History Of Photo Processing And Color Technology

Photo processing technology has come a long way since the 19th century. The history of film processing includes numerous changes in techniques that have made alterations and enhancements faster and easier. With the development of color processing, the range of photo alteration has dramatically increased. From using the old flash bulbs and screen plates to today’s color grading software, there are numerous ways to process your photographs.


History of photo processing

old camera

Color vs. Black and White Photography

Color photography traditionally uses chemicals during processing to produce images with color. Now, colors can be recorded electronically. In contrast, black and white photography only uses one type of brightness and only shows shades of grey. Today, there is technology that can record color and black and white effects.

Additive and Subtractive Color

Two basic types of color photography are additive and subtractive color. In the early days of photography, these methods employed an assortment of filters to produce the desired effect. Additive color mixes together colored lights in varying proportions. You can see additive color applied in LCD, LED, plasma and CRT color video displays. If you magnify the pixels in one of these displays, you will see that each pixel contains red, green and blue sub-pixels. They blend at a normal viewing distance to create a wide range of colors, in addition to white and grays.

The subtractive method takes away colors from white light. In photography, the colors are usually cyan, magenta and yellow. The subtractive method overlays these three dyes to form a complete color image.

Color Cameras

Early additive and subtractive color cameras were bulky and took a long time between exposures. To make color photography more convenient, time efficient and higher quality, two basic types of color cameras were developed.

When early color photographers designed the “one-shot” camera, it allowed the three images to be photographed at the same time on three plates. They still used glass plates as late as the 1950s for commercial photography in publications.

The second type of early color camera used a sliding holder for the filters and plates. It was known as the drop back, multiple back or repeating back camera. It was an even faster method of photography, but still exposed the images one at a time on separate plates.

A Basic Timeline of Non-Digital Color Cameras Since the 1930s

The following events indicate a few landmarks in the history of 20th century color photography:

-1930s: Film replaced millions of Autochrome plates
-1935: LumièreAutochrome emerged as film for still photography; First integral tripack introduced
-1950-1955: Alticolor was developed as the last version of Autochrome film
-1983: Polachrome used for the additive screen process for non-digital photography; discontinued almost 20 years later

Digital Photography

Color photography underwent a significant transition between 1995 and 2005. Digital cameras replaced film, and film went to a niche market. Some people still prefer the unique quality of film photography, but many photographers have chosen the convenience and processing ease of digital images.

While digital cameras have improved dramatically in quality in the last decade, image processing software has also made similar strides. Color grading software lets you alter and enhance the color of a motion picture, video or still image.  You can really fine-tune your images by:

-Working in layers of your image: Sharpen your RAW and HDR footage for more striking images
-Finding the right color suite for perfect alignment and depth placement
-Applying primary and secondary color corrections to get the exact shades you want
-Implementing a user-friendly interface so that you can organize and complete your tasks more efficiently

As film cameras and gear become more obscure, you will need easier access to technology that will enable you to produce the desired effects in your photography. While the past of color film technology is interesting, color grading software is the future of photography.