175. Make a Photograph Look Old
Before You Start
72 Select a Rectangular or Circular Area
83 Select Everything but the Current Selection
85 Reload a Previously Saved Selection
93 Create a Layer Filled with a Color, Gradient, or Pattern
166 Frame a Photograph
176 Change a Color Photograph to Black and White
178 Colorize a Photograph
At hardware stores, you can find cans or jars of something called "antique paint," which you can supposedly brush or spray on your curios to instantly make them look old. Although these paints often do have some crackling glazes in them, and some metallics that bunch up together, you can't expect to just spray it on something and instantly age it. By that same token, you can't expect to make any photograph you take look ancient simply by recasting it as monochrome or reducing its saturation. The earliest photographs are dated not just by their technology but also by the nature of their content: Because exposure in the nineteenth century was generally achieved either through extreme brightness or long shutter openings, early photosespecially Daguerreotypeswere portraits, usually of people holding painfully still. They were often overexposed and lacked detail. But unlike Polaroids, whose age many can easily guess down to the precise year by gauging the gradual reduction of blue tints, ancient photos (when well kept, of course) actually look much the same as they did when they first emerged from the developing room. So, what you're trying to do when making a photo look vintage (for instance, circa 1880) is to approximate the style and content of the photos of that era, rather than make the photo look like it's aged several generations.
Adobe's filters are extremely adept at applying unique and captivating effects to images; but for you to capture a specific set of nuancessuch as the appearance of an 1880's photographyou should apply several filter effects in succession. For this example, we'll take a scene where the subject happens to be wearing clothing suitable for that era and also happens to be standing fairly still. We want to create an effect where the final product appears overexposed in the brighter areas and noisy or pixilated in the darker areas.
Create Duplicate Background Layer
Open the image in the Editor in Standard Edit mode and save it in Photoshop (*.psd) format. With the Background layer selected in the Layers palette, select Layer, Duplicate Layer. Name the new layer Sepia.
If the effect you're going for isn't the nineteenth-century Daguerreotype look, but instead a 1940s-era magazine color reproduction with the old Look magazine's warm, grainy style, try applying the Film Grain filter. Set Grain to 5 (lower than medium), Highlight Area to its minimum of 0, and Intensity to its maximum of 10.
Apply Sepia Tone
With the Sepia layer selected, select Enhance, Adjust Color, Adjust Hue/Saturation from the menu bar.
In the Hue/Saturation dialog box that opens, check Colorize. Under Hue, enter 30 (the optimum sepia color) and under Saturation, enter 55. Click OK. For the moment, this might look like too much sepia, but what you're about to do will compensate.
If you've ever held a mylar diffusion sheetused in the photo development process and in the printing process for cardboard packagingyou know that it's smooth, evenly frosted, and very finely grained. One photo reproduction trick used in antiquing is to lay one of these diffusion sheets on top of a fully developed image and then reshoot the image. The Diffuse Glow filter is designed to approximate the use of one of these sheets for just that purpose.
Apply Diffuse Glow Filter
In the Toolbox, click the Default Colors button that appears just below and to the left of the foreground and background color swatches. This action prevents the Diffuse Glow filter from being influenced by any other hues from the outside.
With the Sepia layer selected in the Layers palette, select Filter, Distort, Diffuse Glow from the menu bar.
The three variables the Diffuse Glow filter uses are Graininess, Glow Amount, and Clear Amount. You can experiment with the settings for these variables to some extent. You don't want a high value for Graininess, and you'll probably want an even smaller value for a lady's portrait, such as this one. For this example, I set Graininess to 4, although I might have set it as high as 6 for the more rugged face of her groom.
Glow Amount, for these purposes, controls the extent of the overexposure effect. The higher this setting, the more white is added to the lighter sections of the face. This diminishes the sepia effect only at the lightest areas, which is what you want. On the other hand, this can make your midtones a chalky brown, which you can compensate for with the Clear Amount setting. Clear Amount, in effect, is the opposite of Glow Amount, and can balance or even compensate for it. In this example, I wanted the bride's upper cheeks and forehead to glow, but I didn't want to lose the rich tones in her lower cheeks and neck. So, I set Glow Amount to 13, and recovered the sepia in the midtones by setting Clear Amount to 10.
To finalize your choices and apply the filter to the Sepia layer, click OK.
In artistic terms, "clear" color is brighter, more vibrant color.
Create Layer for Blending Filter
To complete the illusion of an old photograph, we want to create a noticeable grainy pattern, beyond what the Diffuse Glow filter can provide. But filters generally apply their effects evenly throughout an entire image or a selected area of an image, and what we want is noticeable graininess only in the medium-dark-to-dark regions. This way, we antique the image without losing the gentle glow we've just achieved in the subject's face.
In the Layers palette, select the Sepia layer. Choose Layer, Duplicate Layer from the menu bar. Name the new layer Texture.
In the Layers palette, select the new Texture layer. From the menu bar, select Enhance, Adjust Color, Adjust Hue/Saturation. In the Hue/Saturation dialog box, enable the Colorize check box. For the Hue setting, enter 0; and for the Saturation setting, enter 25. Click OK. This creates a russet-hued undertone, which will later appear mostly in the darker regions; the midtones will retain the original sepia.
In the Layers palette, with the Texture layer selected, change its Blend Mode to Multiply and its Opacity to 50%. The Multiply blend mode accumulates darks on darks, as though you were holding up two transparencies of the same image on top of one another. The light still shines through, but the darks are now more opaque.
Apply Grain Texture Filter
With the Texture layer selected in the Layers palette, select Filter, Texture, Grain from the menu bar. In the Grain dialog box that opens, set Intensity to 50%, Contrast to 50%, and Grain Type to Soft. In the preview pane of the dialog box, what you'll see is the effect this filter will have on this particular layer, not on the entire image. This is important because we've reduced this layer's opacity by half. By earlier setting its blend mode to Multiply, we're in effect telling the Editor to apply only the dark pixels of the grains we've just created to the darker areas of the layers beneath the Texture layer. Click OK.
The Grain filter achieves its effects partly by varying the colors of the original pixels, not just their brightness. So, some of the pixels on the Texture layer are now greener than they were before. From a distance, this creates a more natural, pointillistic effect. If you look at a true antique photo under a magnifying glass, you'll see that it isn't monochromatic by design, either. The varying colors in any small region are joined together by your eyes to produce a sepia tone at a distance.
Create Vignette Frame Area
To complete the full effect, we're going to set this image in an oval vignette frame. With the Texture layer still selected in the Layers palette, in the Toolbox, select the Marquee tool. The current tool is probably the Rectangular Marquee tool with the dashed rectangle icon; if so, in the Options bar, click the Elliptical Marquee tool to make that the current tool.
In the image, point your crosshairs to the absolute upper-left corner. Click and drag the pointer to the absolute lower-right corner. The area you're selecting includes everything within the oval, which should just graze the sides of the image.
If your image contents tend to fall outside the boundaries of even the widest ellipse you can create, you might want to try instead a rounded rectangle. To make one, start by using the Rectangular Marquee tool to define the basic rectangle shape, or choose Select, All from the menu bar to select the entire image. Then choose Select, Modify, Smooth from the menu bar. In the dialog box, enter a large amount, such as 100. Click OK.
Because we'll need this ellipse again later, save it to the image's alpha channel: Choose Select, Save Selection from the menu bar. In the Save Selection dialog box, under Name, type Frame border and click OK.
To give this selection a very soft edge, first choose Select, Modify, Contract from the menu bar. In the Contract Selection dialog box, enter 50 to reduce the selection size a bit, and then click OK. Then choose Select, Feather from the menu bar. In the Feather Selection dialog box, under Feather Radius, enter 50 to bring the selection boundaries in even further, but this time softly. Click OK.
Because our real objective is to create a frame that appears everywhere our current selection is not, we have to invert the selection. Choose Select, Inverse from the menu bar. Notice that the marquee now surrounds the edge of the image.
For images with relatively high resolution, such as above 300 PPI, try higher amounts for both contracting and feathering.
Create Wooden Frame
To add the wooden pattern as the vignette frame, select Layer, New Fill Layer, Pattern. In the New Layer dialog box that opens, under Name, type Frame and click OK.
In the Pattern Fill dialog box, click the down-arrow next to the pattern sample; from the array of swatches that appears, choose Wood. Enable the Link with Layer check box and click OK.
In the Styles and Effects palette, choose Effects and, from the samples, choose Wood Rosewood. Don't be afraid. For a moment, you'll see nothing but the wood panel. What's happened is that you've created a new layer on top with just the rosewood panel. Here's where we bring back the oval selection. From the menu bar, choose Select, Load Selection. In the Load Selection dialog box, under Selection, type Frame border and click OK.
We want to cut the shape of the selection from the inside of the rosewood panel. But we don't want to make it look like we did this with a buzz saw. So, choose Select, Modify, Smooth from the menu bar. In the Smooth Selection dialog box, under Sample Radius, type 5 and click OK. Then select Edit, Cut. The interior of the rosewood panel is now extracted, revealing the photo beneath it.
Finally, from the Styles and Effects palette, in the left drop-down list, choose Layer Styles; from the right drop-down list, choose Bevels. From the sample thumbnails, choose Simple Sharp Outer to create a simple beveled edge along the oval cut-out.
View the Result
After you're satisfied with the result, make any other changes you want and save the PSD file. Resave the result in JPEG or TIFF format, leaving your PSD image with its layers intact so that you can return at a later time and make different adjustments if you want.
In this image of a modern-day bride made to look a bit more vintage, the lighter-colored wooden area beneath Layer 1 now resembles the faded edges of a domed glass mounting, where an antique photo generally disintegrates, revealing the old wooden mounting beneath. The very last application of the Simple Sharp Outer bevel gives the rosewood a bit of depth, while also providing a slight and unobtrusive sheen to the photo area.