Go retro with your RAWs
If you’re a fan of the classic sepia look, this month Dan Mold shows you how to recreate it in Adobe Camera Raw for vintage film charm.
We show you how to mimic film grain, create vignettes and apply a sepia tone.
IT’S HARD TO RESIST THE rustic charm of classic film photos. The modern world is full of high-res, super-sharp digital imagery, so the scratched, faded and tarnished aesthetic of an old photo is very refreshing. The good news is it’s easy to bring this style to any image and here we’re going to show you how to remove colour and add your own sepia tone, then inject extra grain and a vignette to complete the retro look that’s currently all the rage. We’ll be using Photoshop CC’s built-in RAW converter, Adobe Camera Raw, to pull it off, but you can replicate the results in Lightroom if you prefer, which has similar panels and tools. Here’s how you can do it...
1 Convert your RAW to black & white
Open your RAW image into Photoshop CC and it’ll automatically be opened into Adobe Camera Raw. Head over to the Basic panel as this is where you can start to apply your RAW conversion. Firstly, drag the Saturation slider to -100 to make it mono. Now give the image some bite by setting Clarity to +35 and Contrast to +25. Drag the Exposure slider until you’re happy with the overall brightness and adjust the Highlights, Shadows, Whites and Blacks to fine-tune the contrast. Pushing the Shadows and Whites up to +50 while pulling the Highlights and Blacks down is a good way to enhance the contrast even further.
2 Apply a vintage sepia toning effect
You now need to head over to the Split Toning panel. The idea in this panel is that you can assign one colour to the highlights and another colour to the shadows. We’re actually going to set both of these to the same part of the colour spectrum, dragging the Highlights Hue to 35 and the Shadows Hue to 38. This will give the image a sepia tone, but to see the effect you’ll need to increase the Saturation sliders for both the Highlights and Shadows. We settled on a value of 30 for this shot, but you can experiment with other values and fine-tune the Hue sliders on your images to get your desired effect.
3 Add a vignette and film grain
When you think of old film photos you instantly envisage a heavy vignette and grainy texture. These two traits are easy to replicate in ACR. To add a vignette in the corners head over to the Lens Corrections panel and then click the Manual tab below. Here you’ll see a Vignetting slider which you can drag to the left to darken the corners down or to the right to lighten them, as some old photos have lighter corners. We settled on a value of -90 to make the effect more noticeable and you can also adjust the Midpoint slider to change the area affected by your vignette. To add some filmic grain you need to head over to the Effects panel. Under the Grain heading you can change the Amount – pushing this slider up will increase the amount of grain, the Size changes how large the grain specks are and Roughness changes how apparent the grain is.
4 Refine contrast in the Basic panel
Your retro treatment is nearly done. All you need to do now is head back over to the Basic panel and refine the exposure and contrast. Two sliders that we didn’t touch in Step 1 are Temperature and Tint, but they’re definitely worth experimenting with now. Usually used to alter the white balance of your image, these two sliders can be pushed much harder when you’ve drained your picture of colour, and they have a huge impact on its overall contrast. You can also fine-tune the Contrast, Highlights, Shadows, Whites, Blacks and Exposure sliders to achieve the right amount of punch for your shot. When you’re done, click Save Image in the bottom left corner and save your shot as a Quality 12 JPEG, or click Open Image to bring your picture into Photoshop CC and continue to work it up further.
Left There’s some dynamic movement in this image, as a slow shutter speed was used.Right The colour, grain and vignette give this quaint street scene bags of retro charm.