Things I've Been Seeing

Color or Sepia?

Those of you who are kind enough to have followed my fledgling photo blog have probably learned that I have done little digital manipulation, but that I am eager to learn such skills. On my MacBook iPhoto I have engaged in simple color to sepia transformation: usually it is clear to me which pictures take well to sepia, or to black and white for that matter. But in this case, I am having a problem deciding which is the better, and I’m asking for your help. Does it seem preferable that this picture be in color or is it better shown in sepia? Tell me what you think.

I met this sweet lady at a church in Higlands, Texas. She is 97 years old. Amazingly she has little grey hair.



I have a couple of other shots of her on my Flickr account and have posted each of them in both color and sepia. You’re welcome if you wish to go over and take a look.

EDIT: After the first three comments, I brought over a black and white.

When? by you.
Friday May 29 Edit: This has been fun, and informative for me. A couple of photographers were kind enough to do a bit of editing on the shots. I’m going to bring them over.
The first is an altered b/w image from my friend Martha Fertado, a photographer in the San Francisco Bay area.
The second is from Bryant who comments below and who sent over both an altered b/w and a sepia image.
All very interesting, and I do appreciate your taking the time to look, comment and actually do a little work. It’s been fun.

13 responses

  1. ghphoto

    You my friend are asking the wrong question. Color or Black & White would be fare better question. Portraits of older members of society usually look best in B&W.

    Check it out. I’m posting a new post on the hour, every hour, for a year!! at
    also check out my photoblog

    Well, two opinions quickly telling me to go for black and white. I’ll bring one over. Thank you very, very much. Wow! a photo an hour for a year. I’ll go to your site and take a look.

    May 26, 2009 at 4:13 pm

  2. I wouldn’t go sepia here. That mustard color’s not very flattering. I’d try straight b&w. And bring up the exposure and the contrast a little. She looks like she has some amazing stories to tell.

    Thanks, Jared. I’ll bring over a black and white right now. Dink around later with the exposure. Thank you very much. I knew something wasn’t right here, but couldn’t put my finger on it.

    May 26, 2009 at 4:18 pm

  3. I think B&W would be awesome.

    Three in a row, now. Be right back from my darkroom.

    May 26, 2009 at 4:21 pm

  4. Martha

    Make it FOUR for B & W….brings out the character in her face without distractions of color, etc.

    May 26, 2009 at 5:39 pm

  5. You guys are awesome. I really need to learn a lot about black and white, too (on top of all the other pressing things I need to learn 🙂 ) for mine are never as crisply black and white as are others I see. Thanks for all the help.

    May 26, 2009 at 6:30 pm

  6. Nomin Erdene

    in my opinion colored would be better. because we can see much more details on colored picture 🙂

    May 27, 2009 at 5:56 am

  7. I prefer the first one, the simple color one. I think that brings out the story in her face. the best.

    May 27, 2009 at 11:49 am

  8. CDM

    I like the color, it is real and like someone else has said. *Tells her story*. Amazing that she has little grey hair…maybe an easy life?;-)Perhaps no children?

    Being silly there, im sure your dear lady has seen her share of lifes hardships.

    May 29, 2009 at 10:08 am

  9. Hi Shirley,
    I prefer the b/w version by far. As for the sepia, there are different versions of “sepia” and one the removed some of the yellow would make that one look a little better. I took the sepia and made a slight adjustment to remove some of the yellow. I’ve emailed that along with the color and b/w (with a couple of tweaks) to you just for fun. Also, thanks for visiting my blog last Friday and for commenting. I’ve got another Philippines post up today.

    May 29, 2009 at 10:59 am

    • Thanks Bryant. I posted the ones you sent. Really do appreciate it. I’ll be back to take a look at your Philippines things.

      June 2, 2009 at 12:19 pm

  10. Hi Shirley, thanks for visiting our Urban Plant Research art project website. I just wanted to chime in here and say that, while the experiments in black and white and sepia are certainly worthwhile, I like the original best. The colors are already subtle in a lovely way. I don’t think they need to be reduced further to black and white. But the only way to see that is by trying!

    May 30, 2009 at 3:56 pm

    • Hi, Leslie. Thank you for coming here. Sorry I have been so long in responding. You know after all this conversation about b/w and sepia, I think I tend to side with you. Her little cheeks look so soft and pink.

      Great isn’t it that through the medium of computer screens, we can have them all; sepia (the good color and the bad color) black and white and color. Blessed, aren’t we.

      Hope you come back for another visit.

      June 2, 2009 at 12:21 pm

  11. Just saw this question today, months after original post. My thoughts: This 97-year old lady has too much life left in those blue eyes to waste on sepia and b/w. They make her look old (pun intended). I use a technique called “warmify” that puts the glow of life into drab headshots.

    January 26, 2010 at 8:28 pm

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