6 Tips for Becoming a Vintage Photography Expert
Vintage style photography has seen a surge in popularity among hobbyist photographers. And thanks to photography social networking sites like Flickr, sharing of photographs in the vintage style is
easier than ever.
Users even share their post production 'recipes' and techniques to help you form
your own ideas and techniques if you're interested in producing photographs in the vintage syle.
A quick search on Flickr brings up 61,000+ images of and 2,000+ groups dedicated
to the vintage style. Here are six tips for capturing a bit of vintage of your own - or as I call it,
The vintage style has everything to do with colour and saturation. Old photos aren't
vivid. There are many ways to tweak levels in post production to achieve a vintage feel.
The first of these is the contrast - toning down your contrast to create a "flatter" feel. There are differens ways to change contrast in Photoshop. You can select Layer > New adjustment layer > Levels, or see the below images:
Another way to play with your photo is in Enhance > Adjust color > Color variations. You'll see a
host of options for playing with your image. Generally I like to enhance contrast by bumping up the highlights by two clicks and the shadows by one. But here, we're lowering contrast so just do the opposite!
Another way is Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Brightness/Contrast. This will add a transparent adjustment layer and give you two sliders on the right to adjust until you're happy. The
great thing about using adjustment layers instead of directly changing the image as in the screen
shots above, is that you can then mask out parts of the image you don't want affected or delete the
Bump down your saturation. As we mentioned before, old photos aren't vivid. Just like in the above tip for using an adjustment layer to change contrast, you can make one to
adjust color hue and saturation.
Black and White
There's so much more to black and white than just hitting the grayscale button. Basic grayscale or
monocrome is a good place to start, but tweak the underlying blues, reds, greens and contrast to
make it more believable.
Look at some old photos in real life and online to get a sense for what
film black and white photos actually look like before trying to 'vintify' your own. There are the usual ways of changing an image to monocrome (e.g. Enhance > Convert to black and white) but they don't
make for a very believable image.
I'm fairly against the run-of-the-mill "one click"
grayscale buttons. By all means, click them and then adjust the contrast, use texture layers etc
to make a custom black and white that's just right for your image.
2. Lightroom Presets
There are a great many photographers who share their presets for free or a
nominal price which you can use as a springboard for your own vintage style images. I regularly use
Rebecca Lily's Lightroom presets to produce beautiful vintage photos using the most imaginative
colours, gorgeous contrasts and rich vignettes. This image utilized one of Lily’s retro presets
for a ‘60s feel.
Another post production method for vintifying your images is using texture layers. Do
you have old photos from your grandma's attic, or a handful that you picked up at a thrift shop? Study the
textures. Look at the edges, the water spots, the age spots and dust. Old photos tell a story in so
many more ways than just the image itself.
Maybe your grandad accidentally put his coffee cup down
on the family photo. Pay attention to the damage that time does to old images and experiment with
texture layers to achieve warm, rich textures which you can practically feel. This tutorial by
Phototuts' own Andrew Gibson will tell you exactly how to edit using texture layers. I regularly use
textures by Florabella Collection and Flypaper Textures. In my experince, Florabella is great for
people while the Flypaper Textures are outstanding for landscapes but of course, the sky is the
limit when using textures!
It goes without saying that a photo of the latest Ford car isn't going to look vintage no
matter what you do in post production. It's clearly from this day and age. Pay attention to the
images you are seeking to vintify and be sure that the subject matter is conducive to the vintage
A couple of great ways to achieve vintage content is to seek out: old cars, vintage clothing
for your children, rustic locations, antique furniture or vintage, recognisable and branded
paraphernalia like Coke bottles.
Don't have images you feel inspired to vintify? Why not scan an actual photo from the
past and edit it? This image was restored in Photoshop by Derek Gomez - and bravo for it was only his
first attempt at digital restoration. He gave me a great tip when discussing his method: go for
an image with water - it may be more forgiving for your first time around.
6. New old
A quirky little sidestep from vintage style photography is what I call "new old"
vintage. That is, photos which are clearly from this day, utilizing vivid, saturated colours and
studio lighting but entirely fabricated to look old with props, makeup and subject matter.
Try it Yourself!
The vintage style is so popular these days that I really try to be careful to separate myself from
everyone else and not do it the same way. As with any style or trend in photography, there is
always room for individuality.
Study the thousands and thousands of examples out there and start
playing around to find what really works for you.