I like the look of old colorized black and white photos. How can I edit my digital photographs to look like that?

  • 1
    Could you please give some examples of the photos you think are "crispier" than today's photos, including what you think makes them "crispy"?
    – Philip Kendall
    Jun 23, 2017 at 18:59
  • I'm sorry. I realised that those are not early color photos but black and white ones colorised later. For example, the ones on this page. I believe it's the rich black and the duller colors, but I am not sure. I understand it's a very subjective question to ask but I would appreciate if someone can clue me on how to edit photos to look like that.
    – swa_mi
    Jun 23, 2017 at 19:30
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    Could you point out specific images with specific attributes that you would like to target (color/scene saturation and grading, color key, etc.)? Many of the renditions drift widely in these areas. Some emulations may be trivial (if starting with a well-exposed color image, via selective color saturation/hue edits), but some will be very labor-intensive.
    – meklarian
    Jun 23, 2017 at 21:18

2 Answers 2


Note that the workflow for these images was from film B&W image to digital color, and that it is highly unlikely that a single setting was used for all of them (likely a lot of different tweaking was applied, as the images include some 19th century ones shot on ortho emulsion and some late 20th century ones on panchro emulsion - the color rendition is way different, especially of the blue sky and women's dresses).

But if you must you can try the Nik Collection of filters to your digital work. It is free, integrates well with Lightroom and the Analog Efex Pro can give you results similar to what you want. Pay a special attention to color (de)saturation.

  • Analog Efex Pro seems to be almost exactly what I want. Thank you!
    – swa_mi
    Jun 25, 2017 at 13:42

Crisper images have more contrast meaning the scale or transition from max black to pure white is abridged. This is the vivid color imaging of Technicolor and the original Kodachrome. Photo engineers striving for a more faithful image caused color imaging to evolve. We are taking about lengthening the scale of the image. Some like higher contrast “postal card” images. Some like images with long scale and believe these are more true-to-life. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. To achieve a Technicolor type look, just increase the contrast. By the way, I think Kodachrome II ISO 25 made the most attractive images.

Black and white prints were frequently over coated with water colors or transparent oils. These featured subtle colors you would call them pastel colors.

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