How to 'age' digital photos?
August 18, 2004 12:13 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone know of any good sites that show how to make digital photos look as though they were shot in the 50s/60s specifically the color balance you see on pics taken from yesteryear.

Or any tools, plugins/geegaws that would do the same thing
posted by zeoslap to Media & Arts (16 answers total)
Try playing with the contrast of individual color components (either R/G/B or C/M/Y) in photoshop. First try unnaturally high contrast, then unnaturally low contrast. Then try combinations (high contrast for some colors, low for others).

For technical details, get a book from a professional photo store (not a mall store, the store you are looking for is probably in the more industrial part of town) on developing film and paper. A good book will show the frequency-response curves for R/G/B and C/M/Y for a variety of different films and papers. You can then apply these curves to the digital photographs you have today.

One example (for B&W film) is that early films didn't respond to red light at all. Modern film responds to red light, but not as strongly as other colors. This was an explicit design decision that enabled dark room workers to use red light to illuminate their work without fear of harming the undeveloped images. This also explains why color film does not have any "safelight".
posted by Kwantsar at 12:32 PM on August 18, 2004

Modern panchromatic black and white film doesn't have any safelight either. I've loaded enough reels in total darkness, wishing that wasn't true, to know. You're thinking of ortho films.
posted by AstroGuy at 12:39 PM on August 18, 2004

...or you could just crank up the green, as a quick fix. At least in most of the 50s/60s pix I've colour corrected, toning down the green fixed most of the problem. Not quite the elegant (and more professional) solution Kwantsar proposed, but if you're in a hurry or it's not a vital aspect of the project, it should work.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 12:44 PM on August 18, 2004

Can you point to a photo online that has this look? I'm not sure what you're after.

A lot of people say the "lomo look" is kind of retro, and there are lots of photoshop plugins that approximate that blown out, contrasty, vingnette look (if that's what you mean by 50s/60s look)
posted by mathowie at 1:02 PM on August 18, 2004

Response by poster: cranking up the green, that's more like it :)
posted by zeoslap at 1:03 PM on August 18, 2004

I use photoimpact. Turning on the "warm" effect usually does it.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 1:06 PM on August 18, 2004

Melancholytron is nice, if that's the look you're going for. Or their free Kyoto Color plugin is another good color tweaker.
posted by ook at 2:12 PM on August 18, 2004

Modern panchromatic black and white film doesn't have any safelight either.

Yeah, I guess I was thinking of paper. I've always loaded and unloaded film in a changing bag. All of my B&W print work has been with a red safelight, and my color print work was in total darkness. You are also right about ortho films. I've read about them, but never used them. IIRC, ortho B&W film was more of a 1920's thing. By the 50s and 60s, Tri-X was already in production. But this is all B&W stuff, and not really relevant to the original poster.

Another thing to consider is that some "vintage color" photographs were actually B&W prints that were later painted. You can get this effect by duplicating your image into a second layer, turning the first layer into B&W, then selecting out the portions that you want to remain in color. Put the color stuff under the B&W layer, and play with mixing and transparency.

I could go into photoshop and give you an exact sequence of menus and settings, but then you'd get how *I* would make a vintage photo. There are many ways to accomplish the same thing, and plenty of art in photoshop.
posted by Kwantsar at 3:40 PM on August 18, 2004

Response by poster: Matt, here is an example, although it's just a landscape shot it's clearly taken in the 60s
posted by zeoslap at 5:27 PM on August 18, 2004

If you have Photoshop CS, find an old photo that has the color range that you want. Open your new photo and select Image -> Adjustments -> Match Color... Then set the source to your older photo.
posted by the biscuit man at 7:05 PM on August 18, 2004

Can you point to a photo online that has this look? I'm not sure what you're after.

I think (and I could be wrong) that zeoslap is talking about photos like the ones in the Charles W. Cushman Collection.

Maybe like these (A, B, C, D)
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 8:30 PM on August 18, 2004

Response by poster: Yes, exactly s@l; content aside just from the colors you can see that these are old pics.
posted by zeoslap at 8:45 PM on August 18, 2004

Response by poster: This is another good example
posted by zeoslap at 8:49 PM on August 18, 2004

Excellent! I've been wondering the same damn thing! (How do I make my photos look old like that)
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 8:51 PM on August 18, 2004

Use Color Balance in Photoshop. Turn up the red on highlights, and perhaps midtones, a bit. Possibly some more green on the shadows. You'll notice how ruddy that 60's picture is.
posted by wackybrit at 1:42 AM on August 19, 2004

listen to the biscuit man....
posted by signal at 7:17 AM on August 19, 2004

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