As always, click the pix for larger size
Contrary to popular belief, color photography did not develop in the 1930s…that was just the time when it became reasonably affordable. Color photography developed only a few years behind monochrome, but is was far more complicated and expensive for quite some time. By the mid-1800s, Magic Lantern shows were incorporating color (and motion), long before Thomas Edison and Technicolor. D.W. Griffith and many other silent film makers added hand tinted color to their movies. In 1914, Australian Frank Hurley took over 500 color pictures of Antarctica.
From the early days of personal computers, Photoshop and the excellent shareware program GraphicConverter made it possible to colorize old monochrome photographs. But it took a good bit of time, patience and determination. In recent years, a number of software programs have been developed to make colorization easier, but they still required more time and patience than most people wanted to invest.
Now, a breakthrough, at Berkeley, where else? Richard Zhang, Phillip Isola and Alexei A. Efros used a million photographs to develop colorization algorithms that allow even the laziest and most technology challenged among us to click and color our old monochrome photographs.
WARNING: The quality of the original photo and of the scan itself has a lot to do with success or failure. If the originals are faded, a bit of tweaking of the scan in a photo editor is advised. And the scans need to be done carefully and at high resolution, say 600 dpi, with good contrast and brightness.
Scans of photos from books, magazines and newspapers do not work very well, but with a bit of thought, even they can be made passable. I have included one example of a terrible, over exposed photo from a high school yearbook to give you an idea of that possibility.
And the algorithms are not yet perfected. The biggest problem is that like Kodachrome film, VHS tape and Senator Joe McCarthy, they have a problem with the color red, which sometimes appears unexpectedly or tends to bleed into areas where it does not belong.
Enough of all that. Go to the free Algorithmia website here and give it a try. If your scanned pix are online at a place like Flickr, just copy and paste the URL. If they are on your desktop, you can upload them directly.