View Full Version : Replicating the Autochrome ''look"

E-P1 fan
24th August 2008, 08:10 PM
I'm watching this superb BBC series for the second time and continue to be struck by the 'painterly' quality of these early potato starch colour images.


Might some of you digital experts be able to advise on how it might be possible to sympathetically match this look using my own images with Olympus Master 2, PS or similar?


24th August 2008, 08:57 PM

There are plenty of options for this type of treatment in PhotoshopCS3 within filters alone.



24th August 2008, 09:34 PM
Agree it was an excellent series and Autochromes look lovely.

24th August 2008, 09:34 PM
Tiffen do some mint filters that may help.

24th August 2008, 09:56 PM
I like to play in PS and I'll see if I can come up with an action to do that. It is truly lovely.


E-P1 fan
26th August 2008, 04:22 PM
Any luck Fluffy - no-one else has come up with the goods so far ;)

26th August 2008, 04:39 PM
Feel really stupid, but, what series?

26th August 2008, 04:44 PM
Yes, I've made some progress, but I'm not quite there yet. There's a book called Fine Arts Effects Cookbook (wonderful book for PS palyers, btw) that gave me a start. I followed their instructions, but the results were only so-so.
I'm probably going up north for a long weekend, Hurricane Gustav permitting, and won't finish this until next week.

Anyway, here where I am so far. I'm using a shot of Barri1e's that me kindly sent. It's a great picture and a fantastic picture to manipulate in Photoshop. The copyright belongs to Barr!e and I thank him for sending me the file.

This is Barr1e's original:

http://fourthirds-user.com/galleries/data/500/1872--4_3rds.jpg (http://fourthirds-user.com/galleries/showphoto.php/photo/4445)

This is as far as I've got so far. It needs work. When it gets close to right I'll make it into an interactive PS action, and also post a text description that might work in other programs.

http://fourthirds-user.com/galleries/data/597/autochrometry3sm.jpg (http://fourthirds-user.com/galleries/showphoto.php/photo/6873)

Maybe I'll make another try late tonight. I'm best at PS after midnight.


E-P1 fan
26th August 2008, 05:43 PM
Well done - you are definitely getting there. The autochromes are quite sharp (for their day) apart from figures which move.. and the colours are a strange mixture of vivacity and mutedness.

Try this Paul http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcfour/documentaries/features/albert-kahn.shtml

26th August 2008, 07:38 PM
PS being PS I can remove some blur in a few seconds. It's the mosaic that's giving me grief. The mosaic filter isn't versatile enough and maybe I need to do a custom pattern.

There's a large neat book on the history of autochrome. It's pricy but maybe be worth it. The picture on the web are difficult to work from. Best of all would be to see a real autochrome. I'll call the museums I can easily reach. Maybe one has one and I can spend an hour or so looking at it. Maybe I'll find one for sale cheap on ebay:D


E-P1 fan
26th August 2008, 10:53 PM
Oooh can you pm me details of the book please Fluffy

27th August 2008, 10:29 AM
Found this on Amazon UK but it is pre-order at the moment


There was another book listed but is now out of print


From the same place, think I have seen this in the Library will have a look for it..

27th August 2008, 12:14 PM
Great finds. The top book will publish on the same day as UK version but for a “mere” $31.50. But the Kahn book sounds far more interesting and cheaper to boot.

On my PS project, I made some real progress last night and will post a shot later.

Also as with the originals, which really were slides and meant to be viewed in a special slide-type viewer, paper prints look very different from screen views (and yes I have a highly calibrated screen-printer combo). That somewhat surprised me, since most prints I do do look what I see on screen. Given ink and paper costs I hate to waste either.


27th August 2008, 01:56 PM
Couple of more samples. Same photo. Just my opinion of color and brightness and ACR's opinion. ACR is the lighter one. The autochrome potato starch and beeswax color matrix is there but may be hard to see. In the full size 240dpi images it is subtle but clear. And the image is 28.6MB. I have versions that do show the effect but they are 5+MB long. If you want to see them, PM your email address, but check to see if 5+MB (they're less than 6; one is actually 4.9) files can be accepted.

Still more work ahead.

http://e-group.uk.net/gallery/data/500/autochrometry6sm.jpg (http://e-group.uk.net/gallery/showphoto.php?photo=7830)

http://e-group.uk.net/gallery/data/500/autochrometry7sm.jpg (http://e-group.uk.net/gallery/showphoto.php?photo=7831)


E-P1 fan
27th August 2008, 10:14 PM
What do you reckon....

ORIGINAL MS clip art

http://e-group.uk.net/gallery/data/500/boat.jpg (http://e-group.uk.net/gallery/showphoto.php/photo/7833)


http://e-group.uk.net/gallery/data/500/boatauto.jpg (http://e-group.uk.net/gallery/showphoto.php/photo/7834)

E-P1 fan
27th August 2008, 10:48 PM
I think the Kahn book is a 'must have'

28th August 2008, 12:00 AM

You did good. We both have a problem as far as I came see in the shadows which from I've should be darker. But until we see better examples. I like your sample image. Do you mind if I try working with it?

And I'm going to do something about the must have aspect of the Kahn book.


E-P1 fan
28th August 2008, 09:20 AM
Thanks F

I agree - still work in progress. Do use the orig image as a tester.

As forf the BBC Kahn book - ordered on last night :)

It's amazing that 100 years later we are still blown away by the work of the autochromers.

28th August 2008, 09:54 AM
I think that your attempts at the "Autochrome" look are really very very good.

However one thing I do notice is the 'noise' that seems to be arround (mind you looking from my carppy works monitor) which is not in the Autochromes.

I did a search on Google yesterday and found a few Autochromes, they have that magenta look to them, more in the reds, blues dense and the rest kind of washed out.

Must have a go at this tonight.

E-P1 fan
28th August 2008, 10:28 AM
Thanks k

the noise you spotted is right - it's a mistake! :) Not being the most scientific in my approach to the task I did think it might help but clearly not.

The magenta/blue bias observation is very helpful and I'll give that a go. My grasp of PS is poor I'm afraid so you guys will probably do much better than I will.

I could see the autochrome 'style' catching on you know - competitions etc ?

Maybe this forum can set a trend *chr

28th August 2008, 01:00 PM
Very helpful observations K. Thanks. I think it should be easy (until I try anyway) to red/blue bias the colors.

E1-F I also ordered the Kahn book. Amazon US did not have it so I ordered it from Amazon UK, which actually works well for us over here. I buy all the UK mysteries I love that way. Especially after discovering the US publisher of Rankin's Rebus novels was running them through a spell checker or something that changed whisky to whiskey. They're not the same things!!!! and Rebus drinks a lot of whisky.


E-P1 fan
28th August 2008, 02:30 PM
me too *chr

28th August 2008, 03:22 PM
Check this site out


Find your way to the Gallery and you will see what I mean. It was only a quick observation and looking at the images on this site shows it might be a little it more complex.
However we are talking about images over 100 years old and the colour degradation will vary depending on how the plates have been stored.

But hey ho it is all fun and experimentation *laugh *chr

E-P1 fan
28th August 2008, 04:23 PM
This is so lovely


28th August 2008, 05:30 PM
Ok I had a go at this Autochrome thing

Starting point

http://e-group.uk.net/gallery/data/500/thumbs/Train_Engine.jpg (http://e-group.uk.net/gallery/showphoto.php?photo=7838)

Finishing point.
Not got it right on the skin colour but this was about 20 mins worth of of fiddeling

http://e-group.uk.net/gallery/data/500/thumbs/Train_Engine1.jpg (http://e-group.uk.net/gallery/showphoto.php?photo=7839)

Oh *crap I thought they would show bigger, click on the image to see a larger version.

29th August 2008, 09:27 AM
I think these are very interesting. Definitely "getting there", although it seems to be getting the blur just right is one of the most difficult issues.

A contact on Flickr was trying to recreate the Albumen Print look of American Civil War photographs and encountered the same problem. Damn these sharp modern lenses!

29th August 2008, 10:58 AM
Cheers Hugh, gettting it "out of focus" is the big trick I think but looking around at various Autochromes am amazed just how sharp and detailed these images are.



For E-1 and Fluffy found this, but I think it needs more messing with as the image the tutorial has done still looks to "digi clean"

Will try and have ago at this over the weekend

29th August 2008, 11:38 AM
Absolutely. If you follow the tutorial step by step you get a strange looking result. But it is a jump off point.


Jim Ford
29th August 2008, 12:14 PM
Damn these sharp modern lenses!

Use a Canon kit lens then - should do the trick!


E-P1 fan
29th August 2008, 01:21 PM
Wow thanks Kn - I must print that all off *chr

30th August 2008, 02:08 PM
yet another try. Completely different procedure. Ignored the instructions noted on the net (which didn't do too good). This is about a 1.5 inch orchid bloom.

http://e-group.uk.net/gallery/data/500/orchidkit8-2autochromesm.jpg (http://e-group.uk.net/gallery/showphoto.php?photo=7858)


31st August 2008, 11:38 AM
Neat one Steve, we can't be far off getting the process sorted :D

Here is one I have just done

http://e-group.uk.net/gallery/data/500/Harbour_Autochrome.jpg (http://e-group.uk.net/gallery/showphoto.php/photo/7891)

Rats still not big enough :confused:, think you can click on it to make it bigger

Jim Ford
31st August 2008, 11:42 AM
Rats still not big enough :confused:, think you can click on it to make it bigger

Nope, can't see the rats - even when clicking to make it bigger. Are they on the quayside?


31st August 2008, 01:01 PM
Jim, look very closely in the machinery by the structure and under the base of the structure. Oh, yeah, put your 3d x-ray vision specs on.

K Very, very close. I think, never having seen an actual autochrome, but knowing they were slides in original form, we may be needing to tweak either the lighting or the luminosity some.

BTW, right now I'm using just noise, gaussian blur, and color curves, and not much of any of them. The originals really were of very high quality.


E-P1 fan
31st August 2008, 05:51 PM
Wow - really close I think. F is right - just needs that translucent look now

E-P1 fan
31st August 2008, 06:46 PM

I love the colour on yours - but would early lenses have been capable of such close-ups?? A shot taken further back - showing a vaseful or a sprig might work even better.

Keep going lads - we'll crack it yet *chr

31st August 2008, 07:08 PM
That is superb to my eyes....



31st August 2008, 07:12 PM
Look closely Jim you can see the rats having a laugh on the quay side :D

E1 I doubt that the lens of those days could go that close a Steve has, but no reason why the technique could not be applied to close ups.

The way I did mine was to make the is make black and white via channel mixer,
Then use the Eraser tool set very low to get that pale washed out look, but I need to work out how to get more colour in. Thinks might boost colour before making it B&W.
Gaussian blur added but using Noise to get that pixelated look.
Then Lens blur to just to loose the sharpness of the modern lens.

I am enjoying this little experiment *chr

31st August 2008, 10:00 PM
I agree that I was way to close for a real autochrome, but I was just toying with that image and though I'd try my latest autochrome thoughts. It's also clear that the subject matter is vital. I'm waiting on the Kahn book for some more direction on that, although that photography museum link was a real find and very helpful.

K You have some good ideas there that I'll certainly be trying.

And yes this thread has been a great deal of fun and I'm sure will be until we solve this little challenge. And then the fun will be making digital autochromes.


E-P1 fan
31st August 2008, 10:08 PM
Definitely *chr

1st September 2008, 01:00 AM
One more try. Tomorrow (Monday) is Labor Day here in the States. It's the one day of the year I actually work.

From simplicity I went for incredible complexity. Not that it's much, if any better.

http://e-group.uk.net/gallery/data/500/autochrometry9.jpg (http://e-group.uk.net/gallery/showphoto.php?photo=7923)

BTW, K is the first K in your screen name silent and should we be addressing you as N?


E-P1 fan
1st September 2008, 07:43 AM
Happy Labor Day. Been watching the live streams from NO - seems an amazing effort by government and officials. This area had bad flooding last year so I'm very empathetic. Good luck gulf coasters.

Again f - close but there is a quality that none of us has hit yet - but SOOOO close.

1st September 2008, 08:00 AM
Hey Steve nice attempt on the Steam Engine, I am going to have another shot at that one.

My real name is Nick and my altered ego is Knikki also a gamer tag :D as well. I suppose if you drop the 'K' and call me 'N' than that is ok. But lots of people see my name and think I am a girl, which I am not but it does give me a good laugh. *laugh*laugh

Happy Labour Day Steve and make sure you have your wellington boots to hand :D

1st September 2008, 09:51 AM
I think these are getting very close now. That dockside one really does have a "period" look to it (are they Rattus rattus or Rattus norvegicus do you think? :) )

When I was trying to help a Flickr contact with replicating the albumen print look, we discussed applying selective blur to mimic the effect of the long exposures of the period. Buildings and other static objects would require none (maybe why the dockside looks so "right"?), of course, but people (especially faces and children) and animals would. I understand exposures were of 1 to 10 seconds, depending on lighting. Of course, this is all then in danger of getting so time consuming you might as well start making wet collodion plates!

1st September 2008, 01:22 PM
Here's an attempt:

http://e-group.uk.net/gallery/data/500/AncientLandscape-6274888Autochrome1024x760.jpg (http://e-group.uk.net/gallery/showphoto.php/photo/7925)

1st September 2008, 03:08 PM
That is a nice image Hugh, but there is too much colour in it.

I found this chaps, really should do some work :D,


The images are from the book and by look of them contact prints so 4x5 but you cant make them bigger which is a shame.

However another observation, I think we need to look at reducing the amount of colour in an image. See if you look there is virtually no "shadow" detail in the pictures (not sure if this is because of the long exposures needed), where as we are dealing with 8 or 16 bit images. Also because of the lack of 'tones' the images appear sharp and bulk up in some colours and not others.

Just a rambling thoughts :D

1st September 2008, 04:00 PM
That is a nice image Hugh, but there is too much colour in it...

Yes, I did wonder whether I should desaturate it a bit more.

However another observation, I think we need to look at reducing the amount of colour in an image. See if you look there is virtually no "shadow" detail in the pictures (not sure if this is because of the long exposures needed), where as we are dealing with 8 or 16 bit images. Also because of the lack of 'tones' the images appear sharp and bulk up in some colours and not others.

I agree - I've been surprised how much colour there is in some of the AChrms, but it's variable, and seems to vary from image to image, presumably because of vagaries of processing and preservation.

1st September 2008, 04:19 PM
K, that Albert Kahn website is a gem. The more of these we see the better we'll get. Follow the links under the photos on the AK website and you'll go to Flickr where there's a small autochrome group. I think they're just collectors but I've asked if anyone has tried what we're trying to do, and I invited them to look at this thread.

Hugh, that mass dark green green is too intense and could probably be helped by destaurating a bit more as you say. But you did a great job of getting the image luminous and looking like transparent.


1st September 2008, 07:37 PM
Ok here we go again, this time a Church in Keswick, Lake District done a bit more with this one.

What do you think?

http://e-group.uk.net/gallery/data/500/thumbs/Keswick_Church.jpg (http://e-group.uk.net/gallery/showphoto.php?photo=7940)

Did try to make it larger but the Rats got in the way again, so clcik to view larger image

1st September 2008, 11:19 PM
If that's not it, then I don't know what is. How'd you do it? Can you try your procedure on the train engine, since the handling of reds seems important.


2nd September 2008, 08:05 AM
If that's not it, then I don't know what is. How'd you do it? Can you try your procedure on the train engine, since the handling of reds seems important.


I'll have a go at the train tonight when I get in from work.

Ok to get the the Chruch one all done using CS2
Orginally a RAW file from an E20
Open the RAW file but do nothing in ACR.
Go to Levels then moved the middle slider a bit to the right (not and exact science)
I have a B&W Action which I ran and at the end of it used Overlay in the blending modes. (Sure I can send it to you if you want it it was a freebee)
This gave a very bright almost blown out apperance, and 2 layers
Using the History Brush I painted all the colour back in, on the top active layer
It was still to green in areas so used the Sponge Tool to desaturate it some more, think you can alter the % used, will have to check that.
When it is how I thought looked right I made the layers as one.

Now if you look at the Autochromes one thing you sometimes notice is the lack of DOF

So I added a Layer mask Revel All
Went to Filter Lens Blur
There is a drop down list at the top so I selected the Layer Mask one.
Fiddled with it to get the Blur (bit slow if you have preview on)
Added it to the image
Now the image is all blured
With the layer active use the Eraser Tool to paint the area you want sharp back in leaving in this case the mountains and tops of the tress out of focus.
Compress the layers

Add a small amount of Noise using Gaussian blur and the result is as you see.

Think that is what I did, a bit fiddley and I will have to double check what I did when I get home.

Note. I find converting the image to black and white and then painting the colour back in an easier way of removing colour or desaturating it. Because you can reduce the opacity and flow to get that washed out look.

2nd September 2008, 09:35 AM
Here's another go using the same image. This has the colour selectively desaturated, and I've also added motion blur in the foreground, trees and clouds to try and mimic the long exposure times of the originals.

I'm new to this type of work in Photoshop, so this is fun!

http://e-group.uk.net/gallery/data/500/AncientLandscape-6274888AutochromeV4blur1024x760.jpg (http://e-group.uk.net/gallery/showphoto.php/photo/7954)

Larger version of both attempts and the original "start" image on my Flickr stream for anyone interested.

2nd September 2008, 10:51 AM
That works really well Hugh

It is much improved with desaturating the colour

I like the motion blur which adds to it, might have to have a go at that as well :D

*Goes off to look at more AChromes*

2nd September 2008, 09:07 PM
Hey Steve you in here tonight, is anyone in here tonight?

Anyway as requested I had another shot at the train image. It was harder than I thought to get right and think it is still not right. The hardest bit was trying to get the red to a satisfactory colour.

Anyway what you think?

http://e-group.uk.net/gallery/data/500/thumbs/Train_Engine_Part_2.jpg (http://e-group.uk.net/gallery/showphoto.php?photo=7974)

E-P1 fan
3rd September 2008, 02:49 PM
Hugh - very close but the colour needs to be more subtle still I think. But very very close.

THE book has just arrived - what a 'must have' the BBC book is.
Immediate glances confirm the above comment - there's a line somewhere between washed out and 'right' that's damned hard to define.

I certainly think we need to start from first principles and subject matter - long exposure times etc - to get the right effect. Also the subjects need to look that slightly unnatural way people do when holding a pose for a while - and starting to waver.

Autochromes don't so much capture a moment as capture a mood, an impression - very tied to time and location. Post production never looks quite right to my mind - but maybe a combination of taking technique, subject matter and mood can give enough decent raw material to work with in post-production so it doesn't look false.

3rd September 2008, 06:34 PM
Ahhhh! to "capture a mood" very tricky me thinks, but not impossible.

Anotherthing about the Chromes is that technically they are slide film, so are designed to be looked at with Projected Light. This is how they get the lumionus colours in there. Also looking around they web there is deffinatly some sites better than others. Also if some people have used high res scanners to scan the images, then you will more likely see the 'grain' with in the image. Have doen't it scanning P3200 film. Scan it and golf ball size grain, but print it and the grain is there but much smoother.

I am going to get the Albert Khan book later in the month when pack off me hols.


Please let me know what you think of this one. Very similar technique I used with the train one above but the starting point is different. Cheers

http://e-group.uk.net/gallery/data/500/thumbs/Bodmant_gardens_AChrome.jpg (http://e-group.uk.net/gallery/showphoto.php?photo=7984)

E-P1 fan
3rd September 2008, 07:59 PM
latest feeble effort - work in progress

http://e-group.uk.net/gallery/data/500/autotestchepstow.jpg (http://e-group.uk.net/gallery/showphoto.php/photo/7985)

4th September 2008, 12:29 PM
Not bad E1-F

The out of focus look is there, but like most of our efforts a tad too much colour in there old bean *sat in smoking jacket with pipe and fez on*

4th September 2008, 02:55 PM
I've had to do some real work. I thought I was past all that. Besides work gets in the way of things I'd rather. Fortunately it was just a small research job for Felix Dennis, the Brit mag publisher who I've worked for on and off for 20 someodd years. I may have another short special project for him next week, and than maybe a quick trip down to St. Vincent (he now holds citizenship there as well as in the UK) depending on these flipping hurricanes. I want to be nowhere near Ike.

Anyway you guys are close. I'm still waiting on the couple of books I ordered and I haven't found a real one to look at. If I thought the stuff they selling on eBay was real I'd buy one. But my trust level is low.

E1 f You last is so close. To my eyes it's still a tad too sharp. Also greens are as problematic as reds and blues. (Uh, duh, gee ya think that's 'cause of the potato starch maybe?) The grens I see on the web real achromes seems more muted than yours. But a step much closer.


7th January 2012, 07:31 PM
I've had good results by reducing contrast and saturation, then using the sharpen filter to increase grain.

7th January 2012, 11:36 PM
hi Mary love to see some examples

8th January 2012, 08:30 AM
Aha! I had forgotten about this old thread.. I have done some Autochrome attempts myself, and here's a before and after example

http://e-group.uk.net/gallery/data/622/autochrome_attempt.jpg (http://e-group.uk.net/gallery/showphoto.php/photo/27034)

I describe the method in my Photoshop tricks thread near the bottom of page one http://e-group.uk.net/forum/showthread.php?t=10943


8th January 2012, 09:04 AM
Here is a couple of attempts by me. :)



8th January 2012, 09:38 AM
Ah, so maybe there is a use for the ISO 12800 setting on the latests Pens! *laugh

Welcome to the forum, Mary. :)