The three-color process is around a century and a half old method of getting a color photo from three black and white images. But even though it’s far from being new, it’s always fun to experiment with it! In this video, Jacob Carlson teaches you how to do it with black and white film photos. He’ll share some useful tips, what to do and what not to do. And to bring this retro technique together with modern ones – he’ll also show you how to stitch the photos together in Photoshop.
This method was used in late 1800s and early 1900s. Personally, I first heard about it when I read about Sergei Prokudin-Gorskii and his work. Basically, you need to take three photos from the identical spot using a red, a green, and a blue filter. For starters, here are some things to prepare and pay attention to before you start shooting:
As I mentioned, you’ll need a red, a green, and a blue filter. Keep in mind that higher quality filters will give you better end results, but even cheap filters are usable. I experimented with some cheap color gels and it still turned out okay.
You’ll need a sturdy tripod so your camera doesn’t move an inch. Otherwise, the photos will be blurred and with weird color artifacts.
- Steady subject
Similar to stabilizing your camera, also make sure that the subject doesn’t move. For example, you can’t take photos of trees with this technique because the leaves blow in the wind. If you photograph a person, make sure that they stand as still as possible.
Jacob suggests that you use film that has a lot of contrast because it will create more “punchy” colors in the final image.
Now, keep in mind that you can also do this with a digital camera. Just set it to Black and White mode and do everything just the same as you would with film: stabilize the camera, have a steady subject, and take three photos, each with a different filter.
Jacob suggests that you always use filters in the same order. He used red, green, then blue (like the RGB acronym we all know) This makes it easier to remember which photo was taken with which filter so you get accurate colors when you stitch them in Photoshop.
As far as stitching is concerned, you first need to open all three photos in Photoshop. Make the “blue filter” photo your base photo, then copy the “red filter” photo onto its red channel, and the “green filter” photo onto the blue channel. If necessary, align the photos so they match perfectly – and that’s it.
Make sure to watch the video for more detailed explanation and some of Jacob’s examples. And keep in mind that you can try this even if you’re not into film photography. I experimented with digital camera, and I find it really fun. You can even do it with a Gameboy camera! :)