Let's think back to the original purpose of using selective color.
The purpose of selective coloring is to evoke emotion toward a certain element in an image that would otherwise go unnoticed. For example: The most moving image in Steven Spielberg's epic Schindler's List is the little girl in the red coat, one of only four color images in the three-hour black and white film. Our attention is drawn to the little blonde tot, overlooked by the Nazi troops, who wanders alone amid the horror and panic. She is wearing a red coat which draws the viewer to her even when she is but one of a hundred people in a wide shot.
Here is a link to that scene if you haven't seen it. It is chilling! GIRL IN RED COAT
So when is selective coloring mis-used and why is it such a no-no in the industry today? Selective coloring is most poinent when it evokes emotion that would otherwise go unnoticed. So, selective coloring is mis-used when it's intention is to draw attention to color and NOT emotion or worse yet distracts from the emotion in the image.
For example: If you photograph an image of a bride and groom kissing and keep everything in B&W except for the flowers that the bride is holding...THAT would be improper use of selective color. Why? Because now the attention is drawn to the flowers and not the emotion that the bride and groom have for each other. Really, the flowers were NEVER the focus of the image...and now they are a distraction.
Images will touch and move each person differently, so again...beauty, or shall I say heartfelt emotion, is in the eye of the beholder.
I have not personally used selective color in years and years. There has not been one single image that has called for it. I have had clients ask me if I do selective coloring, and I tell them "I can...but will only do it if the image creatively and emotionally calls for it". Will I loose that client? Maybe, hopefully not. I never have. I am committed to providing my clients with images that will evoke emotion and stand the test of time. The Schindler's List little girl in the red coat will always send chills up my spine and will forever give me deep seeded emotion over the travesty that happened. If I use selective color it will only be to evoke emotion that will otherwise go unnoticed.
That brings me to today. Today I used selective color on an image. First time in at least 7-8 years. This past weekend I flew to Kentucky to photograph a very special family. One of my best friends, Tammy Young, had her second little sweetheart and asked if I would come out to take the newborn portraits. Tammy is a very talented photographer herself and so we had a blast spending time together and molding this sweet new one onto our creative canvas!
Weeks before delivering little Amelia Love Young, Tammy's father, Wendell Renner, passed away. Tammy had a wonderful close bond with her daddy. Her father was an amazing man who loved Jesus with his whole heart and dedicated his life to proclaiming how great our God truly is. Heaven is going to be a wonderful family reunion.
Whenever Mr. Renner and his sweet wife would face trials in this life, God would somehow send them a little bird to admire and to remind them not to worry.
The bible says, "Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable then they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?" Matthew 6:26
Tammy had seen an image on my website of a sweet baby newborn nestled in a birds nest. She asked if we could re-create that image with her little Amelia Love. When I was setting up the image, she asked if I could add a small red bird to the nest in honor of her Daddy. The red bird was special to her Mother and Father and was placed on her Daddy's casket at his funeral as a reminder to his family...that God's promises will always remain true. Do not worry, He WILL take care of you! God loves us and if we are His...He will reunite us in Heaven someday.
Here is the same image all in Black and white:
With the entire image in B&W or in all color, the red bird goes unnoticed and so does what it signifies. By using selective color, Tammy's family will forever be drawn to the powerful message that the bird carries. "Who of you, by worrying, can add a single hour to your life?"