How to Use an Ancient Photo Trick to Create Surreal Digital Photos

I recently rediscovered an old photography technique that allows you to add surreal color to photos that show movement in the frame. The technique seems to be new in the digital domain, but the technique itself has been known since the early era of digital photography.

Long before the Bayer filter was invented, early photography pioneers had to take three shots to achieve one color photo: one frame for red, one for green and one for blue, and then they are merged into one photograph. However, if there were moving elements such as clouds, waves, cars, pedestrians, cats in the picture, you get unnatural colors.

Although people tried to avoid this effect to capture natural photographs, I thought it would be interesting to create such colors on purpose as a new method of artistic expression, and so I came up with this technique. Here’s what I did.

First, you need a tripod. Fix your camera on the tripod and take three shots in a row. To get noticeable effects, the exposure time should be long and there should be some time gaps between each shot. Here are three example photos I shot in a row:

As you see, they’re almost identical except for the clouds and water, which had some movement. I exported them from Lightroom to Photoshop as layers.

Once they’ve been imported into Photoshop, you open the Color Channel to use only the R, G and B channel of each shot (respectively).

Specifically, for the first shot, set the Red to 100% and Green and Blue to 0%. For the second shot, set Green to 100% and Red and Blue to 0%. And for the third shot set Blue to 100% and Red and Green to 0%.

Then merge them by setting the opacity of the first shot to 33% and the second shot to 50%, Then, flatten the image and hit Command (CTRL) + S. The resulting image is imported back to Lightroom.

The brightness of the image will be darker because only one of the three color channels is used in each shot, so I adjusted the image.

The resulting image looked like this. You can see that moving elements became an iridescent color.

I created the following images using this technique. They were recently exhibited at the Island Gallery in Tokyo.

And that’s how I used a historical photo technique in digital photography to add surreal colors to movement in photos. Good luck with exploring your creativity.

About the author: Yuga Kurita is a professional photographer based in Fujiyoshida, Japan. You can find more of his work on his website, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, 500px, and Instagram. This article was also published here.