How do we know the age of a photograph?
When we came around to grandpa’s (or great grandpa’s) house, he would have his photo album placed neatly on his cupboard, along with the thick books he managed to collect all the way in his life. However, the paper in his books would surely show the signs of being aged: the sepia tone on the paper. The worn-out paper on its sheets. Or even some scratches, which had occurred unintentionally on the edges of the pages. We can’t judge the book’s content from its cover, that’s true — but we can always deduce, though not exactly, on how many years a book has gone through since it was first printed.
It’s also the same with photographs. We can always tell whether a photograph is categorized as “old” or not by simply looking at it — as long as the picture isn’t initially forged, though. Yep, when you see that picture of Grandma’s wedding, you always understand that it is an old photograph. But what’s on it? Is it something like “judging the age from its cover”? You guess. 🙂
So, in this second PS tips-and-tricks on my weblog, I’ll try to cover this subject. We can see that some photo is “old” enough, but can we make such impression with a photograph taken two days ago?
As always, Photoshop comes for the rescue. Let’s get going…
These steps are done in Adobe Photoshop CS for Windows. PS7 users might also adapt this tutorial; however, some adjustment might need to be done whenever Filter Gallery usage appears. The latter is a newer feature established in CS1, which offers wider variety in customizing inherited filters from PS7 — including Grains, which is used in this project.
What are there to give the impression of old photo? Many people will say “sepia tone”. This is true, since the photographs from few decades behind can only produce black-and-white pictures. Thus, the sepia tone is produced as the photo-paper accumulated the years spanned already from its printing.
However, giving the sepia tone only doesn’t create anything very “old” from the photograph you take with your digital camera. You will get a sepia photograph, yes — but you still have the clarity and fine-contrast from your better-made digital camera, which is unavailable when people use cameras from 40 years ago.
Instead, there are few more concepts behind an old photo impression, aside of the sepia tone. I’ll explain it here per item:
The first one is graininess. Old printing does have grain, mainly when they are taken in 1940 to 1950’s. This is easy to prove: I can open the history book from my high-school era, and then look into the photographs of that period. Well, I can see grains (and it’s quite big ones! 😛 ) — and that’s what we’ll take into account in this project.
Second, the focus. Old cameras are always analog, and you can’t expect them to have focus as good as the recently-launched digicams. Claiming an extremely well-focused photo (including workings on macro-mode) as an “oldie” is a big no-no — hey, don’t tell me there has been alien technology in 1960’s! 😀 😀
And the third: if you expect to show the image as if it were printed, it will have an empty border on it. This is the same as the white borders we see in the photos printed nowadays; however, the borders in old photos will be less sharper (and more biased to the center) than it is in nowadays’ products. We’ll also work on doing effects on this border, so don’t forget to make it yourself. 😛
So, shall we go?
Alright, now I have a photo taken in the middle of 2004. It’s the picture of Arsenal FC‘s celebration over their Premiership Title in the same year. It is cropped from an official wallpaper, which is downloaded from Arsenal.com — the club’s official website.
For the very first step, we’ll create the border. To do this, duplicate the layer containing the image (which is entitled “Background”). The duplicated layer will have the default name, “Background copy”.
Right-click on the newly-made layer, and choose “blending options”. There will be a popup menu appear at this point. When it appears, check “Stroke” on the left bar of it. We’ll do some tweaking here…
As indicated in the figure, the color is set to white, position inside, and the size is 8 px. After this, create a new layer (“Layer 1”). Link the “Background copy” with it, and then merge them down (using shortcut Ctrl + E). This is done to attach our “border” to the original image.
We’re done with the border. At this point, we’ll have our image bordered like this:
Now we’re ready for creating the “old” effect. To start with this, we’ll start by imitating the basic of all earlier photographs: the grayscale colors. Here the objectives come:
First of all, desaturate the photograph in “Layer 1”, using menu Image | Adjustment | Desaturate (or shortcut Ctrl + Shift + U). This will discard all the color informations in the image — rendering our original photograph into black-and-white. Don’t forget to rename the desaturated layer into “desaturated”.
Old photos always have narrower color-range, mainly when portrayed few decades ago. In order to achieve this condition, we’ll have to play with the picture’s Levels. Go to the menu Image | Adjustment | Levels (or shortcut Ctrl +L) to reach the menu below.
In order to narrow the color range, I have set the threshold from 61 to 255. With this, the darker color (from binary data 0 to 60) will be shifted to the lighter color (which is 61); producing less-contrasted image from it was before. The desaturated, level-adjusted image will mostly look like this:
Now, we’ll go for the sepia tone. For this purpose, I created a layer named “sepia toner”, and then poured a brown color on it (hexa: #B46E1C). The blend mode is set to Soft Light, with the opacity 85%.
Thus, our pic has been toned down to sepia. However, this project isn’t over yet.
Now, let’s take the second step — adding grains to our photograph. Click on the “desaturated” layer. We’ll make two kinds of grain here, and this will be our first.
On the “desaturated” layer, use the command Filter | Texture | Grain… . Photoshop CS will bring you to the Filter Gallery for the Grain menu. Select the grain type “Vertical”, and then do the job. It’s now up to your sense to give your own grain — just remember to make it as “oldie” as possible.
See the annoying blues on the top and the bottom of the image? Don’t worry, we can eliminate them. Just desaturate the layer you’ve just grained once again.
Our photograph has now turned into…
Quite old-looking, eh? Hold on, there’s still more. Now, create a new layer, and paint it white. Do the grain once again, to this white layer (detail as following):
That grain is too colorful. Desaturate this layer, and then rename it into “second grain”.
The “second grain” is meant to give a “noise” impression, which often appear due to the old photo-paper’s quality. Put the layer right under the “sepia toner”, which we have created before. Set the blending mode to Darken, with opacity at 75%. (see the figure below for detail)
Now our image has been finished. The final look will mostly be like this:
How different is it from before? Let’s see the comparison. Here I put the “before” and “after” images. The “before” comes first, followed with the “after”.
Which is the older one? You bet. 🙂
Well, that’s it. It concludes our PS tutorial session for this time. Have a nice day! 😉