Colour photographs didn’t become available until the early 1900s and wasn’t widespread until Kodachrome after the late 1930s — which leaves much of our photographic history in black and white. Recolouring old photographs can bring new levels of detail into historic images, whether that’s of family members or town events. But is recolouring photos really that simple? Here are four reasons to consider recolouring your old photos.
Recolouring is photo restoration.
Simply put, recolouring restores an old photograph. Before the recolouring process can even start, that image has to be repaired, fixing scratches and tears as well as correcting the fade that happens naturally over time. A photo must be restored before it can be recoloured.
Once a photo is recoloured today, you now have multiple copies of that image. An original, a restored copy, and a restored coloured copy. That in itself is a reason to recolour, since it’s much harder to loose three copies of an image than one. Once you have the digital file, you can also back the image up on a cloud platform for safekeeping, a great practice for any images that are special to you or your family.
Recolouring old photos is more accurate than you think.
The reason recolouring old photos isn’t an easy choice is that accuracy is questioned — once you recolour an image, isn’t in inaccurate? Is it possible to get the colours right when recolouring old photos? Those are all very valid concerns, but recolouring old photos is actually more accurate than you’d think.
First, recolour artists research. They get as much information as possible about the specific people, objects and other items in the image. When that information isn’t possible to get, research into the time period helps create more accurate recolouring. And even more importantly, recolouring artists understand how to read the light in the image, so even the time of day and weather feels accurate. Fun fact — before coloured film, painters would recolour black and white images.
Recolouring old photos brings out more details.
Details are often lost in the monochrome. When converted, greens and reds look similar, for example. When two differently coloured objects convert to the same shade in black and white, those smaller details are lost. Recoloured images create more contrast, making those details suddenly pop when they were lost in the shades of grey before.
Recolouring old photos isn’t meant to destroy the original image.
Most of all, recolouring images isn’t designed for you to toss out that original image — it’s designed to supplement that image. Recolouring old photos is an excellent way to restore old images, but that restoration allows you to have the intact image in both colour and black and white. You can have your cake and eat it too — or in this case, keep that original faded film and view that same photo in a new light with recolouring.
Recolouring old photographs brings out the details that are otherwise overlooked or forgotten. Recoloured, restored photos make excellent gifts and lifelong family keepsakes.