A modern take on traditional photography
Essentially, sepia presets are a way of digitally manipulating images to mirror traditional photograph development. More specifically, sepia actually refers to an old chemical process carried out in the darkroom when photo printing, where the silver element in the emulsion of the print is converted into silver sulfide. Through this process, the black-and-white print becomes more robust and is more resistant to decay, pollutants, and environmental factors.
As a result of this, the prints took on a warmer, soft brownish tint. This tonality was merely a side effect of the chemical process, but photographers noticed how the softer colors made stark, high-contrast black-and-white photos more warm and inviting. Whatever its origins, sepia served to double the lifespan of photographs, which is why we associate it with the Victorian, Old West, and other antique imagery today.
Of course, nowadays, digital graphics and photos can take on the sepia feel using software like Photoshop and Lightroom. For the best results, you’ll want a photo or design that has strong shadows and highlights – so you might tinker with these levels first. In Photoshop, click on ‘Image,’ ‘Adjustments,’ ‘Photo Filter,’ and ‘Sepia’ before selecting your desired intensity of the filter.
In Lightroom, the process is admittedly more time intensive, as you’ll need to manually select the hues and saturation for the highlights and shadows, but this will ultimately give you more control over the end product. With this history and background in mind and armed with these tips and tricks, you’ll be able to utilize sepia-to-age graphics and photos for many purposes.