How to give photos a vintage look

How to give photos a vintage look

Stepping back in time

Giving a photograph a vintage look is achieved easily, and more so in a digital age than with traditional equipment and cameras. The methods described below are for both medias, and work effectively to produce sepia toned photographs, reminiscent of those from days gone by. The advantage of these is that they make great additions to family snapshot albums, or nostalgic scrapbooks for enthusiasts in many topics. A town for example can be given the old style look and the results achieved resemble the old style postcards which are so collectable.


Step 1

Darkroom techniques

To produce sepia toned photographs in a darkroom setting, these are achieved with the use of sepia agents bought at a darkroom supplier. Since the instructions vary between different products, it would be unwise to outline the process though reading the instructions on the site of the packet, darkroom enthusiasts with a black and white darkroom can achieve the tones desired to make their photographs give a sepia finish.

Within the darkroom, another method is to use a sepia agent, but to vignette the picture during the exposure period. This is simple to do, and if you can get hold of a cardboard cut out of an oval shape or even a picture insert which is precut to the desired shape, this stops the image from being produced on that part of the photographic paper the cardboard covers. To make this even more authentic and to achieve less defined edges, toward the end of the exposure of the photograph in the enlarger, the cardboard vignette is lifted very carefully so that the edges are exposed for a second before the light goes out on the enlarger. It takes a bit of practice but is something which can be achieved once the technique is perfected.

Step 2

Digital cameras

Many digital cameras have special settings for Sepia toned photos. This is level-1 on many Kodak and popular brands of camera. To achieve old style retro photos on this equipment, the settings need to be changed to Sepia toned, and then the photograph taken. The results are shown on the screen after the photograph is taken and light adjustments can be made by setting the camera onto manual settings, to achieve the desired result.

Step 3


Many good quality cameras of traditional and digital design have filters which can be used to produce sepia. Find out from your stockist if this is the case with your camera, and look at the different tones available. When using filters, adjustment to the aperture and exposure times is essential and may prove hit and miss at first, though can be achieved relatively easily.

Step 4

Canvas finish

Darkroom techniques within professional darkrooms gives the technicians the possibility to print photographs onto canvas. These are relatively expensive photos to produce, although well worth considering, since the different grains used can make a photograph look antiqued. Do check on the different finishes available and discuss with the technician the type of finish you wish to achieve.

Step 5


Even after photographs are taken, they can be enhanced and changed digitally. If you use level-1 film, rather than digital equipment, the negative can be scanned onto a computer using a suitable scanner. The Epson Perfection range have a special carrier for negatives and there are other scanners which perform this adequately. Once the photograph has been scanned onto the computer, the photographic software you have will enable you to make adjustments to the photo in order to antique the finish.The nice thing about software is the range of finishes available, from crackle finish to sepia. You will need to locate your image. Usually this can be located by importing the image from your documents, images file. Once the photo is opened, look at the different options available to you to edit the photograph. With Microsoft "Picture It!" this is relatively simple and from the menu on the left, you can choose the tone of your photograph, although Roxio also offer this feature and is extremely user friendly. More complex programs also allow you to change the appearance of photographs, and to use features such as vignettes or softening of the edges of a photograph to produce an antique or vintage look.

Things Needed
• Good camera
• Darkroom equipment (if available)
• Software
• Computer
• Filters (if this system is chosen)

Tips & Warnings
• Sepia toning helps an image to look aged. Try different color settings with your photographic software to add browns.


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