In order to achieve the most true-to-life colors, graphics experts must become history buffs. To create a color scale they have to find out what objects in the photo would have looked like in real life. Examples can range from trade beads to the coloring on product logos to known paint colors of historic landmarks.
Using these history-based research methods can produce results that are much more accurate and vivid than their hand-tinted counterparts, as the latter were often intentionally exaggerated and can read as lurid by today’s standards.
Not only do these artists have to account for the colors of everyday objects in the images, but they also have to account for “atmospheric conditions” present when the photos were taken. The light source on the subject affects how each of the colors would have looked in real life. For instance, a soldier’s uniform must be colorized based on the overcast sky above him.
In response to the public outcry that these photographs should be left alone, Lloyd maintains that they are supplements to the originals, not replacements. For many people, these colorized images represent the nearest we will ever come to understanding what it would have been like to witness these historical moments firsthand.
Even if you believe these works of art were never meant to be changed, you have to admit that discovering the original color of the Eiffel Tower or what the inside of King Tut’s tomb looked like are pretty amazing things to see in color!
You can watch the amazing process in the video below and learn more about what it takes to make these historic photographs really come to life. Be warned that there is some profanity at the 1:52 and 5:39 marks.