Effective use of “Selective color”

Selective color in BW architectural photos

A selective color looks tricky at first glance but it’s not a special technique in this digital era. Some digital cameras are capable of doing selective color effect with in-camera tools. It is so effective and easily make viewer’s attention to the photo. Then you have to care of using it and not overdo.

Make the “color” meaningful

Do you remember the movie”schindler’s list”? The movie was made as a black and white movie, but the director Steven Spielberg effectively put the red in the movie.

A little girl in the red dress has an important role: she represents the innocence of the Jews being slaughtered. Schindler(main character) later spots her in a pile of exhumed dead bodies as she wore the red dress. In my opinion the red also represents the blood lost by this tragic historical incident.

Aoh, don’t take it too serious when it comes to photography.. Just take a moment and think the color you want; “Why the color is important to me.”

That makes your photo much convincing.

What if the photo with only black and white?

Before using the selective color, examine your photo; “Does it really need the color?” Often a poor selective color ruins the photo. Then make the traditional black and white version first, add the color later. Take an example from my gallery.

The photo above ended up with traditional black and white. However I was originally thinking to add a color to the traffic light; like this:
URBAN MOAI with color

URBAN MOAI with selective “green” light

It was not bad. The green light was eye catching, and would draw view’s eye. However the main subject of the photo is the unique shape of the building, not the traffic light. So the color green can be a distractive element in this time.  I decided to take over the color.

Don’t depend on too much to the color.

Take care of other parts of the photo first:composition, the details and highlights to Shadows.

When the photo stands without the color, the photo might not need the color.

Leave them in Black and White.

When the color works better, make the photo much stand out,

use it as the killer technique which you can stun the viewers.


So what parts of the color you select?

There are some common areas you can choose as a color;

1. Traffic lights

To combine with traffic lights and buildings are common technique in  cityscape genre. So here comes the technique you can use.

Imagine this photo without color “green”. Already the picture is brilliant with beautiful  composition, detail of the buildings and long-exposure blurred clouds. Adding to “the green light“, it is really an icing on the cake.

Photograph waiting for green light by kcn on 500px waiting for green light by kcn on 500px

2. Windows

Windows are also good areas to choose.They are everywhere in a building. So select a window or windows effectively make a photo much interesting.

※This pic is not a “black and white with selective color”.
Holger said“ It looks indeed like a selective colour shot, but it was in real like that
Jewish Museum in Berlin. Designed by architect Daniel Liebeskind

3. Lamp

Coloring Lamps are also popular along with traffic lights.

They are so called “lamp shots”

Those shapes of lamps are different from countries to countries.

So It’s interesting to compare among these “lamp shots” among different photographers in the world.

Photograph crazy babies by Michael Köster on 500pxcrazy babies by Michael Köster on 500px

4. Freedom

It’s up to you where to color. There is no limitation. Just do it!

Photograph Valley of Fire V by Roland Shainidze on 500px Valley of Fire V by Roland Shainidze on 500px


I’d like to say thank you for my fellow great photographers bellow for allowing me to reference their great photographs. How inspiring they are!!!



Holger Glaab

Joe Plasmatico

Manita Goh

Jin Mikami

Michael Koster

Roland Shainidze


I Am The Raw part.2

Akashi-Kaikyo-Ohashi-Bridge, Koube, Japan明石海峡大橋

The land of Redemption by Yoshihiko Wada

For those who are new to fine-art Black and White might interested in the RAW image, which will go to the above image.
Then I’ll reveal,Ta-da!

The raw image of "The Land of Redemption"

The raw image of “The Land of Redemption”

Here comes tech info:

601sec./f9, iso:100

Lense:AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED

Filters:10+6 stops ND by formatt-hitech

Do you want to see the scene without the ND filters? here it is.

behind scene

1/320, f8, iso100

Do you see how those ND filters made the scene so surreal?
Anyway, before the long time post-process, you have to take a beautiful longexpousre-raw image. It needs a bit experience, but you can be soon accustomed.
Have a great long exposure!!!

Sunset after the shoot

After the shoot with Coolpix_A