Wednesday, March 2, 2016


We have all seen those old weathered historic photos of old buildings, downtown streets, and even people from the 1800s or later. Some of them are in black & white, while others have that reddish-brown hue to them. Those latter photos are said to have a sepia color to them.

Fast-forward the picture to 2016. There is an easy way to convert modern-day color photos to sepia. All you need is photo editing software that has the options to 1) Convert to 
B&W (black & white) and, 2) Adjust the color balance to your photos.

If you do have those options/tools, here are some quick and easy steps to achieve that sepia look to your images.

1) Select an image that will look good in sepia. I prefer old buildings, old cars or machinery,
    outdoor museums, and old trains and railroad scenes.

2) Convert the image to a B&W image. You can make adjustments to that image either  
to converting it to sepia, or after. That's your choice. Adjustments can include
    brightness, contrast, vibrance, etc. Whatever looks good to you.

3) Once you have the conversion to B&W, save that B&W image as a copy. You don't want 
    to lose your original.           

4) Now that you are looking at your B&W image, go to Select Image-->Adjustments-->Color
    Balance. When you get to color balance, select the slider that shows Cyan and Red. 
    Move the slider toward the red side. How far you go with it simply depends on your taste, 
    and how brownish or reddish you prefer.    

Below are examples of the interesting results you can get. You can also add a vignette if you have that option, as I did for a couple of these examples. 

                                      Downtown Eureka Springs, Arkansas.
                                      Not a soul in sight at 6:00 am. 1990s. 

                                      Part of downtown, Crested Butte, Colorado,
                                      with vignette added.

 Caboose, fence and street light. Colorado Railroad Museum, Golden, Colorado,
 with slight white vignette.

                                                    Colorado Railroad Museum

                                                      A beautifully restored '31 Ford

As you can see, they all have a slightly different feel to them, in terms of the degree of brownish-reddish look.

So, pick a couple of your favorite photos that are conducive to this type of vintage looking photographs and convert them to sepia. Have fun.

Eli Vega,
Author of Right Brain Photography