Colouring Old Photos

One of my favourite hobbies would have to be colouring old photos. To put some colour into the cheeks of an image over 100 years old, suddenly brings them to life and lets you see them in a whole new (colourful) light.

I use Adobe Photoshop to colour them, with each colour a separate layer. With up close portraits I use a combination of colours for the skin; the usual flesh and blush tone, but also blues, yellows and even greens!

When I first started, it was landscapes that caught my fancy, especially streetscapes of my hometowns of Perth and Fremantle.

Wellington Street, Perth, c.1906

Corner of Wellington & Barrack Street, Perth, c.1906

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But when I started on portraits, especially ones of my ancestors, it was truly amazing to be able to see them in a new way. Just adding colour seemed to give them a more multidimensional feel that also gave a feeling of knowing them just that little bit better.

Coloured Photo c.1945

Coloured Photo c.1945

 

Coloured Photo c.1907

Coloured Photo c.1907

 

Australian War Memorial - Unknown WWI Soldier P06003.001

Unknown WWI Soldier – Australian War Memorial, P06003.001

 

Coloured Photo, 1907

Coloured Photo, 1907

 

Coloured Photo c.1870's

Coloured Photo c.1870’s

 

Coloured Photo 1950's

Coloured Photo 1950’s

 

Coloured Photo 1907

Coloured Photo 1907

 

Coloured Photo c.1918

Coloured Photo c.1918

 

You can see more here.

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Bringing a Bit of Colour to the Past

Hand-coloured or tinted photos have always been around since there have been photographs to colour. Sometimes it’s just a hint of a tint and in the more blatant efforts it looks more like the result of Homer Simpson’s makeup gun set to ‘whore’

It’s hard to forget that the ‘olden days’ were full of colour and many a curious person looking at black and white photos has wondered “What did it really look like!?”

Over the years I’ve become self-taught in a number of computer programs but the one I have the most fun with is Adobe Photoshop. Combined with my interest in genealogy it wasn’t long before I starting figuring out ways to use old and historical photos. I started hand colouring (I figure I can still use the term since my hand is on the mouse!) some old photos in the family albums and was quickly hooked. Sometimes the end result could blow your mind as you flick back and forth from the original image.

Lately I’ve been colouring historical photos that have been popular on the Facebook group Lost Perth,  widely successful in Western Australia where people having been digging up old photos of Perth’s yesteryears and posting them online for everyone to reminisce over.
My favourites are pre-1900 images. The further back the date of the photo, the harder it can be to imagine it in realities hue.

The first hand coloured photo that I posted was an image of the Old Men’s Depot that used to sit on Mounts Bay Road, right on the river. It’s such a beautiful image with all the elderly men relaxing by the foreshore and black swans swimming about.  It’s not the clearest image and quite grainy, not ideal for colouring but it was a favourite that I really wanted to bring to life.

mens depotOld Men's Depot - Mounts Bay Rd, Perth c1900

It was a bit hard to make it resemble reality due to the graininess but I think it turned out alright.

The next photo I chose is one of the oldest landscape photos of Perth and shows the Pensioner Guard Barracks just after they were built in 1865.
This was a popular choice as the Barracks were demolished in the 60’s with only the arch remaining so while the arch is a Perth icon, not many really knew about the Barracks as a whole.

Pensioner Guard Barracks, Perth  c1865

Pensioner Guard Barracks, Perth  c1865

In fact I coloured this photo twice. The first time I only had a cropped version and it wasn’t until I applied to the State Library of Western Australia for a hi-res copy of the original, that I saw all the wonderful things happening on the sides. On the left is a woman holding a baby. Another woman rests on a grassy mound. On the right are two boys tending their sheep, while a girl stands at the gate to her house. Three other children are also playing nearby.

Some commented that they’d love to buy a print so I applied at SLWA for reproduction rights and can now sell these as photo prints or on a canvas in a variety of sizes.

More painted photos to come!

Solving Mystery Photos

About 8 years ago, I received a copy of some family photos from a distant relation. At the time, although I was into genealogy, I had only been doing it on and off over the previous 4 years and to be honest, I probably wasn’t that serious about it so I didn’t give them too much thought as the photos had no names attached to them.

Seven years later I found them again on an old computer hard drive but had no idea who I’d originally got them from, who the photos were of or even which particular family they belonged to. I sort of remembered them being from my Tonkin branch, but let this be a lesson to all…never rely on your memory for anything. Write things down, where/who you got items from, what information you have on them, dates, names, places, anything can be a helpful clue in the future.

These days, photos are probably one of my favourite aspects of genealogy. I love the social history side of it and to be able to see what people were wearing, the expressions on their face that may hint towards their personality, or even looking out for things such as…’hey that lady from 1870 has my nose!’ can all be really exciting. Just the mere thought of seeing a really old photo and contemplating the fact that the person in it was born in the 18th Century, can be the mind-clearing equivalent of  ‘what’s the sound of one hand clapping?’

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