What is a sepia print?

Sepia photography is a monochrome photographic technique that produces a brownish, warm tone in images. This effect is achieved by treating the photographic print with a solution of sepia toner, which changes the silver particles in the emulsion to a compound of silver and sulfur, resulting in a unique and recognizable color.

The use of sepia toning in photography dates back to the 19th century, and it was particularly popular during the late Victorian era and the early 20th century. Sepia toning was initially used as a way to improve the archival stability of photographic prints, as the toner helped to protect the image from fading and discoloration over time. However, it quickly became an aesthetic choice for photographers, and sepia-toned prints were widely used for portrait and landscape photography.

VENICE, ITALY – SEPTEMBER 21: Grand Canal of Venice on September 21, 2013.The famous Grand Canal from Rialto bridge at sunset. In Sepia toned. Retro style

Today, sepia toning is less commonly used in photography, but it remains a popular choice for vintage or nostalgic imagery, as it can evoke a sense of the past and lend a certain warmth and romanticism to an image.

Most images that are referred to as “sepia” are actually not. The vintage look is a function of the paper below the print turning yellow and the print fading or losing color.

In 2023 sepia filters in cameras and cell phone apps are also popular to make image look like a sepia tone.