Reasonably accurate too

If you’ve ever wondered what that old black-and-white or sepia photo might look like professionally colorized, wonder no more.

With a new tool from MyHeritage called MyHeritage In Color™, you can quickly and easily colorize any black-and-white photo you have.1

It’s literally no more complicated than uploading an image and waiting a few seconds… then playing with a slider to see the original image morph into the colorized version. You can see it working on an image of The Legal Genealogist‘s great uncle John in South Dakota around 1905 here.

Here are some more examples from The Legal Genealogist‘s collection:

My great grandparents, Emma (Graumüller) and Hermann Geissler, around 1880


That same image colorized

My great grandfather Carsten H. W. Nuckel, around 1915-1920

That same image colorized

Wedding party, 14 February 1918, grandparents Hugo Ernst Geissler and Marie Margarethe Nuckel

That same image colorized

Pretty cool, huh? So I went on to try with a photograph of a group of new German Army corporals in a World War I unit, my grandfather Hugo Ernst Geissler being the man second from the left seated in the first row.

5. Rekruten-Korporalschaft, 9. Kompagnie Gren.-Regt. König Friedrich I. (4. Ostpr.)

The same image colorized

Ouch. German uniforms weren’t red. Not even close to red. Grey-green to be precise. The only red would be the piping.

Red is a color this colorizing system has real trouble with, putting it in where it may not belong or taking it out where it does. To see just how this was working, I decided to use a photograph where I knew exactly what the colors should be.

The original photo of my siblings and me at a 2019 family reunion

The black-and-white version I uploaded

The end result colorized

Yep, things break down pretty much on the red-yellow side of the spectrum. And a lot of blues and greens get converted to black right away.

So, yes, this is a tool with limits. The colors we see here aren’t the colors as they were. And MyHeritage makes that clear: “While highly realistic, photos that are colorized using MyHeritage In Color™ have colors that are simulated by automatic algorithms, and these colors may not be identical to the real-life colors when the original photo was taken. … The technology for colorizing photos automatically is amazing, but it isn’t perfect. The perfectionists among you will notice that some colors may seem incorrect or inconsistent.”2

Which means we need to carefully label these as what they are: colorizations. Nobody in the future should ever have to wonder whether a photograph now in color is or isn’t an original. And MyHeritage is helping on this issue: “As part of our commitment to preserving the authenticity of historical documents, we take the added step of differentiating colorized photos from those photographed originally in color using a special embossed palette symbol in the bottom left corner of colorized photos, … to ensure that fact can be distinguished from fiction.”3

But give credit where credit is due: with certain exceptions, the colors in these colorizations are reasonably accurate, and it seems to be pretty darned good with most of the skin tones. It’s easy. It’s fast. For those of us with MyHeritage accounts, it’s an unlimited source of fun — at least until we run out of black-and-white images to play with.4

Making this is a really cool tool.

Thanks, MyHeritage!!


Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “A touch of color,” The Legal Genealogist (https://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : posted 13 Feb 2020).

SOURCES

  1. See “Colorize your black and white photos automatically with MyHeritage In Color™,” MyHeritage Blog, posted 11 Feb 2020 (https://blog.myheritage.com/ : accessed 12 Feb 2020).
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Those without MyHeritage accounts can colorize a few photos — somewhere around 10 — before being prompted to subscribe.
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