Alpha Photos Colorization

Lynne Gifford, Kathryn Ptacek, and Melinda Snodgrass on the Ivan Cook Convention bridge. Image was originally b/w and was colorized in Photoshop.

Photo Colorization

Back in the mid to late seventies, I shot photos mostly in black and white (b/w) not to be “artsy” but due to cost. Plus, I had a full b/w darkroom setup which gave me full control over the negatives (for preservation) and prints (for quality). Shooting color, for the most part, was out of my budget.

Of all the con images I took, the ones I really regretted not having shot in color to begin with were the ones of Alpha folks on the convention bridge like the one above. At the time I had the camera loaded with b/w film when they decided to do the bridge shots, and changing from b/w to color film when the camera was already loaded with b/w would have meant wasting all the remaining unused b/w film. I remember thinking we would just shoot another set of these photos the next time I loaded the camera with color film, but of course that never happened. We were all very busy and simply overcome by events. But now, by using digital software (in this case, Photoshop), I am able to colorize the old b/w images. I like the original b/w versions, but adding color to them makes them more vivid and brings back a lot of memories. You tend to forget how colorful everything was when all you have to look at are the b/w photos. Adding color really changes them.

Photoshop screenshot of the image being worked on.

I had thought about trying this for quite some time, but I had put it off as I was afraid the results would simply look like those awful pastey, pastel colorized versions of old b/w films I’ve seen. However, I tried a number of techniques and finally settled on one that produced results I liked. Basically you create a layer group set to color blending mode, and then add your various color layers inside that group. It takes a bit of time to do these depending on the complexity of the original image. I make layers for the major parts of the image (i.e., background, uniforms, skin, etc.). This way I can work on one element without disturbing an adjacent element. The image above of Lynne, Kathyrn and Melinda is the most complex image I’ve done up to this point. The background alone had to be split into several layers to work with.

The colors in this (and the other images I’ve colorized) are as accurate as I was able to make them. Luckily, for the image above I had a number of color reference images to use. The colors of the lights on the bridge and the bridge panel areas are correct and match the reference images. And yes, Kathryn’s outfit really was that shade of purple!

The images above show the progression from the original b/w to the final full color version. Image 2 has some of the bridge colors and background added. Image 3 adds the sash color. The con used different color sashes for different levels of access and function. From the reference materials I had, I was pretty sure they were wearing the bright blue versions which indicated top level con access.

Lynne, Kathy and Melinda

Here is another progression of images of Carol. Again, I split the image up into various layers to add color to. The background color of the Garden Center walls was the brown you see. They have since painted over the original walls and they are no longer that nice natural brown. Behind Carol you can see Chuck Bengson in his green uniform top. Next to him was probably Bibeau, so I used command gold for him. The trickiest part of an image like this one is getting the hair color right, and then working that in where it lays over the bright background of the uniform.

I colorized a few of the thumbnail images used on other pages. Below are a few of those:

I have colorized full sized versions of the group shot used on several of the pages on this site, and the group shot above with Lynne, Shiloh, Carol and me.