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Thread: Converting a black and white photo into color

  1. #1

    Converting a black and white photo into color

    Hello All,

    I am a complete newbie here, just joined, whilst searching the net, I've come across this forum, i've seen a tutorial about converting a color photo into black and white. But what I would like to achieve is to convert a black and white photo into color, is this possible or I am asking for the impossible.

    I've had a look at the tutorial here on converting color into bw, but wondered if i can use the same method using channel mixer to convert a black and white into color.

    Any help, tutorials or tips would be much appreciated.

    thanks very much in advance, i wait for any reply in anticipation


    regards

    helen

  2. #2
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    Re: Converting a black and white photo into color

    Converting from black and white into color (aka, "colorizing" a b/w image) will always require some interpretive work, primarily because there are many color/hue possibilities that could create a given black and white photo. For some photos this can become quite involved, depending on the number of different objects, the lighting and the original method used to capture the B/W photo in the first place (types of color filters, etc). In short, avoid it if you can!

    Perhaps the simplest (although not shortest) way is to manually select each object using the magnetic lasso tool. For each object in the photo, do the following:

    (1) Manually select this object (such as a car against a background) using the magnetic lasso tool or whatever else you find easiest
    (2) Copy this object and paste it onto the existing black and white image (so that it remains in exactly the same place)
    (3) Create a new adjustment layer for this object using Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Hue/Saturation
    (4) Once the adj. layer has been created, make sure to check the "Colorize" box on the bottom right of the window
    (5) Set the blend mode for this adjustment layer to "color" (as opposed to "normal").
    (6) Adjust the hue/saturation sliders until you feel you have a best estimate of the original color
    (7) Adjust the brightness and contrast of this layer if needed to improve the look
    (8) Repeat steps 1-7 for all other objects/regions in the photo

    Overall, do not expect miracles. This can be a very painstaking process and even then, often times colors will look washed out or over saturated without extensive post-processing using levels/curves/channels/etc. If anyone else has suggestions to improve this process that would be great.

  3. #3

    Re: Converting a black and white photo into color

    Quote Originally Posted by McQ View Post
    Converting from black and white into color (aka, "colorizing" a b/w image) will always require some interpretive work, primarily because there are many color/hue possibilities that could create a given black and white photo. For some photos this can become quite involved, depending on the number of different objects, the lighting and the original method used to capture the B/W photo in the first place (types of color filters, etc). In short, avoid it if you can!

    Perhaps the simplest (although not shortest) way is to manually select each object using the magnetic lasso tool. For each object in the photo, do the following:

    (1) Manually select this object (such as a car against a background) using the magnetic lasso tool or whatever else you find easiest
    (2) Copy this object and paste it onto the existing black and white image (so that it remains in exactly the same place)
    (3) Create a new adjustment layer for this object using Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Hue/Saturation
    (4) Once the adj. layer has been created, make sure to check the "Colorize" box on the bottom right of the window
    (5) Set the blend mode for this adjustment layer to "color" (as opposed to "normal").
    (6) Adjust the hue/saturation sliders until you feel you have a best estimate of the original color
    (7) Adjust the brightness and contrast of this layer if needed to improve the look
    (8) Repeat steps 1-7 for all other objects/regions in the photo

    Overall, do not expect miracles. This can be a very painstaking process and even then, often times colors will look washed out or over saturated without extensive post-processing using levels/curves/channels/etc. If anyone else has suggestions to improve this process that would be great.

    Hi McQ,

    Thank you very much for replying to my post and for taking time to give me details breakdown on colorizing a black and white photo. I am afraid, I have word my query wrong, I already colorize black and white photos, what I am experimenting at the moment is to colourize a black and white photo the "Trichromie/Trichromy" way.

    The Trichromie way to colourize a black and white photo is that you have the main black and white photo and then take the same photo again using three different colour filters Red,Blue and Green, to make the colour photo. I am trying to achieve the three colour filters using photoshop, so I need to digitally create the 3 colour filters Red,Green, Blue and then colourize the black and white photo.

    I do not know how to create filters, or using the channel mixer, i am still a newbie with photoshop. I shall googling away in meantime to see what I can find, but if anyone know how to create colour filter using photoshop, please tell me how it's done, it would be much appreciated.

    Please found below link to my gallery of my colourizing black and white photos, using the Primary Colour Blue,Red and Yellow.


    http://www.pbase.com/mstmart

    Please accept my apologise for the trouble you've taken to give me a breakdown of how to colourize a black and white photo. I am afraid stupidly, I have word my query wrong.

    Many Thanks


    helen

  4. #4
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    Re: Converting a black and white photo into color

    Helen

    Having read your post yesterday, I've been thinking about this. If I understand the matter correctly, the Trichromie technique goes back to pioneering work carried out by James Clerk Maxwell who took BW images of a coloured scene through R, G and B filters. Then, projecting those via R, G and B light, he could recreate the original coloured scene. The three BW images obtained in this way will all have different tonal values for any part of the original scene, e.g. a red portion would be very light using a red filter, a blue part very dark with a red filter. Although I may be mistaken, and I'm sure McQ can help us out here, if you start with a BW image, no matter what coloured filter you apply you will get the same BW tonal range. Any coloured filter will impart that colour tone to the BW image, but I don't think that is what you're after. Thus, unless you start with a coloured image, I'm not sure that what you are suggesting will work. However, I may be wrong and some other member may have a better idea.

    David

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    Re: Converting a black and white photo into color

    I've reread this too, and I think David is correct.
    Clerk Maxwell took three pix, one per filter, then combined them by projection. So each of his three negatives which were B/W had differing tonal ranges.
    A single negative, taken withour a colour filter will have a 'complete' tonal range, from which colours can't be extracted because they aren't there. So you cannot colourise from a B/W original because there is no colour information there.

    However, were you to shoot a B/W jpeg with a RAW file, then the jpeg will present itself in B/W - and you can't get colour from it; but, the RAW will contain all the colour information. Somehow, I don't think this is what you were after.

    Bertie
    Last edited by rc53; 21st August 2008 at 09:19 PM.

  6. #6
    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: Converting a black and white photo into color

    Hi Helen, (and all)

    Maybe I'm missing the point here (We're all certainly missing the context), or maybe I'm just being plain daft, but how does this sound?
    1) Take B&W picture
    2) Colourise picture
    3) Use channels mixer(?) in PS to create three monochrome layers
    4) Save these as 3 separate mono images (as if made by the by the colour filters on a mono camera)
    5) Turn them into slides and shine Red, Green and Blue light through them
    6) Register them accurately on the screen

    But I have to say, unless you're teaching colorimetry to students, steps 3 - 6 seem a little superfluous; you could have achieved a colour projected image at step 2.

    Looking at your pbase, you're clearly very skilled at the colourisation process, I'd never guess, if given just the result, their monochrome origins.

    I think steps 3 & 4 is what you're trying to gain info on, and this is why you phrased the original post the way you did, but what we all don't understand is why you want to go to all this trouble.

    Cheers,
    Dave

  7. #7
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    Re: Converting a black and white photo into color

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Humphries View Post
    1) Take B&W picture
    2) Colourise picture
    3) Use channels mixer(?) in PS to create three monochrome layers
    4) Save these as 3 separate mono images (as if made by the by the colour filters on a mono camera)
    5) Turn them into slides and shine Red, Green and Blue light through them
    6) Register them accurately on the screen

    Cheers,
    Dave
    Thank you Helen for the additional info. To me, using the "Trichromie/Trichromy" method could certainly make the process more systematic and has great use depending on how one feels most comfortable interpreting color, but ultimately it comes down to step (2) above. No matter what, this requires a lot of interpretive work, and can become quite subjective and time consuming. I do not see any way around this, unfortunately. If the "Trichromie/Trichromy" method helps make step (2) more streamlined, then for that reason alone it would be worth it. I must say though that it takes some getting used to. I unfortunately do not naturally "see" or interpret color in an image by separating it into each of its constituent color channels.

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