Adding colour to historical photos

It’s fascinating just what a difference it makes when you add colour to old photos. In many cases it takes away the impression that the images were captured in another time.

“Photo colorization isn’t just coloring within the lines — it requires meticulous research to make sure that every detail is historically accurate. The color of military uniforms, signs, vehicles, and world fashion spanning decades needs to be accounted for before even opening digital software like Photoshop. That means digging through sources like diaries, government records, old advertisements, and even consulting historical experts to get the colors right.

“But even after the arduous research, restoration, and blending of color, the image still isn’t finished. In order to achieve true photorealism, the physics of how light works in the atmosphere needs to be taken into account. Colors look different depending on the lighting conditions when the photo was taken, so artists rely on shadows and the location of light to make an educated guess about the time of day in a black-and-white photo.”

German panther tank, Normandy, 1944Three French boys looking at a knocked-out German panther tank, Normandy, 1944.

German panther tank, Normandy, 1944Coloured by Marina Amaral.

David Attenborough, c1950-51David Attenborough, c1950-51.

David Attenborough, c1950-51Coloured by Mads Madsen.

Tower Bridge construction, 1889Tower Bridge construction, London, 1889.

Tower Bridge construction, 1889Colorised by Dynamic Chrome.

Plenty more on Reddit’s Colorized History.

And here’s a popular Photoshop tutorial (embedded below). One of the commentators on YouTube said how it helped him add colour to a photo of his great grandfather so he could give it to his grandmother. Brilliant gift idea.

Vox video (top) via Paul Wilsdon.


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