Monday, August 17, 2009

Replicating Autohromes in Adobe Photoshop

Today I wax poetic for another trip to Paris, of course that is all enhanced by my rediscovery of the "Autochrome" postcard collection I have. Working from some old images I've been attempting to recreated the romantic look and impressionistic feel of the old Autochromes. These are close, and worth posting for comments. They do get bigger with a click.

The Autochromes themselves were the first commercially successful color "film" process from approx 1905-1930. Auguste Lumiere was among the inventors on this process. What they did in short is come up with a process where fine potato starch grains were died, combined with lamp black (ultra fine coal dust) on a glass plate. The plate was then varnished to hold those elements then a photographic emulsion was applied. It yielded very impressionistic, not quite accurate color, but very romantic images. The images themselves up close one could see the black dots surrounding the color grains. Even viewed full frame you could still pick out the black around the color but not always pronounced in the mid-highlighted areas of the image.

In photoshop I started by working from a RAW image that I duplicated (never work from the original file) unsharpened a bit and started running through filters. Specifically after the unsharpen layer, a new layer was duplicated and a watercolor filter was applied. Another duplicate image was done and it was given the brushstroke "sumi". Then I'd use the blending tool until I got the right combination of saturation (subtle) with a combo of blurred outlines and sharp elements. That was then flattened and a final "poster" filter was applied to separate blocks of color in the sky and insert some black outlined elements in the shadows.

Not a perfect "autochrome" replication but close. Now to work on specific shooting with the process in mind and see what I can come up with while further experimenting with filters and layers to get the look even closer.

I love to experiment.

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