Primary Colours

Some examples of selective desaturation for artistic effect. All photos taken with the good ol’ Kodak V1003 and processed in GIMP by turning down saturation on all but the intended colour.


It is interesting to note that in “Red” some brown and orange tones were retained, because they are a form of red.


This is my favourite. The old (’69 or so) GMC bus abandoned to use as a storage facility and looking forlorn indeed. There is some residue of colour in the weeds in front of it of course.


Here a couple of abandoned water pressure tanks lay in the weeds awaiting eventual recycling. This one brings up the issue of just what colours can be eliminated this way: the green of the small pine sapling is completely gone. Trying to retain green is another matter, as green is often not green but yellow and blue (or rather cyan in the weird world of photo colours) put together. Thus removing the yellow and/or cyan/blue results in a loss of green tones that you may prefer to keep.

This shows up in processing other colours too, if they are comprised of blending two tones. Sometimes removing the colours doesn’t make any noticeable difference:


In the second version magenta, cyan, and yes green have been removed. It’s hard to tell the difference, isn’t it? On a more complex pallet the secondary colours have more effect.

If you set out to do this yourself, you have to keep in mind what primary colours are in the image and try to envision what it will look like with some removed. Some cameras, by the way, have the ability to do this single-colour rendering within them. It is usually buried deep in the menu system, and of course shooting that way initially means eliminating any ‘normal’ version of the picture which might look better (although sometimes this is an in-camera post-shoot processing which retains the original; check your manual carefully).

4 thoughts on “Primary Colours

  1. What color mode does this camera use? For instance rgb or srgb or cmyk? I can see greens in the lower photos, but obviously your camera or the post-processing is not interpreting them as such. There certainly is a lot of yellow – but there is also green. Or at least, I can see green. I’m not a photographer but as am used to working with colour in Photoshop (I use elements, it’s cheaper than the full program). Oh, and I’ve tried GIMP and not been particularly successful with it.

    It’s certainly interesting.

    I rarely do partial desats on colour photos, but when I do I tend to leave a little colour as I really don’t like the type of black and white that an auto desat achieves.


    1. This old Kodak uses sRGB. I don’t see greens in any of the images, but as I’m always explaining to people we don’t get to see digital pictures the same way; differences in the display, viewing program, and even our own eyesight changes things! Hey if we were looking at prints it would matter what the light source was, right?
      As a rule I don’t do much post-processing. In fact I’d never done so much before I started writing this blog and trying to explain/demonstrate aspects of photography. That’s why I use GIMP; no big investment for the little amount it gets used.
      You are right about B&W; shot as such in the camera invariably has more contrast to it than processed desaturation. And yes sometimes “low colour” works better than monochrome of “full colour”. It all depends on what “feel” you’re going for.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I just realized you mean the pictures with the logs both show green. Yes, despite the fact ‘green’ was one of the colours ‘removed’ from the second picture you still see green because yellow and blue were not removed and sometimes the shades of green are from the composite of these two primary colours rather than ‘green itself’ as defined by the computer.

      Liked by 1 person

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