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Photographing in Sepia

Updated on June 23, 2014
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Sepia photography is a method by which a brownish tone is added to photos that makes them more resistant to the effects of time and the elements. Sepia coloring used to be obtained from a pigment found in the ink sacs of cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis).

In photography, toning is a reference to the process of changing the color of black and white photographs, therefore sepia toning is the most common name given to the process of turning black and white photos into sepia photos.

However, today this is mostly done by means of a digital editing software and the images no longer have to be in black and white, they can be in color too and the color can be replaced by sepia. The effects of true sepia toning is to make the image seem "warmer" and to give the image a sense or a feeling of nostalgia.

In digital sepia toning, the effects can range from a true brownish sepia color to almost a reddish tone, so knowledge of the digital software is required. But there are many digital camera models which can instantly convert your images to either monochrome or sepia, thus making things a little easier.

If you are wondering why would anyone take a perfectly fine color photograph or a black and white and turn it into a sepia tone you may want to consider that sepia tones gives the image a vintage feel which is often sought after because of the charm that it provides.

Sepia toned images also seem to heighten the sense of romanticism. Sometimes it is also used to match the settings of a studio or gallery, specially if wood is the prevailing choice of decoration.

Whatever the reason for making sepia toned photos, this is a technique worth pursing just as shooting black and white is sometimes. There are situations where this style can be a better choice than color.

Wedding's photographs can be rendered in sepia tone to add charm and differentiate some samples from the rest.

Keep in mind that sometimes color can distract from the main elements in an image, and sepia can often refocus the attention; what counts is the subject not the color.

Worth considering also is that some scenes may be better rendered in sepia or monochrome rather than in color.

Scenes that do not have a richness in color or their overall color is rather muted, yet the same scene is rich in texture and full of details which may be lost if color were present are prime examples for sepia toning. Such a scene is probably much better captured in sepia.

Another practical use for sepia toning is in the recreation of old time scenes such as recreating images of the Old West like photographs of cowboys and their gear.

If you come unto a beach and find some driftwood, at first it may not seem like its worth photographing because of its unappealing muted color, this scene can be rendered in a sepia tone and can be turned into a very pleasing photograph.

Other subjects worth capturing in sepia would be an old tree trunk which is teeming with texture and full of intriguing ridges, if you were to capture this subject in color the image may not be something to talk about, but sepia can turn it into a warm and interesting study of nature.

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Besides being used for the study of shape and texture, and decorative purposes, sepia photographs can be shown at fine art galleries and for any other purposes for which other photographs are used.

Sepia is also used to give images a more sober and dramatic look and feel and an overall antiqued look.

Some photographers who use sepia often often pose their models in what is commonly referred to as a sepia pose.

This style is used when one wants to show a model in an simulated old fashioned mode, usually dressed in clothing representative of the time. Sepia poses reflect a more elegant theme reminiscent of times past.

© 2011 Luis E Gonzalez


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    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 6 years ago from Miami, Florida

      Cardisa: Giving a shot a "feel" of antiquity and romanticism is one of the few principal motives for this technique.

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 6 years ago from Miami, Florida

      justom: You are correct in assuming that sometimes it is use to hide small imperfections, although more and more it is being used as an artistic representation. I'll see about the title.

    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 6 years ago from Jamaica

      The brown tone gives it that antique feel that I Like. I prefer the sepia look to black and white and it's easy to do from your computer. Windows picture manager can do it, maybe not as good as some professional programs but still good enough.

    • justom profile image

      justom 6 years ago from 41042

      The title confused me Luis. I though maybe printing or converting a shot to sepia tone would hit it a bit better. I always used it sparingly because to me only certain things work well with it. I thought of it as a way to hide a poorly exposed shot. As always, just my opinion! Good hub! Peace!! Tom

    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 6 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      I love sepia! I do my sepia effects digitally. I especially love doing shots with people in sepia.

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 6 years ago from Miami, Florida

      Thank you to all, just one more technique to make photography enjoyable

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 6 years ago from the short journey

      Thanks much for this discussion and examples of sepia.

    • SamiAnne profile image

      SamiAnne 6 years ago

      Hey I am going to try move sepia tones in my pictures. Thanks so much for sharing.

    • profile image

      joekreydt 6 years ago

      whoa. that's so cool the color originally comes from a fish!! i love the warm feeling sepia toning gives to a photograph. excellent hub as usual!

    • profile image

      Lynn S. Murphy 6 years ago

      I adore sepia. I go out and do b&w days, I need to have a sepia day. Thanks for the inspo Luis!!!

    • Island Tropical profile image

      Island Tropical 6 years ago

      Photo number two is the best, this is the type of photo I am thinking of taking but still unable to do it.

    • ChristinS profile image

      Christin Sander 6 years ago from Midwest

      I do photo restorations and I really LOVE sepia toned photographs - it really does lend a warmth and charm to old photos, but is very lovely in other photos as well. I love the flower photo above - very striking and I would not have likely thought to do such a photo in Sepia. Great hub :)