Transforming a Black and White Photo with Color

Transforming a black and white photo with color

Transforming a Black and White Photo with Color

Transforming a black and white photo with color can be magical. Making gray eyes blue and adding life to cheeks is an art form that is sometimes trivialized. In the “I want it now” age, techies have developed apps and bots to instantly add color to an image. The end result is often sloppy and inaccurate – slight wrong shade of blonde hair or not quite hazel enough eyes. When performed professionally, a hand colored photo can bring a person back to life.

A client of ours recently lost his mother. He found a worn wallet sized image of her that his father loved. It was a stunning portrait of a woman who could have been a movie star, and it was obvious that she was well loved. Our client wanted to create a statement piece of his mother for his father to display at home. In his vision, the photo would be enlarged and in color.

original capture square

Colorizing – otherwise known as tinting – a photo can be subjective. A button doesn’t exist to perfectly match a person’s skin color and hair to someone’s memory of a person. This process requires notes on facial features (color of eyes, hair, skin tone, etc), multiple tests and artistic skills. It is up to the artist to ensure as much accuracy as possible.

The image was a small wallet sized image, but it was sharp. Mary Lou completed a full restoration to remove imperfections, enlarged the photo to 16×20 and worked on hand coloring the portrait. After a few tests, our client reviewed the proof and was stunned. The portrait was gorgeous to begin with, the added color made it outstanding. An algorithm couldn’t do what years of artistic training and dark room experience could – make the black and white photo look lifelike.

square colorOur client chose a wide, intricate champagne frame with a cream liner. Champagne is a wonderful and often overlooked color in framing. It complements gold and is a nice alternative to the modern, cold tone silver. The addition of the liner turns the piece into a true work of art. We love this piece for its simplicity and beauty.

square detail frame

If you want to add color to a black and white photo, here are a few things to remember:

  • Gather a few color photos with the black and white. The color photos will eliminate some of the guesswork involved in adding color. It will give us a place to start in relation to hair color, skin tone, etc.
  • Be prepared to edit. We worked on a piece for a different client and thought we nailed it, but our client said that the skin tone was a little too pale. The woman in that photo loved to tan, so we needed to add a little more color to her skin tone. You’ll need to be part of the creative process in order to ensure accuracy.
  • Be open minded. As photos age, images fade and photo paper changes color. This aging can impact color and shade. There is an entire science behind color that artists are bound to, and it can prevent us from creating a perfect match. As artists, we can show you options that you never thought were possible and can create an overall improved work of art.