So…I’m curious about your opinion

I know, I know. I’m usually the opinionated one here.

But I have a photography related question and I know that my readers are both smart and savvy. And many of you have an aesthetic that is not to be beat!

So I’ll cut right to the heart of the matter.

I spend a fair amount of time looking at websites where amateurs with varying degrees of talent and experience post their photos.

There are some amazingly gifted photographers out there.

And…there are some amazingly gifted photoshoppers out there.

I tend to wince a little when I see photos that are lovely but are WAY post processed. It seems to be “the thing” these days to massively post process photos. So much so that I think we as photographers are losing the skill of setting up the shot on the camera.

When I mention this to fellow student photographers, everyone looks at me with a condescending smile, as though I’m the Village Idiot.

I don’t mind doing a little touch up work, a little color correction, things like that.

But the full scale photoshopping…well. I don’t know, it’s a thing for me.

But I sort of digress.

There is one particular photo treatment that bugs me. And yet intrigues me.

It is basically a photo in black and white where one color is pulled out.

Here, better to show you what I mean. This is my first attempt. I did this photo using the Colorsplash app on my iPhone and touched it up a bit using Photoshop Elements.

It’s not the finest example of the technique, but you’ll get what I mean.

Behold, my bowl of oranges, moments before they were juiced. Delicious!

I’ve seen some really well done versions of this technique, and it can create quite an emotion.

But I can’t help looking at a black and white with one color photo, especially my own, and thinking it is something akin to the old fashioned photo-in-a-brandy-snifter as far as classy effects.

Then again…it creates laser focus to one part of the photograph which can make all the difference in the viewing experience.

Perhaps I tend to lean a little too much toward conventional.

So I’m curious if I should spend some more time perfecting this effect in Photoshop (and thus may learn to love it more) or if I should move on to other lessons?

Thoughts on both sides of the argument are really, really helpful. Feel free to Google “black and white photo with one color” to look at other examples before you render a decision.

Just curious. All thoughts are useful!

Thanks in advance!

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  • Alan Macfarlane

    Interesting topic, Karen.

    I agree that the effect is leaning on the hokey end of things. When I got married, a friend of my mom had taken pictures of my reception on her own, developed the pics in b&w and then proceded to color in (with colored pencil) various objects in the pictures like a rose here and a ribbon there.

    It was a sweet and unsolicited gesture on her part, but it still gives my wife and I a giggle today.

    That "photo-in-a-brandy-snifter" got a genuine LOL from me. Classic stuff.

    Lastly, I read an interview with the guy who did the makeup for the recent "Wolfman" movie. He was talking about how today, people don't know how to set up a shot because they lean too much on "fixing things in post." So, I agree, the art of setting up the shot is being lost

  • Ken

    Umm, isn't this a hobby. Is there a photo hobbyist's rulebook somewhere? Shouldn't you (and everyone else) just do what they like and not do what they don't like?

    But I thought this was a good use of the technique:

    As parents really see the world.

  • Anonymous


    I like the new ads with pictures in b&w with only the lipstick red.

    I guess that kind of stuff is like all art. Its in the eye of the beholder.

    I have sort of evolved from extreme use of gimp to at most cropping what I think is the point of the photo. I'm working on a cms method that depends heavily on photos. Take a look: . This site is under my TV set and only has an IP addy.

    This is for me. You should do what is for you. We'll both be happy.


  • Karen Fayeth

    Ken – You are right, this is a hobby. However, the goal of any photographer, even a hobbyist, is to show their work.

    As such, I am genuinely curious about people's constructive opinion of the technique.

    And since I am personally rather conflicted about the style, I thought I'd solicit some honest thoughts.

    I like the use of the technique in the photo you linked to emphasisize "As parents really see the world." But in my opinion it only works as long as that title is attached.

    Thanks for chiming in!

  • Karen Fayeth

    Ephraim – I see what you mean, especially in the gallery of flowers from your garden. Lovely stuff!!

    Thanks for letting me know that it's an aesthetic that you don't mind. I'm honestly curious about what folks think about it. I seem to get sort of a mixed and unclear "eh, it's ok sometimes.

  • Karen Fayeth

    Alan – It's something odd about wedding that brings out the kooky and yes, hokey. It was a lovely handcrafted gift, at least! :)

    My best friend got a hand painted saw blade from one of her husband's cousins on their wedding day. It's lovely…it's just…how does one fold a saw blade into their interior decor?

    And the subject of the art and science of setting up the shot is one I've discussed at length with a well experienced teacher of one of my classes. He lamented the loss of photographers taking their time, visualizing the shot, and making adjustments. (and bracketing the shot to be sure of best light conditions). I'm learning to slow down. I have much to learn!

  • Joanna

    I'm with you, this seems to be the thing to do these days. I can see touch ups here and there but I don't like a photograph that looks fake.

  • Elise

    I wrote this loooong post on how stale/tired this technique is but how when done by someone really creative with a fresh vision and oddball eye, it's interesting and cool and compelling …

    and Blogger burped and it was gone daddy gone.

    But I can't help thinking about that old theory that there are only six good ideas–it's all about the spin. Every once in a while a real talent whose vision is so new and skewed and profound comes along that for a moment everyone believes this is idea #7.

    Bottom line, that technique is merely a tool. And it's the artist, not the tool.

  • Karen Fayeth

    Joanna – thanks for your thoughts! It seems most people I've talked with over the past day or so totally agree with you.

  • Karen Fayeth

    Elise – You make a good point. I suppose in the right hands, with the right photo, this could be an amazing technique. But in general….

    My brother sent me a photo of a young girl in the Manila "big ash pit." She's jumping up and down on a red chair. The photo, well crafted by the photographer, has a hit of this effect, but it's natural to the scene. A girl, a red chair, piles and piles of soot.

    It's a profound photo (sadly, I can't seem to find it online, I'll keep looking). But it wasn't done with effects, it was done off the camera (with some Photoshop touchup which I'm fine with).

    Your thought about there being only six good ideas. That's about five too many for Hollywood. They just keep trodding out remakes and start overs of the same old crap.

    But I digress…..

  • Ken

    I said it wrong. (And I am following up on what Elise said.)

    Photography is — or can be — art (that is, much more than a hobby).

    So, then, does the technique help convey the artist's meaning (with or without a title)? Does the technique add to the viewer's understanding of what the artist is saying?

    In the right hands, with the right photo, any technique can be amazing. Or not.

    Roger Ebert has an interesting discussion of whether or not something is art.

  • Karen Fayeth

    Art is in the eye of the beholder. And I was looking for a few opinions from a few beholders whom I both like and respect.

    I've found both in comments and email that people are generally bearish on this technique, unless as Elise and you say, it's done in a fresh way.

    So that tells me what I was seeking to know…is this a technique that people gravitate towards and thus something I might want to perfect.

    I find my gut instinct was right. I'll turn the page in my Photoshop tutorial book and keep working.

    Thanks to all who were kind enough to give me an opinion!

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