Adding Colour to our Family History(Literally)

Photo editing is a great skill to acquire when you are dealing with family history. It started for me when I was fortunate enough to be able to borrow an old album. It had somehow touched me and made me want to bring its contents to life. My hobby became sitting there with photos quietly trying to restore them. Getting it right meant I actually felt somebody staring back at me from the page.

To digress slightly I remember a trip to outback Australia, many years ago (I can actually look up the date and location in my travel diaries, but I do not feel this is the most significant issue here) when we made a rest stop. I had refreshments and got quickly back on the bus. I was soon aware our bus was being yelled at by a group of indigenous people. Here in Australia, one of the first things they tell you, is not to take photos of indigenous people without their permission. I was very wary of even taking my camera out with indigenous people in the vicinity. I had also read the book. Songlines by Bruce Chatwyn( the book is mentioned with a quick description (in this blog) and knew that to some indigenous people, to take their photos, is to steal their soul.

I am reminded of this whenever I look at old photos. Sometimes it appears like I can really feel the souls behind the eyes which reach out to me from photos. Hence I cherish old photos and I want to bring them back to life.Yesterday I discovered a free website which appeared to do just that. You load your tired black and white photos and you can download them in colour. To me this is a big deal.

I was initially very wary, particularly as the site uses a self-training computer algorithm, ( following my research on A.I.) but I decided nonetheless to give it a go.

I started with this


Which I had then converted to this(on my computer). I do accept the initial black and white conversion may not have been completely accurate.

Black & White Susan

I then attempted to use the Colorize photos website

to restore the original colour.

This was the result:


I do realise that there are some issues here but nonetheless I persevered and used an actual black and white photo. I watched it come to life before me, but unfortunately I had had no ideas of the original colours. My next step was to try to find a black and white subject where I had a better idea of the original colours. Yes there were a few quirks, like my uncle had suddenly developed one green ear. Nonetheless I decided that my uncle had indeed, been brought to life.

I played with the program on and off yesterday, with mixed results. Two of the photos produced truly spectacular results, whilst others were more disappointing.

It was certainly fun and gave me a few joyful moments. The program is a long way from the artistry of a skilled professional.

How professionals colourise old photos

However I was so proud of a couple of the results, I replaced my black and white photos on my tree, with my newly created colour ones(Once I had a colour photo, I had then used the normal editing programs to correct most issues). The day is fast approaching where we may be able to easily view our ancestors in full, glorious colour.

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