When I was taking photography classes back in the 1990’s, I became interested in hand tinting photographs. I found a book that showed me how to do it using a certain type of oil and mixing it with Prisma colored pencils, so it came out more like paint. In order to make it work, you also needed to use a certain kind of photo paper, which I’m not sure they even make anymore. It was a little thicker and spongier than regular photo paper. Not much, but just enough. Fast forwarding to today, I printed some of my work out in black & white and proceeded to hand color the images. Some turned out great, and others … well, not so much, but it was fun. I know that there are ways to process photos in Photoshop and Elements that make photos that look like they’ve been hand tinted, but it doesn’t look the same to me and I prefer doing it myself.
These days I rarely even print any of my photos out. They’re just digital images, so today I decided to print a few out and then highlight them with colored pencil, just to see how I liked it. I didn’t do anything fancy or use fancy paper, I just used whatever printer paper we had in the machine. I’ve decided that if I like it, I’ll put good photo paper in and give it another try. I have a nice sampler of paper from the Moab Paper Company but I rarely use it. I did print something out on rice paper once that came as part of that collection. It was a photo of some Japanese art I took a picture of when we were in Honolulu several years ago. But mostly, I have it but don’t use it.
Sometimes I wonder if this is indicative of laziness, or a lack of confidence. Over the years, I’ve purchased a few different photo printers as well, but don’t use them either. The biggest one, and the one I paid the most for, sits out in my office in the garage in freezing winter temps, and triple digit summer temps, so I’m not hopeful that I’ll have anything useable there. At one time, I was very excited about the prospect of printing my own work, but I found that getting the color right can be a bugger, and it’s easier to have a professional lab print my images, even though this cuts into my profits considerably. At least I know that when I get a print made, I have a better chance that it’ll look like the digital image.
When I was processing film in school, I loved to watch the images appear as I dipped the photo paper into the chemicals. It was also fun learning to burn and dodge so that the images came out looking the way I wanted them to, rather than the mud I used to get back from Fotomat or other photo processing companies. Suddenly, I could get crisp, clear whites and well delineated shades of gray and black. I figured I’d never go back to Fotomat, or other processing companies ever again. I was wrong.
Overall, I prefer digital photography over film, but I do miss the darkroom, it’s just so magical.
The image I have attached to this is of a bare juniper tree after a snowstorm. The original image was done in color, but because of the snow, it looks like black & white. You can just see hints of the brown in the limbs, and a bluish tint in the snow covering them, and a few hints of yellow and green here and there. You must look closely to see it. This is an iPhone shot of the image I colored today, which is why it looks so noisy (grainy). There is no doubt I can take a bolder approach next time I try it.
I’ll keep working on this image. I do think I can add more color to it because it’s very difficult to see. I remember when my sister was learning how to do acrylic nails when she was in beauty school. Her teacher said, “don’t be afraid to use the product!” I must remember this as well if I plan to hand-color anymore images like this. Dare to be bold!
The original image, processed in color: