Wednesday, October 5, 2011

How to simulate a hand colored black and white photograph on the iPhone

Camera App: Hipstamatic with Lucas AB2 lens and with Ina's 1935 film

In my second "How to" I now want to show you how to simulate a hand colored black and white photograph like those popular before the invention of the color negative film. The idea came to me last Sunday as there was Father's Day here in Luxembourg. My daughter gave me a wonderful book about photography. It's German title is "In 1000 Bildern um die Welt - faszinierende Fotografien aus den Jahren 1850-1910" (translates as "In 1000 pictures around the world - fascinating photographs from the years 1850-1910"). Already the cover shows a beautifully hand colored photo from the past plus there are a lot more of them inside of the book. I noticed that some of those photos had been fully colored while others had only been partially colored. I don't know if this was a matter of costs but it sounds somewhat logical to me that it was less expensive to color only the main subjects in a photograph rather than the whole picture.

Last week I had been in Luxembourg City and a guard was finally to be seen at the Palace of the Grand-Duke again. I'm not sure about this but like the guards aren't always present the conclusion lies near they are only on duty when His Grand-Ducal Highness is actually in the building. So I made a few photos of the guy standing on guard.

My first step was it to create a color pseudo HDR picture in SimplyHDR. Settings: High Dynamic Range tap > HDR Grain 01.

Then I used DramaticB&W to create a pseudo HDR picture in b&w. Settings: DramaticB&W tap > Dramatic 1. I decided to choose Dramatic 1 preset because it nicely enhances the details in the picture. Even if this appeared to be a bit overdone at the first look it will be reduced later when applying a dreamy effect.

I used FilterStorm3 to apply a mask over the parts in the picture that I wanted to color. To do this I opened the color HDR first, then added the b&w HDR as a second exposure. I carefully painted a mask over the parts to be colored. It's a bit tricky but not impossible to do that on the tiny iPhone screen. But you need to be careful not to accidentally touch the [x]-button that cancels the operation or your whole work will be lost. It happened to me as I was already very close to finish the mask. Brush thickness is relative to zoom factor. This means the farer you zoom in, the finer the brush becomes even if you did not change its size which allows to paint a very precise mask. Painting the mask is a lot of switching between the hand tool (cross) to move the picture around, and the brush tool, as well as a lot of zooming in and out, so the danger is always present to accidentally hit the cancel button. If you're tapping too quickly on the place where your are painting the app takes this as a double tap and zooms out automatically which can be very annoying sometimes. 

Painting the mask

Clicking the finish mark processes the operation and the result is a dramatically detailed picture with parts of it in color. But this is still far from the old hand colored photographs that had been so popular before the invention of the color film as you can see on the result below:

After applying and processing the mask

At this point there had been still some flaws in the picture to be corrected. Please note the colored part of the sentry box base that is in the shadow of the sentry box. I colored it but that was wrong. Also the left edge of the sentry box looks way too saturated plus there is part of an unwanted object on the lower edge of the picture, in front of the guard's right foot and the original frame of the Hipstamatic Ina's 1935 film also doesn't look good anymore. Now how to correct this?

The easiest way to correct the color problems was it to load the picture again in FilterStorm3, adding the b&w HDR version as a second exposure, applying a mask to it - et voilà, the color had been removed.

The bigger problem was it to remove that unwanted object on the lower edge. For such purpose the app TouchRetouch is best choice. I opened the picture and applied a mask to the object I wanted to remove:




After tapping the Remove tool (3rd from right) the object was gone, but then I faced a problem I found myself unable to correct. As you can see, the gap line between the tiles where the guard stands had also been interrupted. On a big screen using PhotoShop or any other software with a clone tool on board one can easily fix this, but on the tiny iPhone screen the menue bars always came in my way when I tapped the stamp tool. So I decided to leave this as it was and hoped it will later be hidden by a frame anyway.

Correcting the frame was easy. I cropped the picture from the old frame in FilterStorm3 and resized it back to 1936x1936px, then I opened it in PhotoForge2 to add a white frame (Frame 2).

My goal was it to find a way to reproduce the look of an old hand colored photograph as realistic as possible but at this stage my picture still looked far from what I wanted to achieve. So I loaded it into Romantic to create a dreamy effect. The setting used was Dreamy Photo > Dreamy Strong. I pulled the slider back to about 25% because the effect looked a bit overdone.

To give it an aged touch I opened that result in PicGrunger where I used the following settings: Style > Gig; Strength > 0; Border > none; Texture > original. The outcome of this looked great, but to my taste it was a bit too saturated. But that problem could easily be solved. I was loading the version that I saved before using PicGrunger plus the version after PicGrunger both into Blender and blend it in normal mode with 50% slider setting. The resulting image finally was what I wanted to get. As usual I added my copyright watermark in A+Signature.

It was big fun making this picture and I'm quite happy with the outcome of it but there may be better methods to simulate a hand colored old photograph so the search and experimenting goes on.

1 comment:

  1. A great photo, Gaston. Thank you for sharing all the steps needed to get to the final photo!