Colorize your old black & white photos for free

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This is a handy tool. Consider sharing colorized samples with elderly friends and relatives. Note that there does appear to be a filesize limit (not listed but I’m guessing 2.5MB or so) so you may have to 1st generate reduce resolution versions of larger sized images in order to upload.

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Ask yourself this question:
Would you colorize film noir movies? The answer should be no. The limitations of budget meant they didn’t have much money for supplemental lighting. This left the film with a darker but more artistic feel. The word noir means dark or black after all.
IMHO B&W photos should be left alone except for repairing damage. B&W photography was maintained as an art form long after color film was affordable and ubiquitous. The art comes in the matching of exposure to the subject. You can move shades of gray in a subtle manner by changing exposure time and the lens opening or fstop.
If you want to understand this look at the artistic photographs of Ansel Adams. Adams used large format cameras and film mostly 8X10 inch. He set up the camera and waited until the light matched his envisioned picture. He literally spent hours on a single camera shot. He rarely shot a backup negative. From there he did his own darkroom work which was very time consuming until late in his life. There is darkroom technique you could spend many years mastering. Producing a single perfect museum quality print takes an amazing level of technique.
The same goes for B&W film. Lighting and processing were as important as the exposure settings. The only thing good about colorizing B&W films is that the original film is repaired and enhanced giving a better B&W film to view.


I used it to colourise an old pic of my dad and his brother.
Dad complained that it got the colour of his coat wrong and now I have to write a letter of complaint to the internet.


Funny you should mention him. I grabbed a few of his pictures via the googs and ran them through the featured website. Not surprisingly, the B&W versions convey far more. In the first three, his technique and use of contrast comes through the process quite well. In the final two, the process misses the special sauce and reduces them to mid-century vacation-grade pictures.

As always, the magic is never in the machine.



I agree completely, but it depends on the photo in question.

From a pragmatic view, though, there’s nothing wrong with colorizing a photo to see if you like it better. For old family snapshots in particular I think this makes a lot of sense.

Having said that, I’m personally more likely to go the other direction and convert to black and white.


I’m VERY interested in the algorithm being used.

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Take a current color photo, convert it to B&W, run it through, see how close it gets.

Yes, I agree, but perhaps not for the same reasons. The parts of our brain that read expressions off faces hardly uses the colour information. If this were not so, then black and white images TV would not work for us. If you were shopping monochrome film, you want to get the same colour balance as our luminance signal. This was done by using orthochromatic film with no filter with tungsten lighting, a ‘straw coloured’ filter at dawn and dusk, and moving though yellow and orange, to deep red filters at noon. When the film stock changed, the make-up changed too: Max Factor made his fortune on the change from Orthochromatic to panchromatic film. Balance is not something that happens by chance. But provided we get the balance right, we are not required to balance RGB all the way up the tone curve; so we can do all sorts of moody lighting and still trigger the right response in our visual cortex.

With colour, you have to achieve the same R:G:B balance as the original scene at the same time. This is something we can probably do digitally, but it would be hideously complex to do with wet chemistry, if it could be done at all. So you can have colour, but even today you are trading it for a freedom to punch the shadows and highlights.

Fine. Go and colorise ‘Casablanca’ if you must. But you will be judged. Oh yes.

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