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Color Sepia Photographs

Back in film days, the only way to make a sepia print is to perform a special bleach and toning process on a black and white print. It got a little easier when people figured out how to print B&W negatives (such as the Kodak T-100CN) on color paper to get the sepia effect. Nowadays, many digital cameras support the Sepia mode, making you life much easier than ever before.

Interestingly, the Sepia mode on digital cameras always captures the image in black-and-white. That is because the original Sepia print was in B&W. You see, sepia was originally an undesired side effect in your grandparents' or you parents' era, in the late nineteenth century and the early twentieth century. Back then, only B&W photographs exist. Those photographs were produced using shades of brown and white. So when your ancestors showed you their photographs, you associated the brownish B&W prints as old photographs.

Today's paper technology is far more advanced, and doesn't have the side effect of printing in shades of brown and white. So the easiest way to create this effect is to fake it on film or in digital camera. But with today's technology you should not only be able to create B&W sepia photos, you should be able to create color sepia photos. Although by creating a color sepia photo, you'd be deviating from the old fashion sepia print, the result could be interesting, if not spectacular.

One method of making this effect on your digital camera is to purchase a sepia filter for your camera and lens. Then simply shoot color photographs with the sepia filter. Personally, I prefer making the final image in the camera, so I prefer this route.

On my recent trip to Snow Summit, a skiing resort up at Big Bear, I learned a new trick. My skiing goggle has a slight yellowish tint to reduce snow glare. When I snowboarded down the mountain, everything looked old and surreal. I figured that the goggle could act as a sepia-like filter. So I shot several color sepia pictures on the slope. Note the red jacket in the sepia photograph below.

The next time yon are up on the mountain, you might try shooting pictures behind your goggles as well. Depending on the tint, you could get surprising and interesting results in your photographs.

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Digital Color Sepia

Another popular method to creaet the sepia effect is to post-process it in Photoshop. That's a popular technique today, because computers are popular and you don't have to deal with chemical mess. There are tons of people showing you how to apply the Sepia effect to your photograph on the Internet. I have included links to some of them in "Related Links" below. But none of these articles have shown an example of making a color sepia photograph. Perhaps you know how and you can share that with us in the discussion forums.

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Copyright © 2006 by Chieh Cheng. All Rights Reserved.