Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Early color photographs

  1. Jan 26, 2007 #1
    Earlier today, I was browsing a wonderful WWI inventory of color photographs when I stumbled upon some rather strange looking ones.If you go to the color picture gallery on the left side column of the page and then go to page two, you will see a few examples of what I am talking about. http://www.greatwar.nl/frames/default-hurley.html [Broken] The photographs look almost like they were drawn. Why is this?

    P.S. Sorry about not being able to post a direct link.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 29, 2007 #2


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Many of those "color" photos appear to be hand painted. This was the usual manner of coloring photos in that era.
  4. Jan 29, 2007 #3


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    One of the pages describes the process (unfortunately they seem to be displayed as frames so I don't know how to give a URL for the right page).

    Basically they took fine starch particles (flour), dyed them in the 3 primary colours and mixed them evenly, then spread the mixture on a black and white photographic plate. When taking the photo the grains acted as colour filters, and when viewing it they colour the reflected light.

    The URL points out the effect is indeed the same as a "pointilliste" style painting.

    Many early (and not so early) "colour" photos were indeed hand coloured. I've got some photos of myself (taken in the UK in the 1950s) that were done that way. I can clearly remember the photographer writing notes on the colour of hair, eyes, clothes, etc after taking the pictures.
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2007
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook