Colorizing an 1880 Glass Plate with a Neural Network and Photoshop

Accurately colorizing a photo usually takes hours upon hours of research followed by the same in Photoshop. But now, thanks to fancy new neural network technology, you can do an amazing job in no time.

The demo above was put together by photographer Mathieu Stern, who took a break from reviewing weird lenses to colorize an old black and white glass plate negative he found of his great-great-grandfather. A photo captured around 1880, colorized in 2016 using a neural network and Photoshop—an fascinating contrast between the cutting-edge technology of the past and present.

The technology behind this project was this neural network-powered tool created by researchers UC Berkley. You simple input a black and white photo, and the tool automatically colorizes it using source imagery from the Internet to determine what color each section should be.

Of course, it’s not perfect (in fact, it’s not meant to be used with very old imagery like this) but the initial shot gave Mathieu a perfect base plate. A few Photoshop adjustments later, and this black and white plate:


Turns into this accurate color portrait of Mathieu’s great-great-grandfather (and his dog):


Check out the video up top to see how he did it, and then click here if you want to give this impressive tool a shot for yourself. We’d love to see a few of your favorite colorized shots in the comments!