Back in the days of film hand coloring an image was a tedious process. You started with a black and white negative and literally colored in the parts where you wanted color to be. With the advent of color film this style became “old fashioned” and stopped being used many photographers.
Digital images and editing programs have given new life to this technique. Unfortunately the ease of this technique also means that many people simply color in any part of the image without regard to the overall aesthetic of the image. To get a good hand colored image there has to be a harmony between the colored part of the image and the black and white part. Here are a few tips to watch out for.
I find that a lot of people use this technique to deal with a busy background. This doesn’t always work. A busy background will still be busy whether it’s in color or black and white. Coloring a busy image does not necessarily drawn attention to your subject. It just looks like a busy image with color. For the best results start with a clear simple image.
Choose a Focus
To keep from creating a colored chaos pick one color or focal point for your image. Remember that this is a highlighting technique, not a cure for a busy image. If you color in to many things then the viewer won’t know where to look and will be confused as to what the focus of the image is.
Create Even Tones
This technique works because tones of the black and white process match the tones of the hand coloring. If the black and white image is soft but the hand coloring is stark or overly bright then the images appears disjointed. The opposite, a hard edge black and white with soft hand coloring, is also unsettling to look at. When taken to the extreme the image can take on a “cut and paste” look, as if the colored images were literally cut from a magazine and pasted on the black and white image.
This style of processing is great for portraits or a fun way to highlight artistic points in an image, however it’s not suitable for every image. Enjoy creating your unique images.