So what, in fact, is sepia good for? "Absolutely NOTHING" might be your knee-jerk response to the title of this post (if you know the song). But in fact sepia toning is good for something. It simply makes an image look old, by simulating the appearance of an aging photograph.
According to Wikipedia, sepia is "...a reddish-brown color, named after the rich brown pigment derived from the ink sac of the common cuttlefish Sepia."
Sort of makes you want to treat it with a little more respect, doesn't it?
Actually it's kind of disgusting - the definition, I mean. The actual fish is even more disgusting - Google it and you'll see what I mean.
The sepia effect is great though, and can really add character to a shot.
In my last post you saw a sepia treatment applied to an image of an old-style telephone. The image was made inside Casa Loma, a Gothic Revival mansion in Toronto. I showed you both the full color version and the sepia version of that image. In my opinion, the sepia version was superior in that case.
In the next image, also from Casa Loma, we see a bedroom - called "Sir Henry's Suite", referring to Sir Henry Pellatt, the Canadian financier and soldier for which the house was built. You be the judge - is the image better in color?:
Or is the image better with sepia toning?:
I'll give away my answer this time - I prefer the sepia version here. In this case, this is not a great photo. It could be focused better, and I couldn't remove all the noise (graininess). I took the shot quickly, while crouching down, in low light, with an iPhone. But I thought it was good enough to illustrate this point, since the grainy and slightly unfocused aspects make it look genuinely old when rendered in sepia.
My 2018 copyright in the corner sort of spoils the illusion. But try to ignore that.
As before, let me know what you think in the comments (or email me directly).
There's more to come - stay tuned for the third and final installment of this series.