Is any photo suited to colorizing?
There are some photos that are more suited to colorization than others. In the three photos above, two of the three are suited to full colorization. The little boy and little girl are a good choice for adding color to, where the young woman is less suited. The answer is in the gray area. The children's photos have a nice range of gray tones, with a few bright highlights and a few dark shadows. This broad tonal range that varies mainly in the middle grays, with good detail and clear lines will allow the color to lay over the grays without becoming muddy and grays to come through the color to allow for contouring and definition.
In pictures like the one with the young woman, there aren't sufficient tonal ranges to support colorization. The dark areas cover the majority of the photo, which would cause full colorizing would look unnatural and dirty, or muddy. In this case, a soft selenium or sepia tone would add a touch of color to the entire photo without making her look sickly. It's plausible that the flower could be colorized; however, while the flower is prominent in the photo, the focus is to be on her face. Perhaps a blush of pink tint could be added to the flower as well as her cheeks, but it needs to be very subtle in both locations. I have added the tint of pink to the photo below so you can decide whether or not you like it.
Adding color to a vintage photograph is complex.
Whether or not a photo should be colored is debatable. Black and white images are beautiful and have a character all their own. With the intense colors possible in today's digital world, the black and white photo is unique and stands out in a crowd because of its uncomplicated beauty. This wasn't always the case, though. In the early 1900s, color film didn't exist. So, to give people something new and sought after, hand-tinting and hand-coloring black and white photos was something special and even a sign of prosperity. In Japan, colorizing photographs was considered a form of fine art, and William Nutting from the New England area became well known and respected for his work colorizing landscape photography. [1-2]
But what merit does colorizing photos have today? I feel it really boils down to what you like. An average photo can be made special with a kiss of well-placed color. Color can add a sense of life to a photo, making a child look young and vibrant. Color can attract the eye, improving or enhancing focus. And colorized photos have a look and feel that is unique to them. Like any other art form, if the look and feel of colorized images appeals to you, then that is the only reason needed to have it in your life.
Below are the photos of the children fully colorized and the young woman with a tint of color in the high points of her face, her lips, and the flower. I will leave it to you whether you like colorizing or not, but I feel it has a place, a style, and a value all its own that definitely gives it a seat at the table.
All images Copyrighted. ©Tricia Lattin
1. Hand-Coloring of Photography
2. Hand Coloring of Nineteenth Century Photographs