Creating Colour in Photography


Photograph by: Louis Arthur Ducos du Hauron Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

During the mid-1800s, there was still a lot left to understand about the nature of light. Despite the limited technology of the time, French inventor Louis Arthur Ducos du Hauron came up with a colour photography process. He proposed that by photographing a scene thrice through red, blue and green filters and superimposing the camera negatives on a sheet, it would produce the scene in colour. He applied for a patent on this process and was granted one in 1869. Coincidentally, another French inventor Charles Cros independently published similar findings in a scientific journal, but du Hauron patented his processes first.

The image above is one of du Hauron’s many experiments with this process. Here, he used three photograms to make a colour print of the flowers, stems and leaves. He placed the flowers, stems and leaves on a photographic paper and exposed it to light to create an image.

Unfortunately, du Hauron’s process was never fully employed by photographers, because of how complicated it was to produce images. Thus, he did not make any profit from his findings. However, he was made a Chevalier of the French Legion of Honour (Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur) in 1912 and he received a pension from the Government.

This article originally appeared in the March 2015 issue of Better Photography.