Blue-Violet Iris Interior

Monday, August 22, 2011

Me and the Antique Tint Trend in Photography

I've noticed that in the realm of fine art photography, there is definitely a predominance of images that have been given antique (yellowish-orange) or sepia (which is browner) tints. They also tend to be overexposed with a softened focus and don't get me wrong, the images look very cool, and certainly separate themselves from snapshots taken by just anyone who has a halfway decent eye. It's a trend, however, that I haven't explored much myself (hopefully not to my detriment) for two primary reasons: 1) with my migraines, the visual concentration is takes to manipulate photos is generally a recipe for a nasty headache, and 2) I love color, the more saturated the better.

My favorite color: burgundy!

Color theorist Johannes Itten, writing on the topic of subjective timbre in "The Elements of Color," describes his experience of discovering that each individual has his or her own view of what color combinations are most harmonious. These vary widely, but can roughly be broken down according to physical appearance:
Light blond types with blue eyes and pink skin incline towards very pure colors, often with a great many clearly distinguished color qualities. Contrast of hue is the basic feature. Depending on the forcefulness of the individual, the colors may be more or less luminous. A very different type is represented by people with black hair, dark skin, and dark eyes, for whom black plays an important part in the harmony... Good assignments for a dark type would be Night, Light in a Dark Room, Autumn Storm, Burial, Grief, The Blues, etc. (Itten, 24-25)
I don't know if it's true for everyone, but Itten's theory of subjective harmonious color being tied to physical type is certainly true for me. At left is how I looked when my hair was still black, taken nearly ten years ago when I was in college. (With silver hair, my look is somewhat less dramatic.)  As you can see, high contrast and "black play[ing] an important part in the harmony" would come naturally! My college thesis and corresponding art show dealt with the way color and shape convey emotion. With my history of serious depression, it's no surprise that I focused on loss and suffering, but it's also intriguing that those emotional themes correspond exactly with Itten's theory of which subjects would be of interest to me based solely on my hair color!

One of the pastel and pen & ink drawings from my thesis show,
on the subject of man's frustration in the face of the unknowable divine.

After college, during the years I spent working as a floral designer, I dealt with, of course, every possible combination of colors and was perfectly adept at creating lovely soft arrangements in light spring colors. When working with soft colors, though, the more complex they were, the better I liked them. We had one delicately green rose whose coloring got lighter and more ivory nearest the center, where the petals were tipped with just a blush of pink. It was both subtle and stunning and I loved that! But despite being capable of working with a wide variety of hues, the fact remains that my favorite color is burgundy and the darker the better. I'm also partial to purples and reds so dark that they are almost black. My least favorite color? Yellow. I consider it a repulsively insincere color, an opinion my fellow florists thought was hilarious. But then again, they were almost all blonds or light brunettes!

One of my favorite floral combinations (captured, unfortunately, in light that makes it look
more orange than it really was): burgundy, copper, orange, rust, blush, bright green, and peach!

Of course, I take photographs of all kinds of things, not just ones that are burgundy, dark red, deep purple, or dramatic rust (my favorite of the yellow-based colors), and some of my recent favorites have been in the yellow or orange family. But when it comes to the possibility of manipulating the color of my photographs, I find I always prefer the purest, most saturated version to any antiqued variation.

I think the coloring of this dark purple bearded iris is scrumptious and sublime!

However, despite my love for intense color, I do check to see how images might look when viewed through a warm filter because I also would like to be in the business of selling photographs and if an antiqued appearance is what sells, it is worth my while to investigate it. After all, I get that a nice washed-out image with a warm tint is a lot more pleasant to have hanging in your living room than the kind of colors I favor. They aren't exactly restful!

Did somebody say dramatically shadowed maroon? Yes, please!

Lately, though, perhaps because of the color implications of the approaching fall, I've finally had some happy results with tinting photographs in a way that I feel makes the images greater than what they were before the manipulation, the true test of the worthiness of any image doctoring! Here are the best.

This hydrangea was actually blue, though it had started to form some
antique tints on its own. The only thing I hate more than the color yellow
is a blue mop-head hydrangea, so I think this is a big improvement!

A rare instance when I think something purple
(a red onion) acquires more depth when tinted yellow!

I think that this white dahlia becomes more than just a
garden flower when manipulation grants it an unreal tinge.

Only subtly different from the original, narrowing the range of color in this
photo makes it look less like a tree in my front yard and more like a work of art.

This ugly yellow dahlia is enormously improved, in my opinion, by using
tint to shift the focus to the beautiful way that the light illuminates the petals.

The colors in this image are very similar to what they were before being converted
to sepia, but it unifies the image nicely to have the pine cone, the surface on which it rests,
and the shadow all the same color without losing any of the detail and contrast.


  1. Lovely photography!

  2. Absolutely gorgeous. I, too, prefer darker versions of things. One of the highlights of (starting out) brunette!