By: Katie Brandt


The Development of Color Photography

The first permanent color photography was taking in 1861 by the Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell. He studied color vision. He figured out that any hue could be mad by mixing the three pure colors of light: red, green and blue. His research was based off the workings of the human eye because the eye contains millions of three types of intermingled cone cells; one that sensitive to red, one sensitive to green and one sensitive to blue light. From this information he created the color separation method. This process involves shooting three separate black and white photos using three filters: red, green and blue. The three images are then overlapped to create a color image.
The first color photograph taken of a tartan ribbon in 1861.

Additive Color Photography

The process created by James Clerk Maxwell is based on the principles of additive colors. The additive reproduction process uses red, green and blue light to produce other colors. The three additive primary colors in equal amounts creat the additive secondary colors cyan, magenta and yellow. When the three colors colors are combined, white light is created. The principles of Additive Color Photography, called RGB, is still used today, however Subtractive Color Photography is more commonly used.

Subtractive Color Photography

One of the first color photographs taken by Louis Arthur Ducos du Hauron using the Subtractive Color Method.

In 1868, Louis Arthur Ducos du Hauron, the French pioneer of color photography began developing amore practical processes for making color photography using the subtractive methods. Different from the Additive method, the Subtractive starts with white light. Colors are then added until it is black (no light). The three colors: cyan, magenta and cyan create black. Today, this process is called CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow and key(black).This process uses reflected light to make and image. Cyan absorbs all colors except cyan, yellow absorbs all color except yellow and magenta absorbs all colors except magenta, this is why when all colors are added in equal parts, all light is absorbed leaving no light or black. There is a complementary relationship with RGB-CMYK. Red is controlled by the amount of cyan, green is controlled by magenta and blue is controlled by yellow.
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Traditional Color Photography


In the late 1930s, the process of color photography had become refined to be released to the public. Using SLR (single-lens reflex cameras loaded with color film. Color film has three layers of emulsion coated on a single base, each layer records one of the three additive primaries: red, green and blue. When the film is processed with chemicals each layer is layer is developed into a black-and-white silver image and dye is added to cause a cyan, magenta or yellow dye image to be created. The silver images are then removed leaving only the three layers of dye images.

Creating a Print

When a negative is picked, its time to create a print from the negative image of film. To do this an enlarger must be used. First you must place the negative strip in the negative carrier emulsion side up, and insert it into the machine. Focus the image on the easel. Now comes the tricky part because the image you will see is the negative of the images, so it will be in various shades of red, blue and green. You must create the right combination of cyan, magenta and yellow light with the corrected amount of exposure time to create the print. Use to much of cyan, the color of the print will have no red, too much magenta will cause lack of green tints and to much yellow will cause a lack of blue in the photograph. Below are photos taken and developed by myself of white and purple daisy showing the light exposures of color printing.
The first test strip. Each area of exposure time is 5 seconds. Filters need to be added because to much colored light is making the print black. C:0 M:40 Y:80

Added magenta and yellow, second test strip is better. Still a bit red however we know the correct exposure time will be 6 seconds and more magenta and yellow need to be added. C:0 M:80 Y:100

The color is still a bit green/blue so I must add more magtenata and yellow. C:0 M:100 Y:140

The photograph is slightly magenta now. I will have to add a small amount of magenta. C:0 M:105 Y: 140

I added more magenta and now it is a bit too yellow, I will now add more yellow. C:0 M:110 Y:140

I have finally found the right balance of color. The color of the photo reflects the real life image. I use 0 Cyan, 110 Magenta and 160 Yellow.

Color Photography Today

The Digital Photography Today

Traditional Color Photography is still used today by artist and photo enthusiasts alike. However a new medium of photography has taken over the vast majority of color pictures. Digital photography is used to get a faster and better quality photos with little or no experience needed. Using a digital camera you can directly sample the light that bounces off your subject that returns to a digital camera and immediately breaks the light pattern down into a series of pixel values. Instead of focusing light on a piece of film, it focuses on a semiconductor device that records the light electronically. Then a computer records this information in digital data allowing the photographer to see the photograph in a matter of seconds rather than hours/days.

Uses of Photography

Photography is used today not only as art, but by everyday people recording their memories. It is used to chart the growth of a child, record the places you have been and the imprint special occasions so they are never forgotten. The use of photography are vast and and still being explored today. The science of the capture of light will be forever used for artistic and memory capturing purposes.
Works Cited