How to create timeless and vintage photos

 
 

In this article I'm going to show you few simple tricks how you can easily make your photos look timeless and vintage. 

 

What do you need?

Only Lightroom - I'm using this program to edit my photos in 99% of time.

 

What should you know before starting using tricks below

You need to start with basic editing. Start with adjusting exposure, contrast, highlights, shadows, whites and blacks. It's really hard to give a universal advice about basic editing, because each photo has different lighting setup and exposure. Try to make your photo look neither overexposed nor underexposed. I usually prefer to underexpose a little bit my photos, because this is what a like, moody, mysterious, sometimes quite dark look.

Then try to adjust contrast to punch your photo. Flat photos aren't appealing. If colours are too saturated, try to lower them down a little bit. I prefer using vibrance instead of saturation. It's more intelligent slider in my opinion.

 

Ok. Let's go with some tricks! 

 

Trick 1: Vintage Tone Curve

Start with RGB Tone Curve to add a little bit vintage look to your picture. Divide the axis on 3 parts using dots. And now go up with the first dot on the left. This action will fade blacks making them less contrasty, but making them more moody at the same time like from old movie. Go up as high as you want. I personally do it more subtle than with a third dot.

Your second and last action with RGB Tone Curve will be pulling down the third dot on the right. This action will fade whites and highlights in the photo making a picture less bright and more moody. 

You can play around with other points on the axis adjusting exposure and contrast in your photo. Many photographers prefer to adjust contrast using only RGB Tone Curve instead of contrast slider in basic settings. I personally don't have my favourite way to do it. I use both ways.

 

Click on the photo below to see before and after adjusting RGB Tone Curve:

 

Trick 2: Vintage colours

What would be the vintage photo without vintage colours. Let's have fun and talk about each colour. We'll be interested in Greens, Yellows, Orange, Red, Seledyn and Blue colour.

Greens: To gain the vintage look we need to desaturate greens. Also drag the Hue slider to the left to make Greens more Yellowish. Adjust luminance to your preference.

Yellows: The situation is exactly the same as with greens. I would maybe increase luminance more if you have blond girl in the picture. I love when a girl's hair glows in the photo <3

Orange: Watch out as this is a skin colour. What I usually do with this slider is desaturating a little bit and increasing luminance to make skin brighter. 

Red: Desaturate (but not too much as this is lips colour) around -20 and drag slider slightly to the right. It gives really cool vintage reddish effect in the photo. 

Blue: Your task with blue is to make it a little bit seledyn. You can achieve that by desaturating Blue colour and dragging Hue slightly to the left. 

 

Click on the photo below to see before and after those adjustments:

 

 

Trick 3: Rock out with Split Toning

I use split toning in two ways (depends on what kind of mood I want to achieve):

1. Increase yellow in highlights and red/orange in shadows

2. Increase blue in highlights and red/orange in shadows

 

I use it very subtle adjusting to each photo.

 

Click on the photo below to see before and after adjusting split toning:

 

Trick 4: Add Vignette

Adding vignette is one of the simplest way to make your photo look vintage, but don't overdo, because too big vignette can look lame. To make sure that your vignette is cool and it would not be too narrow, drag the mid point to the left.

 

Click on the photo below to see before and after adjusting vignette:

 

Trick 5: Warm it up

To give your photo more pleasant and warm look you can do it in two ways:

1. Drag slightly Temp slider to the right (from blue to more yellow)

2. Use Split Toning: Add red/orange in shadows and yellow in highlights 

 

Click on the photo below to see before and after warming the picture:

 

Trick 6: Make it grainy

One of the coolest way to make your photo look more vintage is by adding grain! Disadvantage of adding grain is that you lose quality and sharpness. But in my opinion it's not the disadvantage, especially if you use super sharp prime lenses. How much you should add grain it's only up to your preference. I usually add most grain in black and white photos, also quite a lot with landscape and wide angled shots. Least grain I add while editing portraits. It's really hard to tell how much grain I add in general, because each photo has different lighting setup and perception. My advice is to add grain as much as you feel it looks cool while watching photo in full size mode (not while it is zoomed).

I usually add grain like this:

  • Amount: 5-30 (how many grains you can see in the photo)
  • Size: 30-50 (how big grains are)
  • Roughness: 20-60 (how rough or soft grains are)

 

Click on the photo below to see before and after adding grain:

 

This is how you can easily make your photos look more vintage and timeless. Remember that all those trick will not work if your photo looks bad itself. Also remember that you should always start with basic editing adjusting your exposure and contrast. Edit your photo in a way you like. Do you like more bright and full of life pictures? Or maybe you prefer more moody with deep shadows photos? Both ways are ok as long as you love it.

 

Thank you for reading <3 If you have any question you can always drop a comment below or message me on Facebook or Instagram.

 

Love,

Michal