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capriccio said 6 years ago 4/27/2008 4:43:52 PM EDT

I was thinking, I really wish I had more time to spend mentoring. I have had some really great mentees and I love helping and sharing. But my hectic life is very unpredictable... and sometimes time differences really get in the way of good one-on-one mentoring. So, here's my contribution: an ongoing help thread focusing on colorization techniques. I'll try to structure it somewhat, but others are more than welcome to chime in with advice and help.

So for the first "class", I thought I'd start with the very beginning. The very first thing I do when colorizing an image for Pleasantville type contests is to spend a thoughtful amount of time searching for a good source image. Thanks to MaxManti who has shared his passion for vintage and collectible photography with me, I've spent hours (although not nearly as many as I'd like) scouring sites like www.doctormacro.info (Max contributes a lot of the B&W photos there!) and Max's own site, "Restore Hollywood". So I usually snag a picture anytime I think that it would make a great subject. I keep them in a subfolder marked "color" under my W1K folder. (Each section has its own folder, and each contest has a subfolder. What can I say - it's the only area of my life that stays consistently organized! :))

What to look for in a source?

1. Does it appeal to me aesthetically. This will be different for everyone, but considering the amount of time I'll spend coloring on it, it's important to me that I find it interesting and/or attractive. This usually, for me, means a female character, because they typically allow for more beautiful clothing, makeup and skin tones. And I'm a girl. We stick together. :P

2. Is the light well-balanced or easily corrected? The many photos out there have almost always been restored at some point and will have been processed to look as good as possible in black & white. This can mean that some areas are burned out to black to get rid of dust & scratches, or that the contrast has been bumped up really high for dramatic effect. If this is the case, they usually don't make good subject matter for coloring since color won't show on extreme whites and blacks. A good source photo will be well balanced with lots of shades of gray with only a few spots of pure black and/or white. Colors look much more vibrant but naturally so when the contrast on original black & white images is reduced.

This image of Jean Harlow is very beautiful and dramatic, but would not color well because of the extreme contrasts, blown-out highlights and very dark shadows in the overall image.

I have a trick that usually works on salvageable semi-high contrast pictures that I'll share in another "class". :)

3. Are there any details that would make it a "wow" image? The sunset and background in this entry were almost embarrassingly simple to color (I'll share the technique another time), but packed a real punch in overall appeal. Other things to look for - a wide variety of foliage, interesting angles of people, interactions between people, facial expressions, jewelry, interesting clothing and fun backgrounds. Straight-on portraits without any other interesting features may be a good exercise in developing a technique, but won't be as impressive - especially to the voters.

4. Are all of the main features in sharp focus? Sometimes it has all the elements that draw interest, but when you look at the large version of the image, it is extremely fuzzy and lacks sharp edges. Blur is very hard to colorize convincingly because the blur is never one single color - it involves a lot of overlap between objects that wouldn't happen if the image was sharp. And you want your subject to be crisp and clear.

This picture of Elizabeth Taylor has attitude and character... but it' just overall too blurry.

5. About those backgrounds... a busy background can be impressive, yes. And sometimes a blurred background can work. But I've found that when I pick a photo for its multitude of details just to try to gain a "wow" factor, it falls short. Because what "wow"s isn't dependent on quantity of details... like everything else, it's quality. If you like busy scenes, try to pick background details that support the main subject of the image. This image has a lot going on, with a lot of confusion in the composition... not to mention the modern-day spotlight in the bottom left corner. Imagine it colorized - the central figures would probably be lost in the crowd. Also, make sure you can tell with some amount of certainty just what the images in the background are. You'll need to know this to make more accurate and believable color choices. For instance, this image is stunning, and the background is supportive but not distracting... but I would probably not choose it because I have no idea what the heck those little bag-like things on the wall are!


So what are some examples of images that I would probably choose to color? Something like this image of Jane Russell really catches my eye. Even though it's a little fuzzy, it's enough in focus. What makes it really appealing though is the extreme overhead angle, the retro furnishings and the possibility for mixing the lighting colors - yellow and warm for the reading lamp and cooler tones in the shadows. I also like this one because of the way they're looking at each other - and the reflection of the wine glass on Cary Grant's arm would be fun to figure out coloring for.

Homework: post in this thread with 2 examples of images that display the above points ( - sharp focus subjects, supportive background (if you like background work), an interesting element or feature, well balanced lights and darks, no blown out highlights, etc. - ) and tell what you like about the photos.

Next time we''ll choose one from our list and start on techniques!


[Edited by capriccio on 4/27/2008 4:50:19 PM]

deaddonkeysrule said 6 years ago 4/27/2008 4:53:27 PM EDT

FINALLY

!

northman said 6 years ago 4/27/2008 5:39:39 PM EDT

Great!

Here's the two I picked out:


Full size link
I love the Thin Man movies so I would enjoy doing this one. The background with the glasses on the wall...I'm not sure how hard that will be to do, so I am curious.


Full size
I know this one is simple but I think it is a stunning portrait that has some very sharp detail.

[Edited by User on 4/27/2008 10:36:09 PM]

PixelDustMT said 6 years ago 4/27/2008 6:04:24 PM EDT

OK, this is very cool! Thanks Cap. :)

Here's one I find interesting.

Beau Brummel

I love all of the details and there's a nice combination of textures and fabrics along with a nice tonal quality.

Edited to add photo link.



[Edited by User on 4/27/2008 9:58:47 PM]

Treason said 6 years ago 4/27/2008 6:40:48 PM EDT

Oh, VERY cool and a great idea!

*goes to search for good looking pics*


Found some. Don't know if they are really what we are looking for (hope they are) but I like them!

I made them a bit smaller so I don't take up the whole page.


I love this one for the shiny metallic dress, the pose, the plushy wall parts and the interesting archway.


I adore this pic. It's simple and clear and I love the far away expression on his face. I like the texture of his clothing and the sky in the background.


Edit: I forgot to say what I liked about the photos!

[Edited by User on 4/27/2008 8:37:30 PM]

Lmorrow57 said 6 years ago 4/27/2008 6:46:49 PM EDT

Cap....you are awesome! but I already knew that
Thanks...me searches for pictures

Buffmufin said 6 years ago 4/27/2008 7:05:45 PM EDT

Thanks, Cap, for your insights and source links. I guess there will now be a bunch of Colorization contests!

ICEBUNNY said 6 years ago 4/27/2008 9:02:21 PM EDT

Thanks for th chance to learn from a real pro ,I have tryied colourization with little sucess so I'll be paying attention in class

RatbarSteward said 6 years ago 4/27/2008 9:10:56 PM EDT

I've always liked this one...

ICEBUNNY said 6 years ago 4/27/2008 9:27:54 PM EDT

ok I found some pics, I like this first one because I'm just a beginner and it looks fairly simple without any background

[/url]
and I like the second one for the colours that would be on her clothes and the door and feathers

[/url]

Treason said 6 years ago 4/27/2008 9:30:16 PM EDT

On 4/27/2008 9:27:54 PM, ICEBUNNY said:

and I like the second one for the colours that would be on her clothes and the door and feathers

I love your second pic. So fun! :D

ICEBUNNY said 6 years ago 4/27/2008 9:35:02 PM EDT

yeah she has a fun expression on her face

Phildo said 6 years ago 4/27/2008 9:57:21 PM EDT

this image is stunning, and the background is supportive but not distracting... but I would probably not choose it because I have no idea what the heck those little bag-like things on the wall are!

They are sandbags, and I can't wait to see what color they will be. :D

Seriously capriccio, I can't wait to see the next lesson. You are truly talented. Thank you for doing this! :)

Treason said 6 years ago 4/27/2008 10:17:24 PM EDT

On 4/27/2008 9:57:21 PM, Phildo said:
[quote]this image is stunning, and the background is supportive but not distracting... but I would probably not choose it because I have no idea what the heck those little bag-like things on the wall are!

They are sandbags, and I can't wait to see what color they will be. :D

Seriously capriccio, I can't wait to see the next lesson. You are truly talented. Thank you for doing this! :) [/quote]Ha! I thought they were sandbags, too! I would love to see her colour that image, it's lovely. :D


Edit: PS. Can you tell I'm bored Phil? John is taking forever to get home from work and you guys don't post enough to keep me entertained! :P

[Edited by User on 4/27/2008 10:13:29 PM]

Phildo said 6 years ago 4/27/2008 10:26:23 PM EDT

On 4/27/2008 10:17:24 PM, Treason said:
Edit: PS. Can you tell I'm bored Phil? John is taking forever to get home from work and you guys don't post enough to keep me entertained! :P

Watch this for 15 minutes, desaturate it then recolor. You will be fine! :P

Treason said 6 years ago 4/27/2008 10:37:43 PM EDT

On 4/27/2008 10:26:23 PM, Phildo said:

Watch this for 15 minutes, desaturate it then recolor. You will be fine! :P

Haha, I heart you, sir.

Treason said 6 years ago 4/27/2008 10:57:23 PM EDT

Pixel, I really, really like yours!

ICEBUNNY said 6 years ago 4/27/2008 11:13:26 PM EDT

busy backgrounds scare me
@ northman that portrait of Grace Kelly is fantastic *steals picy runs away*

[Edited by User on 4/27/2008 11:21:04 PM]

1020Rocker said 6 years ago 4/27/2008 11:29:16 PM EDT

Thanks cap!!!

capriccio said 6 years ago 4/27/2008 11:31:08 PM EDT

ahh - sandbags. Makes sense! That's another tip, then - if you don't know what something is, someone here is bound to know! :)

Treason - Very nice pictures!! I love the classic hollywood set in that first one. I confess, I'm not good with names - don't know who they are, but I like them too.

Rat - awesome pic. I think I would probably play with the contrast or lighting some before or as I color just to make sure the colors don't turn out too dark and muddy. But very nice pose and interesting fabrics

Icebunny - very nice examples of images that contain a LOT of interest and details even without busy backgrounds. They don't all have to be complicated in the background to be impressive. That first one has a beautiful dress you could do SO much with.

And Phildo - what is a creepy dancing baby doing in here!? :P LOL!

MasterGnu said 6 years ago 4/28/2008 12:40:48 AM EDT

Ok, here comes two of mine. I have a folder on my computer with good bw images so I went for a search with a few new to put in it. I ended up with these:

First this one. A lovely portrait. Very simple and striking. The half-transparent multi-colored clothes she is wearing would be a very interesting challenge and surely boost the score if handled in a good way. Also the background is not completely flat but one will be able to show ones supposed skills on it. Maybe something for a rererererererererererematch cap?

Then this one. Now, this is if I feel like a real challenge. I like the sky in this. Too often the sky is completely blown out on bw photos but here they have managed to keep it very well exposed. Still the bg seems rather nondisturbing, and won't draw too much attention from the foreground.

kochuprabha said 6 years ago 4/28/2008 1:54:52 AM EDT

Double post.

[Edited by User on 4/28/2008 4:06:08 AM]

kochuprabha said 6 years ago 4/28/2008 2:02:54 AM EDT

First off, I am really super duper excited about this!!!

Now down to business. I found three images I like.

The first one is of the Marx Brothers and I chose it because I think it is quite funny and will provide a lot of colors to play with.


Number two is of Clark Gable and some other actress. I like the tight crop on their faces and think it will really test my ability to colorize skin.

The last one is of Shirley Ross. I like the angle of the image and the fact that there is a background to work with.


[Edited by User on 4/28/2008 4:05:02 AM]

carmsie said 6 years ago 4/28/2008 7:59:52 AM EDT

oh, really nice! :)

I found these:
Madeleine Carroll

because I think that printed thingy on the left might be interesting to work on.. :p

and this one because theres things going on, but I don't think it will be that difficult...

Loretta Young

MaxManti said 6 years ago 4/28/2008 12:26:00 PM EDT

Nice to see this thread , thanks for the congrats Cap, a great topic that will be helpful to many folks here !!! And real nice to see some of my images I have restored getting chosen.

Now seeing I have posted scanned and restored literally 1000's of images of classic Hollywood as mentioned you'll come across many images qualities. Many portraits and photos taken pre 1930 by the old Hollywood masters the studios had on contract were masters of light and darkroom techniques, many professional retouchers worked alongside photographers like George Hurrell, Clarence Sinclair Bull and Ruth Harriet Louise to name a few. Many a photo I have in my library have still got the retouchers blemishes and brushstrokes, most of these photos were not sent for general release but are still wonderful images hence many a hour I have spent fixing these images. As I was saying pre 1930, soft focus was the style of the era due to photographic technical limitations, filmstock and camera shutter speeds. The soft focus hid many a facial wrinkle and skin blemish as well :-)

Post 1930 the Classic Hollywood glamor portrait came into its own , George Hurrell at MGM was the most famous, his baby oil on the skin style made for many a wondrous portrait. Crisp in focus sharp portraits really took off during this era. Collectors of true original photos have no qualms spending 40,000 US dollars for such a photo ( A recent Greta Garbo went for this princely sum).

Photographers such as Hurrell ,Sinclair Bull, Otto Dyar and their other studio counterparts had long studio relationships and lucky for us many 1000's of images for us to use in Pleasantville contests. So tip your hat to these true artists next time you are colourizing an image.