Five Photo Dilemmas & One Simple Solution

Have you ever started working on a layout and something’s off? The colors in the photos are clashing with each other or maybe they are clashing with your products. Do you abandon the layout because you can’t make it work? Most of us would.

Instead, you might be able to go with your original plan if you adjust your photos to black and white images. Here are five common common issues when it comes to photos and our layouts:

1. The colors in your photos clash with the products you want to use

This is perhaps the reason we are all most familiar with. You have some fun pattern paper that would look awesome with the subject of your photos, but when you put the photos down on the paper, it doesn’t work.  If your heart is set on using the papers, turning your photos to black and white should solve your problem.

2. Creating a focal point photo

If you want to include several photos of the same subject that all look similar, try printing several photos in black and white and one photo from the group in color. When you arrange them together on your page, your eye is instantly drawn to the color photo. The black and white photos in this scenario act to support the focal point color photo, like in this layout from Lisa Dickinson in the Two Peas gallery Lisa Dickinson.

3. Combining photos from different time periods

Whether they are photos from the 70’s or photos of your daughter wearing different outfits, sometimes the colors in one photo may clash with the colors in another photo you want to use on the same layout.  You could try and find a pattern paper that will bridge them together. Or, you could just turn your photos to black and white and they will automatically coordinate. Take these three photos:

The photo on the left is from the early 70’s. Check out that lovely green carpet and my brother’s red pants. In the middle photo, there is a strange blue hue. In the photo on the right, all I see is the purple recliner in the background. These were the three photos I needed to use to tell a particular story. I scanned them (they were all film photos) and turned each photo to black and white. And actually, once I selected my products, I realized sepia tone would work better so I changed them again. But the idea is still the same. Black and white (or a sepia tone) will equalize all the photos if all the colors are clashing. Here was the end result:

Layout created in 2006.

4. Skin imperfections

Blemishes and skin irritations (scrapes and cuts) often show up in our photos. You can spend hours trying to remove them with advanced photo editing techniques…or just remove the color altogether. When the color disappears, it will bring much less attention to the spots in question, leaving you to focus on the rest of your layout.

For example, here is a photo of my cute nephew a few years ago:

In the color photo, the orange in his shirt makes his cheeks look super rosy red and he’s got a scratch on his forehead. If you don’t know advanced photo techniques and how to tone down color channels, reduce saturation and erase the scrape, printing as is gives you an image that might be hard to work with (even though he is adorable and scrapes and skin issues are part of life). When you turn the photo to black and white, all the imperfections disappear.

5. Make the colors in your layout pop

Sometimes, it’s all about the products. If you want colorful products to be a focus on your layout, use black and white photos with either a white cardstock or black cardstock background. The colors will pop right off the page.

Layout created in 2010.

There are many different programs and ways to turn digital color photos to black and white. I use Photoshop Elements myself and if you are looking for a great tutorial to walk you through the process, Digital Photography School has a good adjustable tutorial here and another one using gradient maps here.

Don’t have a photo editing program on your computer? Try Picasa, a free Google download. Within the software, when you bring up a photo you want to edit you can click on the effects tab and choose one of the black and white effects.

Or try, an online photo editor. You upload your photos online, make changes with their software and then save the photo as a new file back on your computer. I was able to get a nice black and white image by choosing desaturate under the adjustment menu and then adjusting the brightness and contrast sliders under the adjustment menu. Pixlr also offers many fun vintage and retro effects that are so popular right now.

The next time you have a photo dilemma you don’t know how to fix, try turning your photo to black and white. It may be the answer that easily solves your problem and saves a great layout.

Thanks for stopping by today!


  1. Yes! Black and White photos can be so flattering and the perfect fix.
    Love the layout! The colors do indeed really pop. Love those leafs!

  2. great tips tammy! i love the look of the black and white photos! great layout!

  3. Great suggestions Tammy. I think I’ve only done this once maybe because I tend to work with the photos I have printed. I’ve recently started sorting some old photos though & this might be a solution once I get some connections.

  4. I love monotone color photos! My current fav uses blue/white in snow so that the ski jackets don’t clash! Great Layouts…esp love the family one! Thanks as always for sharing!!!-Amanda

  5. These are great tips! I love how you started with black and white in the first layout and then switched it up to sepia. I always seem to forget about sepia!

  6. Yup yup, B/W can save so many photos! Not just poor lighting, but messy background too, which is very applicable for my messy house haha.

  7. Great tips Tammy.
    I love that layout with your nephews, it is gorgeous.


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