Two Alternatives to Selective Color

The Selective Color technique is something we all try at some point in our photography endeavors.  The classic act of taking a color image, making it Black and White, but letting a single accent color of the subject matter show through has become a faux pas in the photo industry.  The technique is used to focus the viewer’s attention on one area over the rest, but it is entirely too literal.

Selective Color 1

What a way to ruin a great monochromatic image. Not one, but two selective colors! We know the hat is red, we don’t need to see that.


If you have to narrow the viewer’s attention to your subject with the selective color technique, two things could have gone wrong.   Either your subject wasn’t very interesting, to begin with, or you may not have composed the image well enough for the subject to be received.  Either way, selective color in its typical fashion is the last resort because it could ruin a great monochromatic image like the one of Michael (my oldest son) from 2011.

Instead of the extremely literal selective color technique, I have two alternatives for you today.  They are more about selective saturation than selective color.  By using these techniques, you can create a sense of depth in the photo with color manipulation rather than throwing out all of that valuable color.  There are two methods that we will discuss in this tutorial.

  1.   Using the traditional selective color technique but with a much-lowered Opacity.  This method will yield washed out colors, but not make the image monochromatic.
  2.   Using the HSL Adjustment Layer to selective increase or decrease the saturation of colors you choose.

Utilizing these techniques, you can create color planes in your image.  They are similar to focal planes in that the use of selective saturation will make the fully saturated area stand out more.  This technique can create a sense of depth in the image by separating the saturation levels of colors.


Blake Rudis
f.64 Academy and f.64 Elite are the brainchildren of Blake Rudis. While he is a landscape photographer, he is most passionate about post-processing images in Photoshop and mentoring others.

For Blake, it's all about the art and process synergy. He dives deep into complex topics and makes them easy to understand through his outside-the-box thinking so that you can use these tricks in your workflow today!
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