The sepia toning darkroom process can’t be completed with color photos. While some artists continue this process today, it’s costly and requires specific chemicals and equipment to get right. “The darkroom is a more traditional way to do it. And some people just really like it — that feeling of actually being in a darkroom and playing with the chemicals and liquids,” says photographer Gregory Ballos. While developing and printing photos physically can help an artist connect with their vision and convey an idea, you can easily recreate the sepia effect with digital photography tools.
Get artistic with sepia pigments.
Since sepia toning was used to help old photo prints hold up over time, many surviving historic images are sepia photos. This means the sepia tone is now associated with antique imagery. So if you create a modern, digital image with a sepia effect, it can take on an element of nostalgia or history. Artists can use this technique to evoke memories or create a feeling of nostalgia for their viewer.
The sepia pigment itself is a warm, comforting color, and the edges in sepia photos are soft. Even a harsh architectural photo with dramatic lines and shadows can take on a warm, soft appearance with a sepia photo effect.
“I find sepia works really well with landscape photography. Sometimes a color rendering is really pretty, but that vintage sepia element gives it a whole different feel. It has a more classic look than what you get when working with full color,” says Ballos. From portraits to nature shots, sepia photography can help an artist approach their subject matter in an unexpected way.