Thursday, March 19, 2015

How I Easily Make (Urbex) Photographs Look Vintage

Vintage Abandoned Ranch - Rosamond, California
This image was made to look like it had been captured using Polaroid 55.
The trendy thing in photography is vintage-looking images. The retro appearance is "in". Perhaps this is brought on by Instagram and other cell phone apps that quickly give snapshots a vintage makeover.

What constitutes vintage-looking photographs? Those that appear to have been captured by old film cameras, such as Polaroid or Diana. Cross-processed-looking photographs are included in this.
Old Dormitories - Boron, CaliforniaThis image was post-processed using one of the Polaroid "film" options.
Some actually use old film cameras to get the vintage look. This is often called lomography. I have a Holga 120N that I occasionally use, and it (by design) gives images a certain [desired] look.

Another way to achieve the vintage look is to post-process your digital images in such a way that the images look old. You can play with the color curves and use layers and so forth. It takes a little effort, but once you figure out what you're doing it's not that hard (just a bit time consuming).
Retro Living - Johannesburg, California
This image was made to look like it had been captured using Polaroid 55.
There is, however, a much easier way. Several companies make software that with one-click you can transform your bland digital images into retro-looking photographs. The software of choice for me is Alien Skin Exposure. It's simple to use and gives me the look that I want quickly.

Exposure is a film-emulation and post-processing software. There are a ton of color and black-and-white "film" options, including Polaroid and other vintage films, and also options for pushed process and cross-process (and tons of other things, too, such as light leaks and dust). They've done a great job of getting the colors, contrast and grain just right. With one click the photographs look like they were captured using that film.
Soundcraft - Rosamond, California
This image was post-processed using one of the Polaroid "film" options.
There are many post-processing tools found within the software to further fine tune the photographs. You can make a bunch of modifications, and they're all pretty simple to do. The look you want, whatever that look is, is quickly achieved.

The photographs you see in this post were all post-processed using Alien Skin Exposure 7. And that's it. No other software was used. They were RAW files captured using a Nikon D3300 DSLR.
To The Reader - Rosamond, CaliforniaThis image was post-processed using one of the Polaroid "film" options.
Exposure is not the only software available that does this. There are a handful of options out there, and I've heard good things about them all. I don't think you could go wrong with any of them.

What stood out to me about Alien Skin was the effort that they put into getting the "look" for each film right. They painstakingly study actual film to ensure that the emulation is accurate. Another great thing is that the software works as a stand-alone program and Photoshop isn't required (but it can also be used as a Photoshop plug-in).

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