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Is it a sepia or a yellowed black and white

Started by Galem, March 24, 2016, 07:00:32 PM

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Hi all, this is a general question. I don't have an image to use as a specific example and it isn't a concern for anything I'm working on. But if it should come up, how do you tell if an image was originally a sepia image or if it was black and white and is now just faded yellow/brown?
I'm guessing if it looks like a photo from the 40's, 50's, 60's and upwards, it is probably just faded from black and white.
Otherwise is their something in a scanned image's channels that would tell you?
Thanks in advance!
Gayle Madden


Hy Galem,

We don't scan our photos, so don't have to worry about a scanner messing with color correction. If in doubt ask the distributor and if it is still questionable we will ask the owner. If it was sepia to begin with, color correcting should keep it that way and clear up the color due to damage. The trouble with a lot of these old photos such as from Katrina is that they yellow with age and flood water gives them a yellow tint. Sometimes if we really aren't sure and there are a lot of photos for the owner, we make a B/W and a sepia. The trouble with coming up with a sepia on your own is that there is a lot of variation.

Not sure that answers your question?

"carpe diem"

Margie Hayes
OPR President
[email protected]


Hi Margie
Yes, thank you. It answers how we would handle the question at OPR. In general, tho, is there some way to look at a photo and know if it is sepia or just aged - if you don't know the history from the owner?
Gayle Madden


Gayle, as Margie pointed out earlier you can do a color correction (as described in the OPR Techniques Handbook) and that will give you a pretty good indication if the Original was sepia or B/W.
Hannie Scheltema
Distribution Coordinator
[email protected]


Margie and Hannie,
Thank you for answering my question. So if the color correction leads you to grayscale, it's grayscale. (I do have the handbook)
I appreciate the answers!
Gayle Madden