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Digital sepia toning

Digital sepia toning - Try using Photoshop to sepia tone and give a vintage look to your photo.

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Category : Adobe Photoshop
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Adding a sepia tone to a photo that's been taking at a vintage re-enactment can make the photo look even more realistic and suit its real era.
Photoshop sepia - before and after animation

Step 1: Choose a suitable photo

Here's a shot that was taken at a 40s weekend in Harworth village, North Yorkshire. Its the perfect kind of shot for the sepia treatment, everything in view has the 40s look, so a 40s sepia tone will add to the realism. I asked the woman to look away from the camera so her direction follows a similar path to the plane.
Photoshop sepia - original photo

Step 2: Prepare the photo

As you can see from the original in the before and after animation above, I've cropped the photo to give the woman and the Spitfire more prominence in the photo. I've also cloned out barrier tape that was used to prevent visitors touching the plane. Please view other ePHOTOzine articles to see how to crop and clone.
Photoshop sepia - edited

Step 3a: Apply the sepia tone using Photo Filter

Now to find a suitable sepia tone. In Photoshop there are two quick options and one more advanced option. The quickest option, available from Photoshop CS onwards is the Photo Filter - Image > Adjustments > Photo Filter. This has a sepia option on the drop-down list of pre-sets and the strength can be adjusted. The results are reminiscent of the type you'd have seen in pre colour photography and quite realistic with flat highlights and shadows.
Photoshop Sepia - using the Photo Filter

Step 3b: Apply the sepia tone using Colorize

It's pretty good but I prefer the Colorize option in Hue / Saturation which has a little more control.
Here you go to Image > Adjustments > Hue / Saturation (ctrl + U) tick the Colorize box and adjust the three sliders to get a desired sepia tone. Drag the Hue one so the pointer is in the orange area and adjust the Saturation to get a the level of brown and the Lightness to make the  tones lighter or darker. There's much more flexibility here compared with the photo filter. The colorize option gives a bit more flexibility and here I've created an affect with more like a darkroom processing tonal range.
Photoshop Sepia - using Colorize

Step 3c: Apply the sepia tone using duotones

The third option is a more complex way but gives endless possibilities and that's Duotones. You first convert the file to greyscale - Image > Mode > Grayscale. Then go to Image > Mode > Duotone. This brings up a palette where you can assign colour values to one to 4 inks...and each one has a curves adjustment.

We'll go for a Tritone (three inks). There are three boxes, each can be given a colour of your choice. You'll see from mine that there's black, magenta and yellow and these are not obvious choices for a sepia effect. This is because this feature was designed for repro houses and they use C (cyan) M (Magenta) Y (yellow) K (black) colour space. The best thing to do when trying duotomes for the first time is start off using one of the presets from the drop down. There are four sepia options that bring you to this point. Then go off an experiment.
When you click inside the curve box (small graph) of the ink a larger editable graph appears.
Photoshop Sepia - using duotones, tritones and quadtones

Have a play with all three to see which version you prefer. Try looking at old photos in your old photo collection to see if you can reproduce the sepia tones they displayed.

To ensure the colour you capture is the colour you keep, use Datacolor - the Colour Management Experts.

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