Making a Photo Look Old

Most of the work I do with photos involves enhancing the natural appearance of the image.  This is stuff like cropping, adjusting color, removing blemishes, changing eye color, and the like.

In this case I got to make more of a dramatic effect.  A group of friends had gathered for a party and we wanted to get the birthday girl a memento so we all posed for an old timey old west photo.  As long as we bought copies of the official print we were allowed to snap as many extra digital images we wanted.  This gave me the perfect opportunity to try my hand at old-i-fying an image.

Here is what I did to get from start to finish:
1.  Crop the image so most of the “cowboys” couldn’t be seen wearing running shoes.
2.  Sharpen the image and remove some motion blur.  Some folks were moving and some were more out of focus than Melanie and I.
3.  Add in wood walls on the two sides of the image.  This set is not meant to accommodate so many people so you could see the outdoors scene and the pirate ship scene as well.  Obviously these things needed to be covered up.  I should have darkened the wall with a gradient from the back corner.  That would have more firmly placed it in the photo.
4.  Add a white border to the image.
5.  Darken the edge of the image to simulate wear.
6.  Use the noise filter.
7.  Adjust the hue and saturation to remove the original color and add in the sepia-ish/old picture tone.
8.  Adjust the brightness of the image selectively to simulate vignetting and an uneven exposure.
9.  Simulate scratches with a fine white brush (saw this tip online and it really helps sell the effect).
10.  Add more noise to the image and selectively remove it with the magic wand.  This was another tip I saw online.  It is amazing how effectively it simulates the deterioration of an old print.  If had thought of it at the time, I would have selectively applied this layer too.  That way I could have left the effect more strong so that parts of the image would have actually appeared to have flaked off rather than just faded.
11.  Add a tinted grain via that filter.  I probably should have also added Gaussian blur to the grain  to make it a little larger and smoother but didn’t think of that at the time.
12.  Apply a Gaussian blur to the edge of the image so that it softly transitions into the white border.


5 thoughts on “Making a Photo Look Old

    1. That is the reason. Plus, I would hate for it to get someone in trouble in the future. I don’t know why it would, but sometimes employers and other authority figures have problems with stuff you wouldn’t expect.

    1. Photoshop. Actually, an old PS for an old look. I used PS CS2. One day I will upgrade. I can hardly wait to be able to try the selection paintbrush. That thing looks like a great timesaver.

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