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I traveled to the company that took this image originally. It came from a small 2" transparency. There are a handful of them, all of which have green and pink hues. I am hoping to fix the colors.

color-shifted image

The original subject was blue and orange, which can be seen in a framed print.

true color image

Does anyone have any suggestions about how to color correct this image?


Thanks for comments everyone. Additional info to address questions raised in comments: The two images I post come from a common negative. The blue and white version is a large framed print, owned by the company that took the photo in 1957. While I was at the company that took this image, looking at their archives, I stumbled across small transparencies of the same image, which had turned pink. The version I seek to fix, is a scan of either a transparency or a print-I don't know, it comes from a third party source who traded images with the original company.

I am certain this color change effect was not intentional. To show you, here is another example from the same archives, one is a small slide showing close to the true color, and a the second image is clearly a slide/transparency which has shifted pink. Note that all of these were taken in the 1950s.

Picture of a slide same image from common negative, which pink shift

Thank you everyone. I may have to go back to Commerce and see if I can sort through decades of negatives to try to find the original negative, (though I don't know if it has aged, or the transparencies did) OR, possibly talk them into letting me take the framed photo off the wall (the print with good colors), scan it, and have it reframed.

  • Can you clarify a couple of things? First, where the handful of transparencies all copies of the same image, or are they multiple different originals? Second, you describe them as "green and pink". In your uploaded image, the green is very muted. Is it stronger in the original, with the scan you got just reducing that to neutral gray? – mattdm Jun 6 '18 at 20:06
  • Check this out: unwritten-record.blogs.archives.gov/2016/01/11/… Seems you have a very badly faded negative. – Hueco Jun 8 '18 at 19:37
  • @Corey: Yeah, with about five minutes with the color balance tool and the examples there, you can get as good as or better than that site's end results. Even just hitting "auto levels" gives you a decent start. But this image is just too far gone. – mattdm Jun 8 '18 at 19:58
  • @mattdm - I concur, dr. OP looks like they're standing in a warehouse that gets hit with seasonal temp changes, humidity, and maybe even rain leakage. Not exactly an archival space. I may still play around with this later. Maybe there's a way to apply a color to a black and white version and then tweak the levels to get it to apply more naturally. I'm not holding my breath. Sorry, Cam...these are pretty gone. – Hueco Jun 8 '18 at 21:25
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The problem here goes beyond a color shift. There just isn't any useful color information in left image

The original color film had cyan, magenta, and yellow dyes. It appears that the cyan and yellow have almost entirely faded, leaving just the magenta — the pink hue.

I'm guessing that the first sample scan has had green adjusted to be more gray as an attempt to neutralize the shift (making it look very much like an intentional effect.) But maybe it's just like that.

If you crank the saturation up like crazy you can see:

enter image description here

But the point is: there's no useful, real color information in this file. Crucially, note that in the reference, the truck exterior, truck interior, shrub behind, and building to the right all have different hues. That has been lost.

With lesser amounts of fading, one can correct easily with the Color Balance tool in Gimp (or other software like Photoshop). But here, there's not not enough distinct information for that to work. It just ends up re-casting the mostly-gray overall image.

I don't think there are any fixes to this image file, really. That leaves these options:

  • Recolor by hand. Since you have a reference, and it's mostly big blocks of mostly-solid colors, this wouldn't really be that hard.
  • Embracing a false color look as in the alternate answer here.
  • Possibly, you could get a new scan using color-correction abilities built into the scanning software. Even if that's not perfect, it may give you a starting point from which you can get more real results.
  • Or: remove the photograph from the frame and glass and scan that. That's clearly also faded, but at least there's something to work with.
  • The part that has me tripped up is the "small 2" transparencies that were green and pink"...almost indicating that a color shift had happened to the original slide? I've never seen blue go to olive-green before and it looks like yellow has been completely wiped...possible a color neg had faded that bad? – Hueco Jun 6 '18 at 19:35
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There is an unexpected amount of color information hidden away if you can get at it.

  1. Swap blue and green channels.
  2. Boost gamma of blue channel.
  3. Add S-curve to red and green channels.
  4. Contrast mask
  5. More curves and levels
  6. Blend results back into previous copy/layer

lots of color attempt to color correct

  • I'm not buying it. In the reference image, the truck exterior, truck interior, shrub in the background, pavement and building (or whatever) on the right all have distinct, different hues. Your version has them all the same (because as I said, that distinction is gone from the selective-color image). – mattdm Jun 6 '18 at 19:58
  • Yeah, still. You've certainly brought out more color, but I don't think it's true, original color. It certainly doesn't look much like the reference. And, again, things which have distinct hues in the reference are very similar here. – mattdm Jun 6 '18 at 20:23
  • ... then that's the same answer as mine. – mattdm Jun 6 '18 at 20:28
  • I guess we'll have to agree to disagree. The OP's stated goals are to "adjust it closer to the true colors" of the original image. Whether or not the fading is natural or intentional, there is no useful color information for restoring the true colors, and the only fix is recoloring by hand. – mattdm Jun 6 '18 at 20:49

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