Color My World

February 26, 2013  •  Leave a Comment


Wow - right now my world needs some color - it is very white outside!  But with the snow comes much needed moisture.

In my blog February 12, 2013 I talked a little bit about black and white photography.  Today I would like to mention some ways that color wound up on a black and white print.

There are two reasons for toning black and white photographs:  to achieve greater longevity of the image by protecting or altering the silver in the print or to change the feeling of the photograph by modifying the print color.

Sepia toning is the most popular type of toning and the most well known.  Sepia toning is a chemical process that turns any silver in the developing photograph into a sulfide, which is more resistant to aging than silver.  Originally made from the sepia cuttlefish, sepia pigment was used to treat printed photos to make them more durable. Consequently, many of the old photographs around today appear in brown tones due to the sepia toning that has preserved them for so long.  

In a traditional darkroom, toning is a time consuming and sometimes frustrating process.  Many factors influence the results including the paper and chemicals used.  What's more, some of the components used in toners are very hazardous.  Sepia toner is a suspected carcinogen, and most dangerous of all is Selenium toner.  Selenium is an extremely poisonous heavy metal.  

As I have studied photography there was an occasion where I used Selenium toner.  The entire toning process was moved outdoors - away from the building in a well-ventilated area.  Selenium gives a black and white photograph a red-brown to purple-brown tone.  It was a great learning process, and the print or two or four that I produced were nice - but not outstanding, and to me not worth the risk involved in tinting the print

But in today's world we have digital darkrooms where toning a photograph is merely a few mouse clicks away.  It is up to the photographer to decided what tones to use and the opacity of the tones.  There are several advantages to using a computer for toning; one is there no chemical danger when you tone your images.  What I particularly like about toning on the computer is not only choosing the opacity of the "tone", but I can selectively brush some of it away.

In the image "Joy Elevator" I took a photograph, turned it into a black and white image and then added a sepia tone.  I then selectively brushed some of the sepia tone off of the silos of the elevator and the scale house, leaving a warm tone to match the surrounding image.

         Joy Elevator

Joy Elevator



The Joy Elevator is located west of Greensburg, KS on Hwy 54.

Thank you for sharing your time with me – I truly appreciate it.  Colleen


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