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Random Royal Rotogravure – Hand Tinted Photos

Hofdame Note: Thank you to geogirl for this fun post!

Life doesn’t happen in black and white…

The idea of adding colour to a monochrome image by hand dates back to the beginning of photography about 1850.  For many decades, it was the only way to get a colour photograph.   Hand coloring was a practical way to give the impression of colour. Typically, watercolor paints, oils, crayons or pastels, and other paints or dyes were applied to the image surface using brushes, fingers, cotton swabs or airbrushes.

Great skill was needed to control the impact of absorption, thickness of the media and the impact of insoluble material in the dyes/paints. Hand coloring photographs started in the late 1880’s and was very common until WWII when it was generally superseded by the Kodachrome film, but, depending on one’s means, geography and purpose,  hand tinting was still regularly done to the 1950’s.  By the mid-seventies, it was revived in the UK, for instance, on David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust album. It still a craft-type activity.  Digital process and software are used now to create the hand tint effect.

Photos were colorized to improve realism and record the moment more accurately, and, more lately, to create a mood or atmosphere. 

Sometimes the colors are changed up – who knew what our royals were really wearing? Case in point, our rotogravure from a few weeks back.

You can see the difference color makes here. The Queen Alexandra’s emeralds pop. La Comptess Elisabeth Cheremetew is also shown. The photograph dates from 1903, during the Czar Nicholas Romanov era.   The tinting makes the detailing on her traditional dress much more visible.

Sometimes it gives us a glimpse into what our royals must have looked like in all their finery. Look at the gem color on both Queen Mary (left) and Queen Wilhemina (right).

Sometimes it bring historical times to life, such as here in the photo of Princess Elizabeth on VE Day, 1945.

Sometimes, it offers a soft but realistic bridge between painting and photography, such as in the photos of Princess Diana, Sonia and Harald, the Queen and her family, and the Romanovs.

Do you have any hand-tinted images of your favorites?