How to Use Sepia Tones
Sepia Toning, like grayscale, refers to a monochromatic basis of color for a photograph. Rather than being based on a black and white color scale, sepia toning relies on a brown scale.
Although sepia toning was a photographic technique commonly used in the early days of photography, photographers still use it today to lend their pictures a somber, serious and dramatic tone. For this reason, many gothic photographers treat their photos with sepia.
Sepia Tone History
Originally made from the Sepia cuttlefish, sepia pigment was used to treat printed photos to make them more durable. Consequently, many of the old photographs around today, such as portraits from the 1700s, appear in brown scales due to the sepia toning that has preserved them for so long.
Sepia toning preserves pictures because of a chemical process that turns any silver in the developing photograph into a sulfide. This sulfide is more resistant to aging than silver. Of a black and white photo developed at the same time as one treated with sepia toning (stored in identical conditions), the sepia tone photo would last longer than the black and white.
How to Use Sepia Tones
Like black and white film, sepia toning also adds a sense of class and timelessness to photos. In fact, the brown scale allows the picture treated in sepia to adopt the same feel as the original sepia pictures of the 1700s. This bridge of time lends sepia-treated portraits a classic, enduring look. Wedding photographers tend to take advantage of this aspect of sepia tones when taking romantic portraits of newly weds.
Gothic photography also makes use of sepia tones. Like wedding photography, romantic gothic photography uses sepia tones to instill a sense of age and by-gone times in the photo. Photographers of dark gothic landscapes use sepia tones to emphasize a stark loneliness and make the landscape or architecture look bleak and barren.
How to Use Sepia Tone Settings
If you aren’t a professional photographer with your own darkroom, then how do you use sepia tones today? One option is to have your photos professionally treated at a photo-developing store. However, these retailers often charge higher process for sepia tone development than for normal color film development.
A more cost-effective approach lies in a do-it-yourself tip. Most editing software can easily render a color image in the warm browns of sepia toning. Similarly, digital cameras often include a sepia tone setting. To use sepia tones with a digital camera, just set the camera to “sepia” and start taking pictures. However, because the quality of a digital camera’s sepia setting varies, it may not necessarily produce pictures equal in quality to the original sepia tone process.
If you find this to be the case, then use your digital camera to take color pictures. The color pictures can later be transformed into sepia with imaging software. By using graphics software to instill sepia, you can adjust the brightness and contrast of the resulting image. Often, even the most basic photo editing programs include a sepia tone option.
How to Frame Sepia Tone Photos
Sepia tones have an advantage over color or black and white photography when it comes to framing. While a black and white picture looks out of place in a wood frame, the brown scale that characterizes sepia tone matches many different shades of wood.
Similarly, the nostalgic feel of sepia toning allows pictures to be framed in ornate, old-fashioned frames that would look mismatched with color photos. When framing sepia pictures, keep in mind the subject of the shot. While wedding pictures taken in sepia work well with wooden albums, gothic photography developed with sepia tone shines in ornately carved frames.
Science of Photography The Science of Photography refers to the areas of science, such as chemistry and physics, that makes photography possible. The mechanics of a camera, the dynamics of the shot and ...