Color photography  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Color photography is photography that uses media capable of representing colors which are produced chemically during the photographic processing phase. It is contrasted with black-and-white photography, which uses media capable only of showing shades of gray, and does not include hand colored photographs. Some examples of color photography include prints, color negatives, transparencies and slides, and roll and sheet films.

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"Modern" color film

In 1935, American Kodak introduced the first modern "integral tripack" color film and called it Kodachrome, a name recycled from an earlier and completely different two-color process. Its development was led by the improbable team of Leopold Mannes and Leopold Godowsky, Jr. (nicknamed "Man" and "God"), two highly regarded classical musicians who had started tinkering with color photographic processes and ended up working with the Kodak Research Laboratories. Kodachrome had three layers of emulsion coated on a single base, each layer recording one of the three additive primaries, red, green, and blue. In keeping with Kodak's old "you press the button, we do the rest" slogan, the film was simply loaded into the camera, exposed in the ordinary way, then mailed to Kodak for processing. The complicated part, if the complexities of manufacturing the film are ignored, was the processing, which involved the controlled penetration of chemicals into the three layers of emulsion. Only a simplified description of the process is appropriate in a short history: as each layer was developed into a black-and-white silver image, a "dye coupler" added during that stage of development caused a cyan, magenta or yellow dye image to be created along with it. The silver images were chemically removed, leaving only the three layers of dye images in the finished film.

Initially, Kodachrome was available only as 16mm film for home movies, but in 1936 it was also introduced as 8mm home movie film and short lengths of 35mm film for still photography. In 1938, sheet film in various sizes for professional photographers was introduced, some changes were made to cure early problems with unstable colors, and a very simplified processing method was instituted.

In 1936, the German Agfa followed with their own integral tripack film, Agfacolor Neu, which was generally similar to Kodachrome but had one important advantage: Agfa had found a way to incorporate the dye couplers into the emulsion layers during manufacture, allowing all three layers to be developed at the same time and greatly simplifying the processing. Most modern color films, excepting the now-discontinued Kodachrome, use the incorporated dye coupler technique, but since the 1970s nearly all have used a modification developed by Kodak rather than the original Agfa version.

In 1941, Kodak made it possible to order prints from Kodachrome slides. The print "paper" was actually a white plastic coated with a multilayer emulsion similar to that on the film. These were the first commercially available color prints created by the chromogenic dye coupler method. In the following year, Kodacolor film was introduced. Unlike Kodachrome, it was designed to be processed into a negative image which showed not only light and dark reversed but also complementary colors. The use of such a negative for making prints on paper simplified the processing of the prints, reducing their cost.

The expense of color film as compared to black-and-white and the difficulty of using it with indoor lighting combined to delay its widespread adoption by amateurs. In 1950, black-and-white snapshots were still the norm. By 1960, color was much more common but still tended to be reserved for travel photos and special occasions. Color film and color prints still cost several times as much as black-and-white, and taking color snapshots in deep shade or indoors required the use of flash bulbs, an inconvenience and an additional expense. By 1970, prices were coming down, film sensitivity had been improved, electronic flash units were replacing flash bulbs, and in most families color had become the norm for snapshot-taking. Black-and-white film continued to be used by some photographers who preferred it for aesthetic reasons or who wanted to take pictures by existing light in low-light conditions, which was still difficult to do with color film. They usually did their own developing and printing. By 1980, black-and-white film in the formats used by typical snapshot cameras, as well as commercial developing and printing service for it, had nearly disappeared.

Instant color film was introduced by Polaroid in 1963. Like Polaroid's contemporary instant black-and-white film, their first color product was a negative-positive peel-apart process which produced a unique print on paper. The negative could not be re-used and was discarded. The blight created by carelessly discarded caustic-chemical-laden Polaroid negatives, which tended to accumulate most heavily at the prettiest, most snapshot-worthy locations, horrified Polaroid founder Edwin Land and prompted him to develop the later SX-70 system, which produced no separate negative to discard.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Color photography" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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