Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Lesson Idea: Toning and tinting photographs

In our photography department we can't get enough of enhancing images and one lesson that always works well is toning traditional and digital photographs. Toning black and white prints is a great way to quickly add dimension to a photograph or even change the mood of an image. If you are unaware of what toning/tinting is then in photographic terms: toning is to simply change the colour of a black and white photograph. In technical terms: chemicals such as silver sulphide are used to replace the metallic silver in the paper with colours such as sepia, blue and copper/red. The effects of these different toning processes are good but sadly, expensive... So, we've come up with a great alternative to save those art department pennies up!

A colour photograph can be easily toned using digital software such as Adobe Photoshop. You can either use scanned B&W images taken from a traditional 35mm camera or digital images converted into black and white in Photoshop. Toning is then easily applied using the following instructions:

Once you have selected the photo filter option you have a wide range of coloured filters to choose from. For this example I will just stick to the more common filters: sepia/blue/red. This digital technique is great because it caters for all learner levels and gives you the option to increase or decrease the amount of colour within the image. 

Original black and white images printed onto photographic paper in the darkroom are usually toned traditionally using specialised photospeed chemical kits but we've found that toning the 'organic' (and cheap!) way really does do the same job. There are many tinting options but here's our top three...

1. Red Wine: Ever spilt red wine down your favourite white top? Stains right? Well it's the same thing on a print! The stain will last and visualise the same red effects on your B&W print! Just simply uncork your bottle of red wine (supermarket basics will do) and pour into an empty tray. Place your print into the tray and leave for 2-10 minutes. Take your print out once you are happy with the intensity of the colour and rinse the wine off - leave to dry and tu-dah! A beautiful, red tinted black and white image. 

2. Coffee: Coffee is perfect for creating a light or dark sepia toned image. Boil a kettle of water as usual and pour into a cup. Stir a regular amount of coffee into the cup, allow to cool, then pour into an empty tray. Place your print into the tray of coffee and agitate every couple of minutes until you have achieved your desired sepia tone. Rinse the print in water and leave to dry.

TIP: A shorter time in coffee will give you a light colour, while extending the time will intensify the colour to a deep brown. If you want your print to absorb more colour then soak it in a bath of water for a couple of minutes first. This softens the fibres within the print which will allow colour to go into the photographic print more easily.

3. Food Dye: We love food colouring at I Heart Teaching Art as it can be used for almost everything. There are so many pre-made colours to choose from in supermarkets but if you're not happy you can always mix your colours like paint on a palette. Once you have achieved your desired colour - drop a small amount into an empty tray and agitate until it has covered the print. If the colour comes out too strong then you can dilute the food dye with room temperature water to adjust the shade. When the correct tone is achieved, rinse off the print as before and allow to dry. In addition to this technique, why not try adding an extension task of hand colouring on top of the toned images with either paints, oil pastels or chalks. Check out our Enhanced Image Pinterest board for some inspirational ideas. 

What are you waiting for? Give these quick and fun techniques in your photo class a go. Your students will re-discover the excitement and creativity of photography whilst you get to save money, time and have a tidy classroom!

- Kirsty 

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