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Stories To Tell is a full service book publishing company for independent authors. We provide editing, design, publishing, and marketing of fiction and non-fiction. We specialize in sophisticated, unique illustrated book design.

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Colorizing Photographs for Your Family History Book: Should You Do It?

Biff Barnes

Would this classic Depression-era photo, Dorthea Lange’s Migrant Mother look better in color?

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Go to Flickr to see Asif Naqvi of Living Design’s Migrant Mother Colorized Version

Fast Company staff writer Joe Berkowitz highlighted the current interest in coloring historical photos in a recent article See the Whole World in a New Light With Classic Black and White Photos, Now In Living Color .

Image specialist Jordan Lloyd told Berkowitz, “I have one goal with colorizing. I try and make it so realistic that the final image becomes unremarkable…”

Some people suggest that’s not what happens when you colorize a historical photo. A member of the Society of Tennessee Archivists said on The Posterity Project, “…colorization adds a layer of artificiality to the original work. It creates a sense of (unnecessary) fantasy if the artists are merely guessing or making arbitrary decisions regarding what color and tint to use. In turn, it detracts the viewer from using his or her own thought process to imagine what the scene, person and overall environment actually looked like in color at the time. It takes the thinking and imagination out of the experience.”

Lloyd finds the criticism unfair, “The irony is that colorizers are accused of destroying history, when in fact we have the utmost reverence for the source material.”

What do you think? Should historical images be colorized? Are there any rules?