A new computer program that colourizes black and white photos with virtually one click is taking the genealogy community by storm. And it is free and online at MyHeritage until 22 April 2020.
Above: Your Family Genealogist's grandmother arriving at the church with her father on her wedding day in 1926. On the left is Before and on the right side is After. Copyright Therese Lynch 2020.
Released during the recent Roots Tech conference in Salt Lake City, My Heritage's new technology takes black and white or sepia photos and, using machine learning algorithms developed by deOldify, adds colour where previously only shades of grey existed.
At the click of a button you can see old family photos come alive within seconds. That's the idea anyway. The examples on My Heritage's website showed excellent results so I was quick to try it.
In trying it out on my own black and white family photos, the results were mixed and I didn’t achieve the stunning results that appear on My Heritage’s website. To be fair, I probably should have started with something easier than my great great grandparents' 1856 wedding picture (see below). It was in poor condition and after running it through the process, there was little discernible colour.
Above: Your Family Genealogist's great great grandparents on their wedding day in 1856.
My grandmother's photo arriving at the church on the arm of her father in 1926 was more successful (see top photo).
My Heritage makes it very clear that there is no guarantee that the colours exactly match the original. Rather they are the progam's best guess based on millions of test photos used to train the software.
Temporary free access until 22 April
Usually My Heritage only permits non-subscribers to colourize 10 photos free of charge before having to sign up to their Complete plan for continued access. However, until 22 April 2020, you can click here to upload and colourize as many photos as you would like for free. (Note: You will need to create an account with My Heritage (no charge) if you haven't done so previously.)
Above : Your Family Genealogist's first day of school in the 1960s with her grandfather - before and after the colourizing process
According to My Heritage’s marketing blurb, the free and unlimited access period is due to their desire to do their part in helping the genealogy community keep busy and have some fun during these challenging times.
Whatever the reason, the company’s generosity is welcome. Whether people should or should not colourize their old family photos is currently a topic of debate among genealogists. For my own part, I don’t think there is any harm in it, particularly as the process leaves the original photo untouched and makes a copy which is then colourized.
The copy is not automatically stored on your computer. Rather, you need to specifically download the coloured photo which is easy and intuitive to do. There are two download options:
the coloured photo; or
a comparison of the original black and white photo side-by-side with the coloured version in a single image.
The other thing to note is that My Heritage inserts its name and a small round palette icon on the coloured version of the photo – ostensibly to make it easy to tell it apart from the original. This is annoying if you want to give the photo as a gift to someone or frame it.
Above : Before and After photos of Your Family Genealogist's great great
grandfather circa 1880.
The conversion from black and white to colour does not always get it right. See for example the photo above of the girl in school uniform. The results are pretty good, except for one small part on the lower right leg - the skin colour is different to the left leg.
My Heritage acknowledges this and the next iteration of the software will have three different options to choose from which will overcome most imperfections.
New and easy-to-use technology is always welcome when it adds to our family history activities. It is well worth the effort of running some black and white photos through the process to see what sort of results you get. Personally, I found that the more recent the black and white photo, the better the results. For example my 1960s photos showed more colour than my 1860s images.
Whether you use MyHeritage in Colour as a bit of fun or as a great opportunity to colourize all your old black and white photos, it is worthwhile putting this new technology through its paces. You can then can you decide if it is worth adding to your toolkit.
How did you go?
Let me know via the comments section below what you think of this new technology.
Your Family Genealogist
Pictures : from Your Family Genealogist's own collection.
Copyright : Therese Lynch 2020