Learn the Easy Way to Eliminate Unwanted Colors in Your Photos

When you’re photographing outdoors—and especially in the city—you can often end up with chaotic colors in your pictures. And someday you might end up for example photographing an athlete for a sponsor… and their uniform shows other sponsors’ logos. What’s the solution? Actually, it’s simple.

Quite often a photo will turn out to contain a lot of colors that are a poor fit for its composition. How can you deal with them? Should you retouch them away? That doesn’t always work. Retouching can leave behind distracting color streaks, drawing your audience’s eyes away from the photo’s actual subject.

Colors Are Everywhere Around Us

We notice colors more in photos than we do in day-to-day life. That’s because with a photo, we’re looking at a static image—constant and unchanging. So the colors stand out much more. Photos with color problems are simple to fix. You just have to selectively desaturate them—but not all the way out to black and white, since that could ruin the whole picture. We’ll show you how to do this in Zoner Photo Studio. We’ll be making use of two tools: Quick Edits and the Selection Brush.  With some real-world examples, we’ll illustrate how desaturating a selected area in an image can improve that image.

At first glance this photo is basically OK. But the window frame stands out too much. We’ll adjust it a little.

At first glance this photo is basically OK. But the window frame stands out too much. We’ll adjust it a little.

The portrait after our edits. Desaturating the window frame hasn’t made the picture any less dramatic. In fact, it’s amplified the atmosphere.

The portrait after our edits. Desaturating the window frame hasn’t made the picture any less dramatic. In fact, it’s amplified the atmosphere.

You’re taking a portrait and everything is color-coordinated, but there’s advertising in the background that’s disrupting the photo’s overall mood. What’s the solution? You can’t retouch away the advertising, but you can suppress its colors, to bring your audience’s eyes back to the subject.

This shot was taken in the city. It includes a lot of distracting “junk” colors.

This shot was taken in the city. It includes a lot of distracting “junk” colors.

This photo is much better-looking and easier to “read” after some mild local desaturation.

This photo is much better-looking and easier to “read” after some mild local desaturation.

Another situation that can come up is that you’re photographing an athlete for their sponsor, but their outfit is covered with other sponsors’ logos. The solution? Locally desaturate the colors in the other logos, leaving only your client’s logo fully saturated.

All of the sponsors’ logos are fully saturated.

All of the sponsors’ logos are fully saturated.

This version is focused only on certain specific sponsors.

This version is focused only on certain specific sponsors.

What Are the Steps?

Start Zoner Photo Studio and open up the picture you want to edit in the Editor. Then activate Quick Edits (by clicking its button in the right panel or pressing Q), and then reduce the Saturation (by about 60%—but it always depends on the specific photo). Use the Selection Brush (Shift+Q) to set which places are desaturated. Set up the Brush so that it isn’t excessively sharp around the outside of the circle. In other words, give it some Blur. That gives a smooth transition between the edited and the unedited parts of the picture, making your edits harder to notice. (For more on this subject, see our article on selections).

Settings in ZPS 18.

Settings in ZPS 18.

Work with the Selection Brush in ZPS.

Work with the Selection Brush in ZPS.

This trick is very simple, and yet most people looking at the edited photo won’t even suspect that it didn’t look like that from the start. Meanwhile, they’ll have an easier time understanding the picture, because they’ll know where to look. And all this thanks to just a little local desaturation.

Do you need to get rid of unwanted colors in your photos? Download Zoner Photo Studio, check it out for 30 days for free.

 

Last updated 10. August 2016

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Author: Majo Elias

I’ve been taking pictures since 2004. When I was starting out, I photographed almost everything. Later my style solidified and I began photographing people almost exclusively. At the moment my main genres are fashion and advertising.

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Comments

  • phids

    Why would you not just use the magic wand tool and desaturate that way? Or use the color shift option if working with a raw file (assuming the color is unique)?

    • Zoner

      It is also the possibility, but it may happen that you want to desaturate the particular color just in a part of the picture. There is never a right or wrong tool, the best results are achieved by combining them.