Selective Colour in Black & White Images

June 26th, 2012

We have all seen the selective use of colour in images and are grabbed by the red double-decker bus shown in London against the black and white back ground.  Or the shot of a colourful bicycle leaning up against a rail in front of a B&W European scene.  Recently, I have started to do a little experimenting with this concept myself and have looked back at a few of my past images to see if there were any that would fit the bill.

Old black and white whiskey barrels are around the window reflection of a new colourful day in Black Creek Pioneer Village in Toronto. (Ian C Whitworth)

In this image at Black Creek Pioneer Village in Toronto, I had captured the reflection of the sky in the window behind the old whiskey barrels.

As I looked through my archives for candidates there were a few shots that showed some potential.  I looked for images that showed good black and white potential, but still had one element that could be effective being left with the original colour in place.

An Italian flag moving the the breeze in a street view with window shutters (Ian C Whitworth)

Capturing some movement in the Italian flag in this Florence street shot, the flag colours looked like an opportunity against the faded walls and window shutters.

Looking up at the clock tower of the Wrigley Building in Chicago in B&W. (Ian C Whitworth)

Staying with the flag theme, here is a shot of the Wrigley Building clock tower in Chicago.  The image works quite well in black and white and I kept the US flag in colour for the effect.

A view down a Vatican hallway in Rome in black and white with a hint of colour in the main light. (Ian C Whitworth)


In this image of a hallway in the Vatican, I went with the subtle approach of keeping the colour in the main light and lights in the lower hallway.

On a recent local photo excursion down to Bronte Harbour in Oakville, I found a newly created option that I could capture.  They had just freshly painted the frames on the benches with a vibrant blue and this made for a great contrast against the weathered original wood.  Shown below is a comparison between the selective colour image and the original full colour version.

Keeping the blue frame on the Bronte Harbour bench in B&W (Ian C Whitworth)   Bronte Harbour bench in Oakville with a interesting sky in the background (Ian C Whitworth)

So in closing, there are many ways to incorporate this effect into your images.  It comes down to finding the right image opportunity and personal preference on the desired outcome.  Good luck on your future photo image editing and be sure to give the selective colour option a try within your favourite software package.

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