Laura Bute Photography

The post-modern vintage photograph

I don’t know what it is about the charm of old things. I mean aside from the possibility of any monetary value of antiques and such. People tend to love old things, and in case you haven’t noticed, right now vintage is most decidedly “in.” Making new photos look vintage is currently a huge fad (#instagram) that I am patiently waiting to pass. As a rule I don’t add any type of vintage wash to my professional work unless specifically requested by a client and even have gone so far as to focus on bright colors in almost everything I shoot. However, until “vintage” is again a thing of the past, for my personal work, well, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. So for all yous-guys out there wondering how to make your high megapixel image look lo-fi, here are a few simple ways to snazz up your pics for your lo-fi photo wall. Most of these techniques can be applied to an image with any old editing software, although being a photoshop guru also helps (and if you are a photoshop guru, just download some free actions. Seriously, it’s way easier). You can use any or all of these, mix and match, etc to your liking.

Here is my original, edited as I would any point and shoot image:

Yes, I’m posting a photo of my dog with a laundry basket in the background. I promise not to over post the dog. I do not promise to never again post the dog.


Naturally, as most photographs fade over time, the first and easiest step is to desaturate your image to your liking. Also, lightening the image just past where you want it.

Tone down the contrast

Decreasing the contrast can also give your favorite pic that “faded photograph” kinda look. You can go the other route and do a lo-fi look that’s super grainy and super contrasty, but that’s a lesson for another day.

Give it a little Vignette

I’m not talking about a severe vignette, where the perimeter of the photograph is completely black. Just make the corners and perimeter a little darker. Many photo editing programs have a little vignette tool or feature. If not, you can also use your burn tool just to darken the outside, which is what I have done to my photo. It looks better if you, you know, try to make it blend, and I’m sure this goes without saying but make sure you’re not vignetting over the subject too much.

Add a little noise

Now I know most programs will denoise a photo, honestly I’m not sure if the free ones will let you add noise or not. If not, sorry.

Change the hue

Most old photographs get a little discoloration with age, usually in a red, orange or yellow direction. Usually you can use a slider to change the hue or the tint, or just go into your color correction tool and make it warmer with yellow, magenta, red, or a combination. I did the latter, and you may want to desaturate again after this. I did not. If you have photoshop you can also do this by adding an overlay or fill layer and adjusting the opacity.

So there you have it, how to put a little lo-fi in your images. There are a million other ways to achieve that “look” so play around, this is really just a start.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

About Me

About me

After a photojournalism degree and a short stint as a lead photographer/photo editor at a news web site, I decided it was time to branch out on my own. I specialize in editorial food and travel photography but dabble in a little bit of everything.