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Living in colour

Hand-coloured photographic print of horse and trappings presented to Queen Victoria

In the days before colour photography, photographs were printed in monochrome, making the picture appear black and white. In order to make these pictures seem more realistic, artists would add colour to a photograph by hand, using paint pigment. You can see how this changed the picture in these images of a young Prince Alfred. Which one do you think looks more realistic?


Sometimes adding colour could truly bring a photograph to life, as it does in this photograph of a horse and trappings.

Look at these two images to spot the difference that were made by adding colour. The colours might help you to work out these questions:

  • What was the weather like when this photograph was taken? Do you think it was sunny, or was it wet and cold?
  • What is the horse’s coat made out of?
  • What are the people in the photograph wearing? Can you see any details on their clothing that you could not see before?
  • Where is the scene set?


If you are feeling creative,  why not take a photocopy of a black and white photograph and try to add colour. Afterwards, you could comapre the original with the coloured version and see which one works best. 

The income from your ticket contributes directly to The Royal Collection Trust, a registered charity. The aims of The Royal Collection Trust are the care and conservation of the Royal Collection, and the promotion of access and enjoyment through exhibitions, publications, loans and educational activities.