Selective Color Using Aperture 3

Many photo editors easily do selective color.  I have done it in Apple’s Aperture 3 photo editing and management system.  However, I did it the hard way.  Turns out it is very easy to do.  Lets start with a nice colorful image of some hot air balloons I photographed a few years ago at the Jamesville Balloonfest near Syracuse, New York.

People watch as hot air balloons take to the air at the Jamesville Balloonfest near Syracuse, New York.

People watch as hot air balloons take to the air at the Jamesville Balloonfest near Syracuse, New York. Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/400s, f/10, ISO 200, EV -0.3, 18mm focal length.

In Aperture 3, pull up the Inspector HUD and using the Enhance brick, move the Saturation slider all the way to the left so it reads 0.0.  This totally desaturates the color as seen below.

Color is completely desaturated after moving the Saturation slider to 0.0.

Color is completely desaturated after moving the Saturation slider to 0.0.

Now for the fun part.  Clicking on the Enhance brick’s gear menu lets us select ‘Brush Enhance away’.  Using the brush, I can now selectively remove any of the desaturated area in the image.  I choose the balloons.

Colorful balloons leaving for the Land of Oz.

Colorful balloons leaving for the Land of Oz. For Central New Yorkers, that means Chittenango, New York which is east of this location.

This took a lot less effort than the clunky way I was doing it.  Now, for those who have Aperture 3, the video below will show each of the steps I described in this post.  For those who do not have Aperture 3, check your photo editor’s manual, website, blog or user forums for how to do it. I bet it is not as hard you think.

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23 Responses to Selective Color Using Aperture 3

  1. That does sound easy! In Paintshop Pro Photo, I have to work in layers, but that’s not all that difficult either.
    I like your new header 🙂


    • I will probably get a layers editor soon. There’s tricks I have seen I could use. Aperture does 99% of what I need so I have not found it a problem at all.

      I like how the header came out using the same selective color technique. Not sure when I will get out to the track. Part of it was still under water last week!


  2. mylifeincny says:

    Hoping to get to Jamesville this year but will be out of town that Saturday. I’d love to see the balloon launch.


    • There are other New York balloon festivals throughout the year. Check Letchworth State Park, the Adirondacks and Albany.

      I am hoping to be there for the Friday night balloon glow. They did not do it last year when I was there due to weather.


  3. milkayphoto says:

    Like Michaela, I use Photoshop layers to accomplish this. What I like about layers is, the effect is controllable and easily reversible. What happens in Aperture if you discover a mistake after the fact?


    • Aperture 3 is a totally non-destructive editor. Original photo is never altered. Very easy to reverse any change or restart from the beginning. I would use a layer editor for the occasional HDR or special effects photo trick.

      One thing Aperture does not do is combine two or more photos together and then select the best from each. For example, a sky can look weird in an HDR image. I would like to drop in the sky or other objects from one of the images into the HDR. I have seen how that can be done in Photoshop.


  4. Karma says:

    I love the look of selective color and I still haven’t taken the time to learn how to do it (I have Photoshop Elements). What you’ve done here is really cool looking, and one of these days I will take the time to figure it out.


  5. kanniduba says:

    I like it…haven’t been inspired to play lately, but this I might have to try!


  6. Kathy says:

    It’s interesting that you just posted this. (synchronicity!) I looked at a photo last week in which just one item was colored and thought, “Now HOW do they do that?” A ha. Aperature 3. (Not that I have it.)


  7. truels says:

    I don’t have Aperture 3 or Photoshop – but this sounds really exciting! Scott, I love these educational posts, thank you for showing this;-)


  8. Deanna says:

    I usually use PS to do this, but I have to google a tutorial every time since I only do it every couple of months. Not you’ve got me wondering if I can do it quicker in Lightroom. It’s a good thing I’m watching a tutorial right now. Check out the last photo in this post to see one of my faves.


  9. Nye says:

    I’ve never tried this before, this does sound like fun. The paintbrush part seems like a lot of work, I guess I have to learn when you do give this as an assignment. 🙂


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  12. Photo Girl says:

    The last one really makes the balloon stand out, some brilliant tips here!


  13. Suman says:

    Thanks, this works for me via – Aperature 3.x


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