Digitally colored B/W photos

Discussion in 'Photographic Aesthetics and Composition' started by Billy Axeman, Sep 27, 2017.

  1. Billy Axeman

    Billy Axeman Subscriber

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    Long ago when I had a darkroom and made my wet prints (I have no place for it anymore) I also hand colored them, which was great fun and I really miss it.

    So lately I did some experiments to color my B/W photos again but now in a photo editor. The intention was to get attractive pictures from an artistic point of view, not to perfectly reproduce the effect at any cost. However, when using subtle tones the result is very similar.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    These photo's are depicting an unused house and an unused gate respectively, both surrounded by dried out weeds, which is colored light brown.

    Here is what I did:

    1. An extra layer is added to the photo in the editor, in which all the modifications are made.
    2. The area to color is selected with the Rectangle, Free Selection, or Magic Wand Tool.
    3. The selected area is filled with a (very) transparent color (Tolerance=100, Opacity=5..10).
    4. Optionally details from the colored area can be cut out again to keep them uncolored.
    5. The layer is merged with the photo and the result is saved.

    Adding a color reduces contrast so if needed you can increase the contrast again when the area is still selected, but this is only needed when Opacity has a large value.

    This is also basically what you do when a print is hand-colored; adding very transparent layers until areas have the right hue.

    Edit 27/09/17 - Description for photos added, p.s. removed.
     
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2017
  2. TheRook

    TheRook Member

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    Subtle, but well done. Digital colorizing b/w photos certainly is much easier than hand-coloring, and it allows one to quickly undo changes.
     
  3. Julie McLeod

    Julie McLeod Subscriber

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    Those look great. I find selections difficult to do even with the myriad of different tools PS has to offer hence I'm impressed that I can't detect any wonky edges in your coloring. Thanks for the detailed instructions...I may give this a try some time.
     
  4. skorpiius

    skorpiius Member

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  5. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    hi billy
    really nice stuff youare doing !
    i do these too, sort of,
    but i don't do them on a non-destructive layer
    i just color right on the image
    with a low opacity light touch
    after i add the colors i sometimes
    put a barely visible white wash over
    the whole thing ... and recently i have started
    to go into levels and just barely adjust them ...
    its kind of tedious but lots of fun :smile:
     
  6. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    well done. I use similar technique to simulate wet toning such as sepia and selenium with success
     
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    Billy Axeman

    Billy Axeman Subscriber

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    Thanks guys.

    Part of my experiment is indeed how subtle you can go. Theoretically you can make the colors so much transparent that they are only experienced unconsciously. But how it will look is increasingly dependent on the brightness and contrast of the display and the amount of light in the environment. That is not much different from a subtle toning on a B/W print, which can look good in bright daylight but not in artificial light.

    Another point is that I don't want to imitate a color photo. I restrict the coloring to a limited number of areas and the rest is kept gray. When the right balance is found you can get some kind of surrealistic effect, in combination with your subject. So, that are the points I am looking for, apart from the technical side.

    Here are some other examples:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The theme in all these photo's is to have a desolated architectural environment with a central subject in yellow. The used colors among them (as RGB value and Opacity) are also kept the same.

    As a side note, these are actually scans from film (HP5+) and then edited digitally for contrast, tonality and color.
     
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    Billy Axeman

    Billy Axeman Subscriber

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    That is strange Julie. I select area's only roughly, notably on trees, and I still see no 'wonky edges', even in my original before the photo is downsized for posting.
    The air is in most cases selected with the Magic Wand so that is always near perfect, but other areas are simply selected by hand.

    Edit 10/10/17 - Last sentence added.
     
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2017
  9. Julie McLeod

    Julie McLeod Subscriber

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    It's probably just my lack of proficiency with the tools. Your results make me think it's worth trying to improve my technique. Thanks again for the details.
     
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    Billy Axeman

    Billy Axeman Subscriber

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    I have looked closer to my own settings (in PaintShop Pro) and my selection tools have Feather, Smoothing and Anti-alias properties. Perhaps you can experiment with that. However, they are all set to zero in my case, so I'm still not sure what's happening.
     
  11. Julie McLeod

    Julie McLeod Subscriber

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    Thank you, Billy. When I get a chance to try this, I'll let you know how I do.
     
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