enter image description here

The foreground is color (although very low contrast), and the background appears to be B&W. Can this be done during shoting, or only during post-processing?

I notice there is a greenish/bluish tint to a box in the background (just above the model's shoulder), and a red tint to some equipment directly behind her (mostly visible below her chin) which makes me think it's not a post-production effect. So how can this shot be set up?

  • \$\begingroup\$ This looks like a really soft desaturation brush, or mask, just loosly done around the model. As far as I know, this is definitely post processing. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 28, 2012 at 22:57

3 Answers 3


In this case I'm certain it's been done in post-processing: the background is too desaturated to look natural, regardless of the ambient light conditions. It's very easily done in post-processing: I've described a couple of techniques for Lightroom in this answer. They'll also explain how those touches of colour could have been left in the background while the rest is practically black and white.

You could get a result very close to this without post-processing though: it's all about white balance. The blowtorch is providing a very warm (i.e. yellowy/orangey) light source in the foreground. If the rest of the scene were lit by a cooler (bluer) light source (e.g. natural evening light) then you'd get something very similar to this if your white balance was set to target the foreground tones.

You can take the same principle even further by getting creative using remote-triggered flashguns and gels. Gels are just pieces of coloured plastic film that can be taped over the end of the flash to adjust its colour temperature (or change its hue completely). If you imagine a scene like this, but without the blowtorch providing a naturally warm light source, you could use an orange-gelled flash on your subject and blue-gelled flashes on the background to produce a very similar look.

Again, though, the background would be slightly blueish and would need some work in post-processing to completely desaturate it as above. However, for my money a more natural, cooler tone in the background would improve the shot considerably: too harsh a difference between saturated and desaturated areas always makes a shot look obviously artificial.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, my guess would be that he has utilised the considerable difference in colour temperature of the two major light sources and used post processing to desaturate the relatively blue tones. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 28, 2012 at 23:20

While this was very probably done with post processing something approaching this could be done in-camera if you really really had to. A few props and a good advance idea of what you were trying to achieve should allow a reasonably good result. Careful use of inverse-square light drop-off in conjunction with close placement of illumination sources would help greatly.

At a minimum, careful use of multiple light sources (maybe a few sources plus shields and masks) to keep light falling only where desired.

A great help would be to use sources as close to the subject as possible so that the illumination level could be kept low to obtain the subjec lighting while minimising the effec on the background. Inverse square level fall off is your great friend here. If subject and background are equally distant then both are equally illuminated.
At say 2 meres and 3 metres the difference = 2 sqyared : 3 squared = 4:9 = 44% level on back ground compared to subject.
At 1M:3M its 1:9 = 11%
At 500mm : 4m its 1:64 ~= 1.5% on background compared to foreground !!!!

SO - If you can arrange

  • JUST off camera lighting - say variable brightness warm white or semi coloured LED lamps.

  • light directed only where wanted by shading/snoots/ subject acting as shield.

  • Maximising distance to illuminated background objects.

Then you could obtain an effect similar to this.
Effort and equipment need not be very hard or expensive once you work out what is needed.

Question: Where do you find this gem? How do I persuade MY wife (or daughter) to help with maintenance and welding on MY cars ?

  • \$\begingroup\$ A friend on facebook shared it. It originally came from here, it seems: facebook.com/legendaryspeed \$\endgroup\$
    – Flimzy
    Mar 29, 2012 at 4:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ I have no idea where they found the model, though :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Flimzy
    Mar 29, 2012 at 5:07

I don't see how it can be done in camera unless you set up a bunch of monochromatic objects in a studio. Sure it can be done but may be more difficult than handling it in post. To me this is likely one of two things: a very well done composite image or selective black and white in the background.


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