Beware fake autochrome

With the popularity of autochrome, there are scamming artists who are trying to pass their colorized images off as autochrome. Some will touch up original autochrome images (brighten, sharpen, etc.), then claim they transformed the photo into a work of art.  A few photographers are saying they found autochrome images, when the photos were taken last week.  Don’t fall for any of this.

One important thing to remember is original autochrome development used potato starch, and that’s why the photos came out so grainy. Digital or even film developed photos can’t come up with the look seen in autochrome photos. Digital is more refined and clean, where the starch was extremely course. Film’s grainy texture became less over the years.  Back in the late Edwardian – 1920s there weren’t filters like what is used on social media now, the lighting technique was entirely natural. These days people want their photos to look retro, or the over saturated 1960s theme – so a filter is placed over the image to make the entire image glow. That’s not what you see in autochrome, they are vibrant and certain colors pop which is what the creators wanted. Finally, the content in these photos is everyday life; photography was still new and people were documenting life as it happened. WWI soldiers visiting villages, kids at play, street life, women showing off their flower gardens, and still life.

There are tutorials showing how to place tears/scratches on a photo to make it look old.  These tutorials have been popular since a woman turned famous with her tintype photoshoot (which excuse my rant but there was nothing tintype about that photoshoot).  There are also people who make a living out of cosplaying from Victorian – 1920s eras.  Things to consider before accepting that the autochrome you’re looking at is genuine.

Fake vintage

I received a message from someone that one of my restorations had been tampered with.  Turned out the original had been altered by someone, and then me not paying attention had restored and colorized it.

With billions of tutorials released by Adobe, it’s not surprising this would happen. I spent an entire day removing the photoshopped version of this bearded man, and then re-colorized him. This is the second image I’ve found in my collection that’s not authentic. In all honesty, the work done is seamless so whoever did it knew their way around photoshop.  I had to track down a photo of Marvel’s Odin to realize the eye cover was the same – not looking for that I’d not realize.

There are thousands of people who release fun creative work like the old time baseball players with lightsabers, or turning cabinet cards into retro science fiction images.  There are photographers now who are turning their style into the photo style of the Victorian Era, and doing a professional job of it.  Just be aware. Not all vintage photos online are from the 1850s.

Antique photograph collectors

Here’s a suggestion for all you fellow antique photograph collectors.  Etsy is known for handmade products, but there’s also vintage products.  It’s a great place to go for collectors because there’s several sellers who have several images in one sale.

The prices aren’t outrageous, there are a few that could be lowered a little but overall they are reasonable.  Most the antique photographs I looked into had multiple shots to show off the photograph which impressed me.  Instead of a closeup of the image itself, you’re seeing what type of photo it is.  A tintype, cabinet card, ambrotype, the size and what flaws it has.

Hope this helps!

The price of antique photos

When you’re picking through antique/second hand stores for antique photos to add to your collection, and you see a small 3 x 5 photo that has a price of $5…what do you do?  Don’t pay that price.  There are a lot of people who put a huge price tag on old photos because – they’re old.  Just because something is old, doesn’t mean it’s worth a few extra coins.  The last place I went into was almost insulted when I said I don’t pay more than $2 for old photos.

Don’t pay more than $1 for any old photograph.  If the photograph is larger than 5 x 7, be nice and pay a little more but not much.  Here’s why – the older photographs were printed on thick stock paper so both will win in the end.  These photos are of random everyday people, during the Civil War AND World Wars, people were taking photos to send to soldiers.  Death was an obsession, so dead family members and even pets were photographed.  Old photos are like jelly beans, everywhere.

Tintypes & daguerreotypes be VERY careful.  The condition of the tintype; don’t just buy one because it’s a tintype.  If you can barely see the image, then walk away and don’t bother.  Over time, if not properly cared for it can end up with mold spots, so look for that too.  With a Daguerreotype, check the case it comes in; the lining can show wear, but if it’s frayed and coming off the casing, or the hinges are popping out?  Again walk away.  Sometimes people fix the hinges and they aren’t the original, or polish the case and that will ruin the value so look for that before purchasing.  The picture might look like its in good condition but remember, it’s set in this case so if that isn’t cared for properly then the image could be deteriorating behind the casing.

Now, if the image has someone famous?  And the price is reasonable?  Pay it.  I found a folder in an antique store of 5 images of famous celebs during the classic Hollywood era – asking price was $50.  It was worth it because of the actors in the images and the size of the images, I would have paid that if I had the money.  If, for example, you find a photograph of a very young John Barrymore, but the price is $500,000?  That price tag fits on a rare photograph of Abe Lincoln

Hope this helps!

Vintage Photo Albums


Who remembers these photo albums?  The spiral photo albums with fun designs on the cover?  On the inside – the pages with sticky glue to hold your photographs in place.  Some had a plastic cover over the page.

Okay well for the past couple months I’ve been very carefully pulling family memories off these pages from dozens of photo albums.  Why?  The adhesive destroys and ruins your photographs.  The glue over time will seep UP and hurt the image – remember these pages are pushed together when the album is closed so that adds to the danger factor.  There were a few of these photo albums that the adhesive sticky was gone and I could easily remove the photograph, but others the sticky did not want to let go and it took more time to remove the photo.

If you have photo albums like these filled with your memories, don’t give up hope!  Using an ordinary knife, not a sharp cutting knife because that could ruin the photo, carefully slip the knife under the photograph and work it off the page.  Take your time!  Don’t rush the process.  The photograph might be curled, don’t worry just gently flatten it out (put a fresh piece of xerox paper over the photograph, and then place books over it to flatten it.  The xerox paper will protect the photo).  Now just throw away the photo albums, you don’t need them.

What do you do with the photos now?  The ones I saved are categorized in filing boxes I bought at Michaels.  There’s also scrapbooking!  The old style look?


I highly recommend because your photos will last longer.  Use a solid color for both the background (images will show up on the back of your photos over time), and the corner mounts.  The metal corners over time will stain your photographs.  This particular way is tons easier too because you can write on the paper background.

Hope this helps you save those memories!

Helpful tip – seamless

Exactly what does seamless mean?  When you watch a dance it has to flow, otherwise it is uncomfortable to watch. In photography, the word “flow” is replaced with seamless. So what does that mean?  Let me explain first with a photograph from my personal portfolio:


This is The Monticello Hotel, located in Longview WA.  Aside from the strong saturation (I was reconstructing a postcard from the 1920s that showed this building), it looks more natural than the original photograph.  There are several layers used to fix this particular photograph, but would you know that if I showed you the original?  That’s the power of seamless.  The layers have to fit together.  Think back to when you were in grade school, and the teacher told you to stay in the lines when coloring; it’s the same thing.

So how does this fit with colorizing exactly? It makes sense with professional photography, not so much with colorization….oh but it does! Take a look at this photo I set up as an example:


Granted, the example is extreme, but it’s to make a point. One circle is showing the pink bleed into the green, indicating that the green wasn’t colored in all the way. I’ll confess, so often when I’m filling in the skin color for my subjects, that’s when I find missed areas with clothing or background. The other circle is showing a missed patch of pink that should have been removed. Another confession – when I’m filling in hair is when I fall into that trap.

Hope this helps!

There is color!

A while back I posted about rants people have as to why colorization is wrong, and one of those is  – color. “You can’t get the color right for the time”, and you get the idea.  Well as it turns out I colorized a silent film star named Pauline Starke, and I’m going to use her photo to help strengthen the idea that yes, colorizing isn’t so bad.

I chose the photo because she’s wearing an outfit that’s Norse/Viking, and right now my colorizing seems to be costumes – hers is very Hollywood even for the Silent Film era.  Turns out, the film she was starring in at the time was The Viking and it was a very early Technicolor film.




Thanks to finding out who she was, and that she was in this film, I could use that information as reference for colorizing this piece.  I didn’t use my own colors, I used the colors from her costume and what I saw from the film.  The film itself, isn’t half bad.  It’s sort of like Ben Hur meets Captain Blood, but it is enjoyable.


So my point here is, there’s constant proof of color back then.  It just takes the effort of finding it.  Hope this helps!

A fun project with colorizations

After you’ve colorized photographs, what do you do with them? Just let them sit on an external drive and collect dust? Post them on Facebook or a website for people to maybe look at? Selling prints can get tiresome, and customers will be expecting more. Aside from burlap & mason jars, canvas is popular now….but how do you transfer a digital file to canvas?

In my printing class we learned how to print on all sorts of different mediums other than paper stock. It was a great lesson, though I’m still annoyed that I never got that assignment back. That particular lesson also taught things like what gels to use for that sort of project – stuff I didn’t know existed until taking that class. Actually, the only printing you’ll have to do for this particular project is printing out the photograph – if there’s lettering in the photograph you choose, switch it so the letters read backwards. It’ll make sense later.

I’ve done this several times, a few people have the pieces; my mother requested a canvas of my Victorian Circus Performer. What you’ll need are Golden Soft Gel (matte), canvas, an artists roller (optional), and a photograph printed on an inkjet printer.


This particular one is what I use, mainly because it’s the only one I can find here in town.  Never hurts to see what others use before diving into this project.  It could be another gel works better than this.

1. After you’ve chosen the photograph, trim it to fit the canvas. I usually use 8 x 10, but I’ve used 5 x 7 too.

2. Coat the blank canvas with a thick layer of Golden Soft Gel – trust me, the thicker the better.  This is what’s going to transfer the image onto the canvas.

3. Take the photograph you trimmed and lay it image down on the coated canvas. Make sure to carefully smooth out any air bubbles with your fingers or the roller, otherwise they will affect the photograph by leaving large white spots.

4. You’ll have to wait 24 hours for the drying process. I didn’t, thinking the project would be okay and I ruined it. So patience is a good thing here.

5. You’re going to want a bowl of water for this process – Using water on either your fingertips or a clean sponge, very carefully work the paper off the canvas. This will be a time consuming task, but be gentle and as you work the image will show against the canvas.

Once the paper is completely off, set aside the canvas so it can dry, and then you’re done!  Here are a couple of my pieces, for some reason nobody want the Mary Pickford one I did.


If none of what I said made sense, go to this youtube video!  It shows what I attempted to say.  Have fun!