Being Selective about Selective Colour
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Photography Blog by Duncan Holmes

Being Selective about Selective Colour

Weddings, though steeped in tradition, will often be subject to fashions and fads. If you think back to the seventies and all the vaseline soft focus wedding shots, with tobacco smoke vignettes you can probably notice the marked difference to today's pictures.
 
The advent of the digital age triggered a new fashion, that of selective colouration. Something that was relegated to the fringe back in the film days. Selective colouration is where you take some element of your picture and leave it in colour, while converting the rest to monochrome black and white. A simple example of this is the strawberry in this linked shot
 
Or in my slightly more macabre picture below from the Glasgow Zombie walk a few years ago. The subject here had taken such amazing efforts with their McDeath outfit, it seemed a shame not to highlight it and the background of park and people was quite distracting. The selective approach also allowed me to saturate the greens and yellows to enhance her deathly colours.
 
So this fashion in photography is still with us, lots of photographers throwing in a black and white shot or two, with the bouquet or other details highlighted in colour.
 
Used well, it can be an interesting tool to apply to some shots, used badly it throws out the composition of the shot, throwing the attention away from the main subjects as the eye is inevitably attracted to the splash of colour in the image. It has also been used so much now that it has become a bit of a cliche.
 
In this linked example the brightest item is the groom's tie. Why? Even the bride's flowers are relegated to a deeper red, so instead of us focussing on the happy laughing couple, we are drawn to the tie, the grooms laugh, maybe down to the bouquet and then finally, if we spend enough time looking, at the bride.
 
In this other example, the bride and groom are kissing, the gossipping bridesmaids are a nice touch too, but what do we see,first, the dresses of the bridesmaids, their actvity, the bouquet down at the bride's waist and then the couple kissing. Perhaps it was done in this instance to hide the bits of heads and faces and busy background, but has the photographer selected the parts to put in colour to tell the story or because in black and white alone, everything got lost in the mass of people, with too much going on.
 
Emphasising the subjectivity of such things, this exampleis one where I would argue the use of selective colour has been done well, the bride looking up at her bouquet makes it the centre of attention, the colour emphasises this and the bride and groom are still very much in view and attention grabbing dominating the frame and set against a simple unobtrusive background. Even the groom's splash of colour balances things and helps us to remember the bride and groom and not be too distracted by the flowers.
 
In this final example the bridesmaids and their dresses are what first grab our attention, then perhaps the gentlemen's ties, leaving the bride, in her white dress and colourless. The image almost works, thanks to the composition and the separation of the couples from each other, to give each their own space.
 
Now photography is subjective, just because I find selective colour in wedding photographs to be a bit of a cliche, sometimes not thought through and often overdone, doesn't mean that everybody does. My comments on the above images are very much from my perspective and you might look at them and wonder what's bugging me about them. There are some amazing examples of it being used well, selectively and most importantly because it improves or enhances out perception of the final image. In my subjective view, I prefer to avoid the technique for the most part, preferring to try and use composition techniques, placing of the subjects in the frame and a few other tricks to try and get the picture to work as it should. Does this make me a better photographer, not really, just someone with their own approach to things.
 
This is also reflected in a lot of my photography, except where the shoot requires it, I prefer to err towards the natural, the human, the fun side of things. Digital trickery has its place, and I'm not adverse to dipping into the pallette of digital techniques if required, but it can never make a bad photo a good one.
 
And if, having read this, you decided that you still want that selective colour picture of the bouquet at the wedding, well I can do that too...only protesting when it won't give you a better picture.
 
Fashions come and go in photography, in clothes, in music and in art. Love can be forever and that's what wedding photgraphy is about, providing a glimpse of a past moment that a commitment was made, that is now part of your present and may well be your future.
 
Your wedding photographs are being taken to caputre the beauty, the love and the fun of your wedding day. They tell a story that you will be able to show to friends and family for years to come.
 

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