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How to Highlight Colours in Black and White Photos With Aperture

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Being able to isolate and edit specific colour ranges is one of the great features of Aperture, allowing for some colourful effects within photos. Whether you're wanting to change the colour of a flower or have a coloured element on a black-and-white backdrop, these types of effects can be quickly and easily achieved within Aperture, Apple's professional photo editing and management app. In this tutorial and screencast, I'll show you how to recreate these types of effects with ease so that you can create your own masterpieces in no-time.


Screencast



How to Highlight Colours in Black and White Photos With Aperture

Partial Colour

A photographic process that has spawned a number of well-known iOS apps, such as Color Splash, is having a black and white photo with certain elements retaining their colour.

This particular effect of adding colour to a black & white photo is very popular.
This particular effect of adding colour to a black & white photo is very popular.

It's a very popular effect and one that can be easily done within Aperture, while the advanced functionality of Apple's pro photo software provides an additional level of control and customisation.

Step 1

First of all, find a suitable photo that you think might be best suited for the process. As you've seen above, I have chosen a photo I took of some flowers. As flowers come in all different shapes, sizes and colours, they're an ideal subject to photo when wanting to perform this effect.

Here is a photo that I've taken of some flowers that I'll be using.
Here is a photo that I've taken of some flowers that I'll be using.

Step 2

Open the Adjustments tab within the sidebar of Aperture. I'd also recommend changing the view so that you aren't seeing any preview thumbnails. You can do this using the buttons at the top-right of the toolbar, but I find it easier just to cycle through the view options simply by pressing the V key.

Adjustments can be added from the "Adjustments" drop-down menu.
Adjustments can be added from the "Adjustments" drop-down menu.

Step 3

Click Add Adjustment and select Black & White. A new adjustments panel will appear and your image will now be shown as black and white. Aperture's Black & White adjustment is powerful as you can alter the "colour" of the light that it processes with. Traditionally, black and white photographers often use coloured gels in front of the lens as the different colour light produces different lighting effects when processed as black and white. To best understand it, try changing some of the RGB sliders that are now available and you'll get an idea of how Black & White photography goes way beyond simply desaturating an image.

Step 4

Now we have our photo in black and white, it's time to bring in some colour. In this photo, I intend to retain the colour of the flower heads while keeping the remaining image as it is.

Aperture provides a way of "brushing" adjustments in or away. In this instance, we want to brush away the Black & White effect. Click on the small cog icon within the Black & WHite adjustments panel and select Brush Black & White away.

Adjustments can be "brushed in" or "brushed away", depending on the need.
Adjustments can be "brushed in" or "brushed away", depending on the need.

The cursor will now appear as a precision tool, with a floating panel that includes some functions. This floating panel is our brush options and we can set the softness of the brush, as well as if we want to brush the effect in (add Black & White) or brush it away (remove Black & White). The latter is denoted by an eraser icon.

A floating panel provides control over the brush tool.
A floating panel provides control over the brush tool.

Using the option we just chose, begin to draw on the area you want to bring colour back to. You'll see that the colour starts appearing immediately wherever we brush. Don't worry about being too exact and trying to keep within the lines, Aperture offers a useful function called Detect Edges that automatically figures out if your brush is straying over any edges of the element you're editing so that it keeps it within the lines.

As soon as you start brushing the adjustment away, the colour re-appears.
As soon as you start brushing the adjustment away, the colour re-appears.

Continue doing this until you've brought the elements back to full colour.

Step 5

In the photo I have here, there is a flower head just out of focus and behind the more prominent central one. I'd still like to bring it back to colour but not as vibrant as the ones I have just completed. To only bring back some colour, I'm reducing the strength to about 0.4, keeping most of the black and white effect in place but just showing enough colour to come through.

Here is our finished photo.
Here is our finished photo.

Step 6

With the final flower heads complete, our image is now finished. With a few quick options and some rough brushing, we have a striking black & white image with a single colour element coming through.

Now we'll remove the Black & White effect and I'll show you how to edit specific colours within an entire image. To remove the adjustment, click the cog icon on the adjustments panel and select Remove Adjustment.


Changing Colours

Another popular effect is changing one specific colour within a photo to another. Keeping with the flowers photo, I'll be changing their colour whilst keeping the rest of the photo untouched.

Can you believe this is the same photo?
Can you believe this is the same photo?

Step 1

With the Black & White adjustments removed, select Adjustments > Color.

Within this new adjustments panel, we can select a number of different colours and change their appearance, from saturation to hue. As the panel includes a default set of colours, let's make it more specific to our photo.

The Color adjustments are within the same Adjustments menu we used earlier.
The Color adjustments are within the same Adjustments menu we used earlier.

Step 2

Select the colour that closest matches the colour of the element you wish to change. In this photo, I'll select yellow. Then, select the Color Picker and use it to sample the exact colour of the element. Again, I'll be sampling the colour of the flower head.

Picking an exact colour will allow the effect to work much better.
Picking an exact colour will allow the effect to work much better.

To provide as much accuracy as possible, the Loupe tool will open automatically, allowing you to be as exact as possible.

Tip: You can open up the Loupe tool at any time by pressing the ~ key.

Step 3

Let the fun begin! First off, adjust the Saturation and you'll see that the colour disappears, leaving just a greyscale appearance but without the rest of the image being affected.

Here is the photo after we change the saturation.
Here is the photo after we change the saturation.

After changing a few of the different sliders, I've been able to change my yellow flowers into white ones. I have noticed, however, that there are some yellow flowers in the background, out of focus, that are changing with it. I don't want these to change in any way so we can use the same process as we did previously to brush adjustments away.

Select the cog icon and then click on Brush Color away. I've enlarged the precision tool since I don't need to worry about being exact and have simply, and quickly, brushed the adjustment away so it won't apply to the background.

Step 4

You can achieve some amazing effects simply by altering some of the sliders within the adjustments panel. By changing the Hue, Saturation and Luminance, I can change these flowers into almost any colour I want. The following example was also created using simply this one adjustment tool.

We can get some fantastic colours without altering the rest of the photo.
We can get some fantastic colours without altering the rest of the photo.

Conclusion

With iPhoto being available on almost every Mac, Aperture is often overlooked due to its cost and relatively high system requirements. For budding photographers, however, it is a great tool that I've been using for many years and still find myself using whenever I want to do more than simply remove some red-eye or apply a filter to a photo.

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