Cake
  • Log In
  • Sign Up
    • The vintage look never gets old. The most popular editing technique makes photos look like they were captured with film. Recreating that look takes five steps and I’d love to share them with examples from each step.

      All of the photos in this tutorial were taken by me, the makeup and hair is done by my girlfriend cjao_beauty, and the model is our friend. We had full control of the process starting from the look, poses, background and editing. The photos were taken with a Sony A7s (35mm 1.4 lens) and edited on the iPhone X using Instagram and Darkroom apps.

      The vintage look is achieved by dramatically increasing contrast, reducing vibrance, adding a vignette, mixing in colors for shadows and highlights, and finally adding fade. Since every photo is different, providing exact values won’t be useful. Instead I’ll focus on the technique.

      Before we dive in, here is the original vs the edited shot.

    • Step 1: Increase Contrast.

      Start with increasing the brightness of the skin up until it starts becoming fully white. From there back it down a bit to make sure not to “blow out” the highlights. The goal is to make the skin glow. Then focus on shadows and blacks. Increase contrast until the texture of the background and the dress starts losing details.

    • Step 2: Reduce Vibrance.

      Increasing contrast makes all colors more vibrant. To compensate, reduce the vibrance (or saturation) of the photo to be close or less than the original.

    • Step 3: Add Vignette. 

      Adding a little bit of vignette (gradual darkening of the edges) helps focus on the face. Our eyes are drawn to bright things.

    • Step 4: Add Color to Shadows and Highlights.

      The vintage look needs color character in shadows and highlights. For shadows, mix in a bit of blue and red for highlights. Other color combinations work great too, but the key is to make it look subtle.

    • Step 5: Add Fade.

      To take to the final vintage look, add a bit of fade. It raises the brightness of the darkest areas of the photo so that pure black colors become dark grey. 

    • Bonus: Add Grain.

      Adding artificial grain (not available in Instagram) makes the photo look even more vintage. I rarely do it, but sometimes it’s fun to experiment.

    • Example 1.

      Following the 5 steps above here is another vintage portrait. A bit more blue color was mixed in the shadows and minimal amounts of orange in the highlights.

    • Example 2.

      The same editing technique applies to full body shots. In this example, the background was desaturated to be less distracting.

    • Example 4.

      Overblowing highlights (making them almost white) sometimes helps in bringing focus. In this example the model stands out from less noisy background.

    • Example 5.

      Adding extra fade sometimes helps in keeping important textures. In this example the staircase keeps its definition yet there is still plenty of contrast in the photo.

    • Great pointers, Vilen. Thanks for writing this up. What about a little bit of softening? I often associate vintage photos with a lovely soft focus.

      Photo credit: Steven Rosen

    • Another thing you can do to take in back further in time is to add a sepia tone wash to the image, for these I take the vignetting the opposite way lightening the corners and add a border to the images. I was reacently challenges to a five day challenge for Mono challenge images on an other social media platform. This shearing shed featured in quite a few of the images for the five days. Finished result looks like the old glass plate images. Processed in Lightroom and silver effects pro.

    • Wow, the post-processing work on that image looks amazing! I can't tell that this isn't a real old glass plate image. That's when you know it's perfectly edited.

      I was thinking of writing up another tutorial on how to make Sepia and Black & White edits, but now I feel like you're way ahead of my editing skills.

      There are a few photos from this shoot that I didn't use... So here's an idea: would you be up for another editing challenge and we can write up a tutorial about it. Just a few simple steps. What do you think? 😉

    • Always up for a challenge. Had a pretty hectic last few weeks but things will settle down now so Yeap good to go. Also thinking of kicking of a photography online Cake class we talked about a month or so back so this will give an idea how to go about it. So Yeap I’m in.

    • I took some photos at the 75th D-Day celebration and wanted them to look aged, so I used Lightroom’s Aged Photo effects. It adds a sepia wash and fades the color saturation.