Today, were going to walk through the steps of taking an ordinary photo and applying a quick vintage style to it. Well be doing this step-by-step process in Photoshop, although the overall methodology will be applicable to other comparable software.
Creating the Vintage Look
Knowing how to take a corrected, neutral photo and apply various styles can be a very useful skill in your photography arsenal. Whether you do portrait, wedding, or nature photography, knowing how to create a vintage photo effect can allow you to take on a variety of assignments and meet client demands.
Want to follow along with one of your own nature photos? Open that baby up and lets get started!
For my starting point, I snapped a quick shot of a dandelion from my backyard. Heres the original photo.
The key to our methodology will be to strategically adjust the blacks and whites in the photo, and then to add a quick vignette. Remember, we’re focusing on a quick, simple methodology.
Step 1: Create a Selective Color Adjustment Layer
First, create a new Selective Color Adjustment Layer from your Layers Palette.
With this process, creating a Selective Color Adjustment Layer is the most important step, and will give you the most bang for your buck. Let me preface this by saying that the key is to make the adjustments by eye, as the color adjustments will vary from photo to photo. My exact slider adjustments are the ones I chose to create the vintage look for this particular photo.
Focus on the blacks within the photo.
Within the Properties Panel for the Adjustment layer, make sure Blacks is selected from the drop down menu. Were going to increase the amount of black in the image so that there is more contrast. In this case, I increased the bottom Black slider to +55.
Next, we want to decrease the yellow tones from the overall blacks in the scene by adjusting the Yellow slider directly above the Black slider. I decreased the Yellow slider to -55, which made the black information in the image appear slightly lighter and also gives it a more purple look.
As you can see, just these minor adjustments have already made quite a difference in the look of the photo.
Next, well focus on the whites within the Selective Adjustment Layer.
Select White from the drop down menu. Decrease the bottom Black slider. I decreased mine to a value of -45, which lightened all of the white information in the photo.
Next, increase the Yellow slider directly above it. A value of +75 worked well for me, adding a slight yellow tone to all of the white information in the image.
While making these adjustments, it is important to make sure that this layer stays on top of all of your layers so that the adjustments are applied to everything sitting below it.
Here’s our progress:
Step 2: Add a Vignette – Two Alternate Methods
While the photo is already looking notably vintage-esque, were not done yet. Next, were going to add an adjustable vignette. Ill offer two methods: one for the Photoshop CC users, and another for those using earlier versions of Photoshop. You can skip ahead to whichever one applies to you.
Method 1: Adding a Vignette in Photoshop CC:
If you are using Photoshop CC, they have a Radial Filter thats very useful. You’ll need to first duplicate your background layer and make sure its sitting beneath the existing Selective Color Adjustment Layer but above your original layer. Name it Vignette. Then change the Duplicated Layer to a Smart Object by right-clicking on the layer and selecting “Convert to Smart Object” from the pop-up menu. Were doing this before we apply the Radial Filter so that after the filter is applied, we can go back and make any changes to the filter that we choose. This keeps those changes separate from the layer itself.
Next, go to Filter > Camera Raw Filter, and a new dialogue box will pop up. Select Radial Filter (J) from the upper lefthand menu. Its the last button in the row of options. Draw in your radial filter, and adjust it using the options on the right side. I adjusted the Exposure slider to -1.85, and then selected OK.
If you want to quickly soften the effect, simply lower the opacity of the layer. I lowered the Opacity to 55%. Or, you could go back to the Radial Filter by double-clicking on Camera Raw Filter from the Layers palette and adjusting the Exposure slider from there.
Method 2: Adding a Vignette in Earlier Versions of Photoshop:
For those using earlier versions of Photoshop, this is the manual way to achieve a similar effect. Create a new layer, again making sure its sitting beneath the existing Selective Color Adjustment Layer. Name it Vignette and then fill it with black. You can fill it using the Paint Bucket Tool (G), or you can go to Edit > Fill and select Black from the “Use” dropdown menu under the Contents section. Make sure the Blending mode is set to Normal, and the Opacity is set at 100%.
Next, add a mask to this new layer by selecting the mask icon from the Layers Palette, and change the Blending Mode to Soft Light. With a soft black brush, mask out the area from the middle, and then lower the overall Opacity of the layer to 65%.
As a final touch, I added a final layer to sit on top of everything and painted some yellow with a soft brush. Then I lowered this new layer’s opacity to 20% and set it to the Opacity blending mode. Here’s the final result:
The beauty of Photoshops adjustment layers feature is that you can go back and make additional tweaks simply by double-clicking on it. The same applies to the Vignette smart layer.
And there you have it – a quick and easy way to add a vintage look to your nature photo. This technique can be applied to any photo, although the colors that you adjust via the Selective Color Adjustment Layer will vary depending on the subject matter. So again, its important to make your adjustments by eye.
I hope this walk-through helped you to quickly create a vintage effect to your photos. Enjoy experimenting with this process not only is it a valuable tool, but it is also a great way to find new sources of inspiration!