50 “Colorized Photos That Make History Look Truly Stunning”, As Shared By This Twitter Account
Although we sometimes like to turn our photos into black and white edits to change the mood or tell a different story, there is nothing like seeing a vibrant image that perfectly captures its moment. And if you are a sucker for history and vintage photography, we’ve got the perfect list for you. We took a look at the Vintage.Stuff Twitter account, which features “colorized photos that make history look truly stunning”, and gathered some of our favorite posts down below for you to enjoy.
And although Bored Panda has covered similar pages here and here, we just can’t seem to get enough of these beautiful, colorful snapshots of the past. So enjoy your daily dose of history through these vintage images, and be sure to upvote all of your favorites. Keep reading to also find an interview with Jussi of JHL Colorizing and Dana Kelley, one of the creators of DeOldify. Then if you want to check out even more of these pics, you can join the nearly 13k followers of Vintage.Stuff on Twitter right here.
Despite how much we may have learned about history in school, there is infinite information out there. We cannot possibly keep track of every war, every innovation, every social movement, every world leader, etc. But most of what we were taught in school came from a textbook that might have put us to sleep at the time. I don’t know about you, but I certainly would have retained more information if I had vivid images alongside each lesson.
That’s why pages like Vintage.Stuff are so great. Vintage.Stuff captures snapshots of history that we likely have never seen before and may not have even heard of. It does not just view the past through rose colored glasses either. There are some heartbreaking, horrifying and disturbing photos as well, to paint an honest picture of the past. Through their posts which can invoke a variety of emotions in viewers, Vintage.Stuff is educating and entertaining thousands of followers.
We reached out to Jussi, the artist behind JHL Colorizing, on Instagram to hear a little bit about his process. First, we wanted to know what inspired him to delve into the world of photo colorizing in the first place. "In 2017, I saw nicely colored pictures from the WW2 and decided to try coloring myself," he told Bored Panda. "The first picture I colored was the Viipuri (Vyborg) Castle, which belonged to Finland before the Second World War." He now specializes in coloring photos of Finnish war history.
We also asked him why colorized photos are so captivating. "Colored images bring more depth to black and white images. Even small details come out better. The pictures kind of come alive," Jussi shared.
Next, we wanted to hear a little bit about Jussi's process when coloring a photo. "In my opinion, the picture must first of all be interesting before I even start thinking about coloring," he said. "When a good picture has been found, I look for as much information as possible about the subject. I try to color the picture as accurately as possible. I can use, for example, Google Maps for help. And if I need to colorize uniforms, I can look for the right colors in museums."
Lastly, Jussi added, "I colorize photos completely without artificial intelligence (AI). With my own hands, I will get significantly better results." If you'd like to check out some of Jussi's beautifully colored photos, you can find his Instagram right here and his website right here.
For a previous Bored Panda article featuring colorized vintage photos, I reached out to professional photographer, photo restorer and photo colorizer Jim Mathis to gain some insight on this interesting art. He told us that he got into photo colorizing because he had always loved black and white photography first. “I was a protégé of Ansel Adams and other famous B&W photographers,” Jim said. “For 23 years I owned a custom black & white photo lab in Kansas City. But I was very much aware that not all images are better in black and white, and, in fact, color can be a very strong element of many photographs."
But it was not always easy to colorize images. “Before the invention of Kodachrome in 1936, if we wanted a color photo, it had to be hand colored,” Jim explained. “Artists who could paint over a B&W photo were in high demand for over a hundred years. The advantage of hand coloring is that we can use any colors we want, and we do not need to colorize the parts of the image that would be distracting if left in the original color.”
Jim previously told Bored Panda that photo colorizing even ran in his family. "My mother was a colorist that worked in a photo studio in the 1940s-50s, and I learned the technique from her at an early age. I have always enjoyed colorizing photos and making them special by using spot color or different colors."
We also asked Jim why seeing vintage photos in color is so captivating. "We are used to seeing older photographs as B&W, so adding color seems to bring them to life," he explained. "By its very nature B&W is abstract. The reality of color can be startling if we are used to seeing photos from a certain era only in shades of gray."
Jim even went on to break down the process of photo colorizing for us. “In the past, oil paint, colored charcoal, or colored pencils could be used to add color to a B&W photograph, just as if we were making a painting from 'scratch',” he explained. “With a computer using Adobe Photoshop, we can duplicate that same process using brush tools, pencil tools, and so forth. The most recent versions of Photoshop use AI which can apply the colors almost automatically by analyzing the image and figuring out what colors things should be. This process is not 100% accurate and usually only gives an approximate color and only works on common subjects.”
“For example, Photoshop might know that grass is green and the sky is blue, or what color flesh tones should be, but it doesn’t know what color a car is or what any object that could be any color should look like," Jim noted. "Automated colorizing still requires a certain amount of color correction and adjustments. The big advantage of using a computer to colorize images is that multiple prints and sizes can be made. I sometimes convert a modern color digital photo to black & white and then colorize it to give a new look. Not relying on the original colors can be a very creative process."
Jim also added, "Not all B&W images should be colorized, but if the original photographer would have used color film if it had been available, colorizing may be a good choice."
If you'd like to view some of Jim's work and check out his website, you can find it right here.
If you’re interested in colorizing some of your own photos or pictures from your family photo albums, it has become easier than ever today. For those of us who are amateurs and don't have the time to dedicate to learning Photoshop, we can check out websites like DeOldify. DeOldify, which can now be found on MyHeritage, is a project started by Jason Antic and Dana Kelley, two software engineers living in San Diego. All users need to do is upload a photo onto MyHeritage, and the AI technology works its magic. To learn more about the background of DeOldify, we reached out to Dana Kelley for an interview. "The first open source version of DeOldify was released just to show off a cool concept project back in November 2018, and in May 2019, we released an updated version to the open source project," Dana told Bored Panda.
"In February 2020, we took the opportunity to release a completely overhauled, improved version with the genealogy platform MyHeritage - available exclusively through their site," Dana explained. "Using our new architecture as a foundation, we have developed additional models to support the restoration and repair of old/vintage photos. We have been so surprised and humbled by the reaction to the project, and we feel very fortunate to be able to continue working on it. Most recently, we have been working on applying everything we have learned over the past four years to the very challenging problem of coloring and restoring old film."
We also asked Dana why she thinks historical photographs in color are so captivating. "Seeing historical photos in color helps people to connect with the past and makes the subjects of the photos much more relatable," she shared. "We have received so many stories from people seeing their old family photos in color and suddenly remembering details of events they had forgotten. We have heard everything from they forgot their grandma used to have that tiffany lamp, or they got poison ivy on that one family vacation from their childhood. It's amazing to see some of the details and objects that suddenly gain more clarity in a photo, we are currently working with a museum to design several colorized and restored murals, and the original details of the scene that start to emerge in color are so captivating."
We also asked Dana if this project has given her a greater appreciation for the past. "I have always been very interested in history, and seeing historical photos in color has increased my interest," she told Bored Panda. "I love learning more about what the model gets right (and wrong) so that we can keep improving. It's been inspiring to collaborate with others who are also passionate about sharing their history, and we love that we are able to help them tell their stories. We love the African-American heritage archive Nanny Jack & Company and have supported them in creating enhanced colorizations for some of their speaking events. They do a phenomenal job of taking historical artifacts with an African American focus and tying them back to the places and spaces that made them special then and now."
If you're interested in trying out DeOldify yourself, you can find it right here.
We hope you’re enjoying your daily history lesson through the lens of newly colorized photos. Keep upvoting all of your favorite posts, and be sure to let us know in the comments if you have any experience with photo colorizing. There is nothing wrong with a classic black and white image, but something about seeing these vibrant pictures just makes them feel even more real and helps us connect with the fascinating past. If you still haven't had enough when you reach the end of this list, you can check out a couple of Bored Panda's previous articles on the same topic here and here.