I had a bit of time this weekend to finish up some pictures from a recent hot air balloon shoot.
For these photos, I wanted to try out some new-ish techniques and really see how toy camera-ish I could get these to be. Cameras like the Holga have a sort of niche popularity for their soft focus, heavy vignetting and random light leaks. People with iPhones can take advantage of the Hipstamatic app, which has some powerful tools to not only simulate vintage cameras, but also film and flash bulbs. (Kind of wondering why they haven’t made this into a Photoshop plug-in yet, but oh well…)
It’s an interesting exercise, because while it might seem easy to make a picture look terrible, in some ways a DSLR can really work against the effect. For starters, a DSLR has a lot of automatic settings that can take care of of a lot of things that can absolutely ruin a picture taken with a plastic camera.
To achieve that vintage effect, I had to go through quite a few steps. Topaz Labs has this nice plug-in called Lens Effects which can go a long way towards reaching the goal of vintage film nirvana. But it’s only a start, at least for these pictures. In Lens Effects I generally ran it through a couple blur filters to soften the edges along with a vignette. There are also settings for adding color casts to simulate light leak, which is pretty cool. Back in Photoshop I generally duplicated the layer and added a slight motion blur. Then I would lower the opacity enough so that the motion blur was evident, but not overpowering.
For some of the images I added a textured paper overlay so that there was a little bit of grain and paper-ness to it; after all, the vintage cameras weren’t digital, so at least back in the day you would have to have them printed on picture paper, which, depending on the quality, adds its own luster to the whole project. To get even more light leaks on some of the photos, I simply painted on a new layer with a big soft brush colored pink, and then set the blending mode to something like scree or color dodge. Especially if it’s used near a brighter source (like the sky) it adds luminance to that area while retaining that hint of color.
On almost all of them I did a Selective Color adjustment to balance (or unbalance, in some instances) the colors and crunch some of the shadows.
Lastly, for some of them I added a top layer of brushed in grunge, usually lowering the opacity a little bit, especially near the edges, as if the picture has been handled and worn.