Photo Diary 56/365 • Selective Coloring • Sin Or Useful Tool

posted on 15th of march, 2015

While reading different articles and opinions about selective coloring in photography sites and forums, this super famous song came to my mind, "It's a sin" by Pet Shop Boys. Is selective coloring a 'photographic sin'? Then I'm definitely a 'sinner', since I've used it many times in the past and I will use it again in the future!


If you take a small survey on the internet, you will find two main categories; the one that presents stunning examples of this effect, trying to convince us optically how amazing is to use selective color editing. And, the second category that considers selective color a cheap cliché, explaining why 'real photographs' never use these embarrassing for their skills method. What do you think? In which of the two categories are you matched?

Selective color is a post-process technique, where most of the photo is converted in black and white, and some parts of it are left in color. How this technique has turned today to mean something artless and bad is in question, especially if you remember the movies Schindler's list and Sin City.

Both of these movies made a huge success in public and critics and had used this method in their photography. Schindler's list was nominated many awards, including seven Academy Awards, seven BAFTA's and three Golden Globes. And, Sin City won the Technical Grand Prize at 2005 Cannes Film Festival.

The main argument of the naysayers is that selective color draws the attention of the viewer with fake effects and in specific spots with no apparent reason, but only to be pompous and over-dramatic. Moreover, it is so overused that became a cliché. Nowadays, it is amateurs' gimmick to save their crappy pictures.

On the contrary, for the selective color enthousiasts this technique is a useful tool that any photographer should experiment. Some times it serves the composition so well and its result satisfies anyone. It can also be used in a less obvious way to correct and enhance tones.

As from my humble view, selective coloring is a technique that sometimes can work perfectly in a composition. Some images seem to cry loud for it and other seem too artificial and predictable with it. Of course, it would be so boring and meaningless to transform all my portfolio in a black and white background of colorful spots. But I can't condemn it with an artistic afforism. Good art, bad art; all these definitions and labels can be interpreted so widely and differently that can include almost anything in them. As the artist Damien Hirst said: "Great art - or good art - is when you look at it, experience it and it stays in your mind". And, I totally agree with him.

Firstly published and blogged By JWP

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Photo credits: Ioanna Papanikolaou.

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Blogger, self-taught photographer and mixed-media artist. Always seeking a strong story behind the image and an interesting image to narrate the story. When I can\'t find it in my photos, I start to create... my own unique one with any media available: oils, acrylics, pastels, pens, collages, natural materials.

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