How to Use Selective Color Editing in Apple Photos

The latest version of Apple Photos has added some powerful editing tools. One of the most useful is Selective Color. It lets you select a single, precise color and change it. You may need to do this when you lighting is off, or when colors just don’t look right. (Though you should try adjusting white balance first, if you think the lighting is incorrect.)

To show you how this works, I’m going to use a photo that has a very strong, colorful subject. Here is the photo in the Photos interface in Edit mode.

Selective color1

As you can see to the right of the photo, I’ve opened the Selective Color tool by clicking on the disclosure triangle to the left of its name. To adjust a color, click one of the six color buttons, then move the sliders below. Hue is the actual color itself, such as taking a greenish blue and making it bluer, or changing a yellow to look more or less orange. Saturation adjusts the intensity of the color. And range is how much related colors are affected; a higher range affects a wider band of colors.

Here’s on example of using selective color. I wanted to bring out the blue sky, so I clicked the dark blue button and adjusted the hue and saturation.

Selective color2

The color isn’t perfect; I’ve slightly exaggerated it so it shows up better in this screenshot.

You can use more precise color selection. Click the eyedropper tool, then click on the color you want to change. Then apply hue, saturation, and range settings by moving their sliders. Here’s an example; I selected the red mailbox and, well, changed it a bit.

Selective color3

If you look at the above photo and compare it to the first one, you’ll notice that the road on the right has taken on a different color. It’s not a strong change, but there is some red in the road. Selective color affects all instances of a color in a photo, so you may find that altering a color in one area affects colors in other areas. For example, if you change the sky to make it bluer, this may also make the rest of the photo bluer. It’s best to use the eyedropper for more precise changes, and limit the range. But with a bit of work, you can get better colors on your photos where the colors don’t like quite right.