Vasona’s Tree of Life – Selective Color How-To

Welcome back!
First off, thank you for all the awesome comments lately!  I really appreciate them!  I leave in about a week and a half for Asia (starting in South Korea) and look forward to sharing my images and stories and continuing to interact with all of you!

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Today I wanted to share a before and after photo from this past week in Northern California and give you a step by step of how I got there.  While visiting relatives for Thanksgiving, we decided to take a little detour to Vasona Lake in Los Gatos to catch the sunset.  I found myself hypnotized by this one yellow tree.  The way the sun’s light was illuminating it was fantastic.  I patiently waited while a couple of families snapped portraits under it and then swept in for my own photo session.

The Moon was perfectly situated in the middle left of the frame, cupped by the silhouetted background trees.  When you compare the two photos below, the vivid hues in the second photo are the same ones I captured in the original – Yea, it was that bright and beautiful.

Let’s jump in to the process.
So, after some initial adjustments in Lightroom (contrast, lighting, lens profile, reducing chromatic aberration, white balance), I exported it to Nik’s Silver Efex Pro.

Selective coloring in Silver Efex Pro couldn’t be easier.  First, after you import the image in to the program, you will see the intro screen, filters on the left, image in the middle, and sliders on the right.  The best way to gain proficiency at using this software (or any software for that matter) is to just play around with it.  Here is what we are working with:

First, you might want to go through the filters on the left (I usually just use the top default and make manual adjustments with the sliders to the upper right).  Assuming you will make your own adjustments or just use one of the presets, we will jump right in to selective coloring.
On the right side where it says “Selective Adjustments“, click on “Add Control Point“:

When you click “Add Control Point“, your cursor will turn in to a cross hair.  Move that cross hair to the color you want to keep somewhere on the image.  When you click the mouse a new group of settings will come up.

First thing to do is set the size of your selective “bubble”, the first slider on the top.  You can move the bottom slider to the right (“SC”).  This way you can see the scope and range of your current selected color.  Try moving the selector around and see how the selected color changes.  Make sense?

See it now?  Depending on the size of your circle, more or less of the complete image will begin to resemble your final goal.  Keep adding the selective color with more control points to eventually cover the entire area.  *If you are only trying to selectively color a small part of the image, one control point may be sufficient.  After the entire tree is done, this is what it will like:

As you can see, the image isn’t perfect yet… So, now that you have a good base, export it back in to Lightroom.

Now its time to finely tune the image.  (This can be done easier in Photoshop and other programs, but I like to do it manually so I have more control).  First, I take down all the colors I don’t need with the sliders on the right.  You can see that I just left the red, yellow, orange, and a little purple/violet active, while getting rid of the other tones:

Now that we tossed out some unneeded colors, its time to get in there and manually remover the rest.  On the top of the slider column, select the paintbrush tool.  When the paintbrush sliders pop down, keep everything at zero except the saturation tool.  Move that all the way to the left.  Also, switch you paintbrush type to “B”, which will get rid of the feather.  This is what my paintbrush settings look like:

All set?  OK, now comes the agonizing part.  Go over the image and begin painting out the unwanted color, essentially painting around the tree.  I included the leaves that were falling and the ones on the ground as well.

You see how the background tree begins to fade in to the mono…?  Now go around the entire image and paint out the unwanted color.  This becomes a bit tedious, but I choose to do it this way because it gives me more control over what I actually color and what fades away.

Once yow get the image looking how you want it, make any final adjustments you want, clean off dust spots, and you are done!  I like to sharpen all of my photos in Nik’s Sharpener Pro, but that is not necessary if you don’t want to.  I find it does a significantly better job than Lightroom in the sharpening department.

Below you can see my before and after photo.  You can save 15% off of Nik’s Silver Efex Pro by accessing Nik’s website here!  You can even try before you buy to make sure you like it – which you probably will.

Thanks for visiting!  Don’t forget to pick up a copy of Nik’s Silver Efex Pro here!

I’d love to hear your thoughts!


  1. Did something very similar to this recently as well – my trees were orange though and I did everything pretty much from lightroom, but your photo is definitely cooler than mine. Nice work!

  2. LensScaper says:

    Thanks a lot for that tutorial and…what a fantastic final shot, Adam. Congrats on your vision to see what was possible and achieving it.

  3. ken bello says:

    Excellent tutorial and a great shot for selective color as well. Nice work!!!

  4. Beautiful image Adam, love the golden color. Thanks for the tutorial in Silver Efex pro. It always nice to see others work flow.

  5. Edith Levy says:

    Great job on this Adam. I love the final image and thanks for the tutorial.

  6. Mark says:

    Really nice job Adam, great tutorial, I will have to give it a go.

  7. […] Vasona’s Tree of Life – Selective Color How-To – selective color in an image can be an extremely powerful tool to convey an expression to a viewer.  Adam Allegro shows us step-by-step the process he went through to create a stunning landscape photograph that uses selective coloring to make a tree stand out. […]

  8. Hey Adam, wow, this image sure has a lot of impact! I have never been much into selective colour but I think I might have to try it now that I have seen this. I never thought of using Nik Silver either and I like how you presented your whole process. Excellent tutorial. Thanks!

  9. […] Vasona’s Tree of Life – Selective Color How-To – selective color in an image can be an extremely powerful tool to convey an expression to a viewer.  Adam Allegro shows us step-by-step the process he went through to create a stunning landscape photograph that uses selective coloring to make a tree stand out. […]

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Vasona’s Tree of Life – Selective Color How-To Vasona’s Tree of Life – Selective Color How-To Vasona’s Tree of Life – Selective Color How-To Vasona’s Tree of Life – Selective Color How-To Vasona’s Tree of Life – Selective Color How-To
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