I don't like 'colourised' photos. Do you?

Discussion in 'Photo Restoration' started by von Poop, Sep 12, 2014.


To 'colourise' or not to 'colourise'?

This poll will close on Jan 23, 2027 at 3:54 PM.
  1. Yes. I like it.

    10 vote(s)
  2. No, it is a bad thing. Stop it.

    29 vote(s)
  3. Depends. (dithering quitters tick here :whistle: )

    12 vote(s)
  4. Don't you know theres a real world out there? Why would anyone care?

    1 vote(s)
Multiple votes are allowed.
  1. JohnS

    JohnS Senior Member

    Lately I've been seeing colourized versions of old pictures that I've seen for decades. It doesn't seem right to me. I can't see how they can get the colours right. Yes, they can come close, but I am not convinced that they can get it perfect.
  2. Mike L

    Mike L Very Senior Member

    I have mixed views on this.

    The world has never been monochrome, there is always colour in any view, even if just shades of blue or brown or green. WW1 photos in B&W seem to emphasise the illusion that it was always desolate but in many of the original scenes there would possibly be a blue sky and maybe some vegetation.

    Forum member Roger (RGC) both restored and colourised a photo of my Grandad in WW1 Naval uniform and I think it looks fantastic, as all my relatives do.

    I can fully understand criticisms of lower quality restoration/colourisation but with sufficient skill and attention to getting the right colour tones I think colourisation can work well. It may be more difficult with colourising film/video. I have doubts about the quality of some recent TV series but, hey, if it promotes interest in the conflicts and history I am fairly happy with it.
    canuck likes this.
  3. ww2ni

    ww2ni Senior Member

    I like them as long as the colouring is accurate.

    Always remember seeing a TV Docu with a spitfire which had the roundel coloured as if it was French. Doh!
  4. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    This is becoming a plague.
    You can no longer trust any colour photograph from ww1&2, everything has to be inspected for speculative digital washes. The frisson that used to come from genuine early colour shots has been eradicated under a slew of tinkered images, many of them artistically crap and adding nothing to any understanding of the period covered.

    Bleedin' sick of it.
    Can you tell?
    PsyWar.Org likes this.
  5. 4jonboy

    4jonboy Daughter of a 56 Recce Patron

    I still prefer the black and white ones-I love this one which was restored to it's former glory. Somehow it just wouldn't look the same in colour, but that's just my opinion.

    Cassino Italy 1944 001.jpg
    von Poop likes this.
  6. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Re-reading this thread I am reminded that when TV first appeared in our homes it was strictly Black & Whiite.

    One could buy transparent screens that were attached to the front of the TV that were coloured light blue on the upper part and (I believe) green on the lower half in an attempt to pretend that colour had arrived :)

    Laughable but completely true !

  7. South

    South Member

    I prefer them not colourised. It's interesting to see one or two but I prefer the originals.
  8. Reid

    Reid Historian & Architectural Photographer

    I voted to leave them B&W, but if they're done "extremely" well, they may not look too bad - the Churchill shot actually looks realistic and is well done IMHO.

    Unfortunately, the majority of the colourised images out there are woefully done; my parents wedding photographs can be included in that statement - they don't have the colourised version on display, they have the B&W version framed, quite simply because the colour version is pretty poor. We're used to seeing these images in B&W - colour is rather out of place in most instances, although seeing the Kodachrome footage in the series "The Colour of War" was actually very interesting.

    Again, it comes down to how well it's done - a poor effort will render the finished product pointless and discarded into the "Why did they bother?" pile, whereas the really well researched and superb post production version, will probably have it garnering a "Wow - that looks incredible." response and being put on display.
  9. AlanW

    AlanW Senior Member

    This is one i really don't like. It makes the Stirling look like a model thats been added to the background...yuk !

    Attached Files:

  10. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Back in 1949, when you got married and went to a professional studio for the regulatory photo they took it in conventional Black & White format.

    When you went to order the prints they offered you, as an option, a hand tinted colour print.

    Such as this one..........

    Ron Nita & Ron, Wedding  3-7-49.jpg
    SteveDee likes this.
  11. canuck

    canuck Closed Account

    I think Mike's comments are a mirror of my own.
    Yes, with a qualification on the quality aspect. Several of the better colourized shots have made me look at these photos in a different way. Particularly with WW1 photos where a broad, desolate scene comes to life with new details. In one memorable pic there was actually grass growing in the sea of mud that the B&W photos conveyed. A shock to my long held perceptions.
    As I see it, those men lived in a coloured world and carry coloured memories. The fact that we have viewed that history for decades in B&W has simply been a limitation of technology.
    For those of you who despise the colourization, even the high quality examples, could it simply be nostalgia for what you grew up with? At first, I felt the same way. It was unsettling to see colour shots of the scenes I had only viewed in B&W. It made the subject appear more contemporary and that didn't align with my historical perspective or previous interpretation.
    I'm over it now!
    SteveDee likes this.
  12. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    Further musing set off by Owen's Magnum pics (And I have a Friendface album called 'Murdering Monochrome' :unsure: ).

    I used to fall on colour WW2 images like a dog on chips. Marvellous and fairly rare view into what 'reality' may have looked like. An occasional visceral insight that it wasn't just 'history' to the participants.
    Now... I'm often browsing on the phone, and it's fiddly to check the veracity of smaller manipulated or real images. That need to check comes from the fact the majority of shared historical colour images now seem to have been created with the digital crayon.

    I think that's quite serious. Sad even.
    It might be an overly nerdish or even curmudgeonly point, but there's a genuine historiographical issue here.
    Real original colour images are being eclipsed/buried beneath quite often 'look at me!' artworks. It's getting harder to find the monochrome originals using image search etc., and I'm already finding people discussing colour details of colourised images as if they were a source on uniforms, markings etc.
    It's not nostalgia that makes me loathe this new trend. More a real concern that it's becoming OK to scrawl over this kind of historical record, and with so much material being web-based now, the original sources are getting buried.

    In a brief exchange elsewhere with Paul, even I conceded that some are extremely skilfully done, but I'd press quite strongly for very obvious watermarking of any and all colourised images, and the inclusion of the original when you share the thing on Twatter, Friendface etc.
    PsyWar.Org, Rich Payne, SDP and 2 others like this.
  13. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Old Hickory Recon

    I agree fully.
  14. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    Fresh from crapping all over my childhood with Skateboarding elves & Hobbits turned into 3-part cash cows, Peter Jackson releases an epic of tarted-up First World War films.
    A little bit of sick comes up.
    I quite like the slowing down of footage - pretty effective as long as you don't lose the original 'how the technology actually was' jerky version anywhere, but whatever process was used for the digital crayoning is horrible.
    So much smoothing & a choice of a palette that makes the results look like grim moving waxworks, the CGI elbowing out the PBI.

    I won't link to the trailers etc., as it's all over the shop, & will force myself to watch the whole thing on remembrance Sunday or whenever it's on TV, but very much doubt I'll abandon my distaste at this stuff.

    Seems to be a growing trend to colourise monochrome images on newer edition book covers. Original images seemingly not good enough. Weird, & silly.
    Guy Hudson likes this.
  15. Guy Hudson

    Guy Hudson Looker-upper

    Capa 82nd Airborne.png
    Kodachrome R.I.P. :poppy:
  16. SteveDee

    SteveDee Well-Known Member

    Well, nobody has destroyed the original footage, and I think Peter's motives for doing this are sound.

    Black & white 'video' of people marching around too fast just doesn't look right. We are in Keystone Cops territory.

    The younger generation could be excused for being detached, thinking this was not really 'real'. But Peter's film looks very real, very relevant...even if some of us are engrossed in checking the colour accuracy, rather than getting involved in those long lost people on screen.

    *Just to add that I usually prefer portraits of people (past or present) to be in black & white. They are more striking than colour.

    World War One in colour!
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2018
    canuck likes this.
  17. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian Patron

    I think there is a distancing effect in looking at black and white images, so I don't begrudge colouring efforts if they are well done. But so often they are not.

    Someone referred to adding noise to reenactor photos and it reminded me of someone on another forum who I think does reenactment but he also has a hobby of taking pictures using old cameras. Photos of reenactors taken in black and white using a 1940s camera look impressively close to the real thing. The men just tend to be older and thicker about the waist :)

    As a random aside, I'll take paintings or even colorized photos over 3D rendered images any day. ugh.
    SteveDee likes this.
  18. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
    And isn't it a tad insulting to suggest 'the younger generation' are somehow less capable of understanding or appreciating something in the context of when it was made? Not something I could accuse my pair of ghastly teens of; they don't seem to react well to patronising or spoon-feeding of anything. Very alert to attempts to manipulate responses. (The older sprog is doing art/history/computing stuff, and with no discussion between us has declared colourising "All a bit crap", bless him.)

    I do wish Jackson'd stopped with 'Bad Taste'. The last entertaining film he made.
  19. SteveDee

    SteveDee Well-Known Member

    If I've insulted a whole generation of young people, let me apologise and turn the whole thing against myself. As a teenager (in the 1960s) I thought the only remarkable thing about early video (WW1 & Keystone Cops) was the improbable speed that people moved around. None of it looked much more life-like than a cartoon.

    If this new film turns out to be as good as the clips I've seen (both in colour and natural movement) then it might hold the interest of ignorant people like me (...if there are any others).

    The flip side is that I can't stand badly coloured photos or video. We used to have pictures of mum & dad from the 1940s. As kids we thought these were hilarious. Far from enhancing poor old Ma & Pa, they made them look like circus clowns!
    CL1, von Poop and Chris C like this.
  20. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian Patron

    Well, I didn't hate the Lord of the Rings movies, but I stopped at bloating the Hobbit into a three-movie affair (didn't watch any of them)...

    I personally don't think it's insulting because I don't see it as implying those things. I see it as trying to make something more viscerally immediate to the general public of any age. I think that many people don't have much appreciation for history. Good for your sprog, though, for having looked at colourized photos and formed his own opinion!!

    I think we as human beings, as physical animals, find colour photos more immediate. Have you ever looked at Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky's colour photos from Tsarist Russia? I think they help bring that place and time to life in a way that looking at black and white photos cannot quite manage.
    Tolbooth and SteveDee like this.

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