I don't understand what "they" are talking about - you can be a purist, or an expressionist, classicist... or simply enjoy photo/digital art. I guess it depends on what you are trying to say or achieve in your work.
Thanks for visiting and I look forward to seeing some of your orange selective colouring;)

Marko said...

I also vote for the last one. If you are looking for a reason, I think it is because of this:

Nothing besides those eyes really stands out (in aspect of color), therefore it looks great if you give them a little boost by decreasing saturation of other parts.

Keep up the good work and keep blogging!