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Vintage-Inspired Photography

By Elizabeth  ·  September 13th, 2011

Manhattan Bridge Tower in Brooklyn, New York City, June 1974

One of my favorite places to search for photographic inspiration is The Commons, a public photography archive that’s accessible on Flickr. There are hundreds of participating institutions (including the Library of Congress), so the amount of photos is truly unbelievable. When I need a quick photographic pick-me-up, I can almost always find something there that really gets me jazzed to get outside with my camera.

Recently, after an evening of searching through images with the tag “bridge” in The Commons, I came across this gorgeous photograph by Danny Lyon from the summer of 1974. Though I love the photo itself, my real flash of excitement came from the photo’s vintage colors and textures: the warm highlights in the sky, the purplish blues in the shadows and of course, that fantastic, fuzzy 35mm frame around the edge.

Most people aren’t ready to dust off their old film cameras to get this effect, so this week I’ve scrounged up some great online resources to help you process your images with a vintage-inspired look:

  • Create Three Classic Film Looks, a tutorial by Jeff Carlson from our Sept/Oct 2010 issue, helps show you how to infuse your photos with a sense of nostalgia by mimicking the look of 1970’s film, Holga cameras, or old faded black-and-whites.
  • George Cairns’ Vintage Effect for Digital Photos tutorial is a great introduction to editing color and adding grain for a vintage look.
  • To get quick, spot-on vintage colors—without all the work—try out Rollip. This free website lets you upload a photo and then choose from more than 30 filters that apply classic vintage looks. Once you choose an effect, the website does the rest. You then have the option of downloading the finished image or posting it to Facebook. The site is a lot of fun to play with.
Four examples of Rollip filters


  • Adding a paper texture to photos can be a great way to simulate a vintage look and this texture pack from Knald on Deviant Art really does the trick. If you’re unsure about how to apply these to your photos, check out my Add a Texture to Your Photographs blog post.
  • Another quick effect that works very well involves adding a polaroid-like frame. Miss Tristan B. of Besotted Brand has created a simple, free-to-download pack of frames. Jodie Lee of The Gypsy Chick collaged together some gorgeous frames for sale on her site, though she offers up one lovely freebie at the end of her blog post.
  • Photoshop Roadmap has compiled 50 Splendid Retro Patterns that can be used for just about anything, from scrapbooking pages to desktop backgrounds.
This list is just a smattering of online resources. If you have any of your own tips, tricks or inspiration images to share, feel free to comment about them below.






1 Reply to Vintage-Inspired Photography:

  1. Julie

    September 15, 2011 at 5:19 am

    Thanks for all these great tips, Elizabeth. These will almost keep us going in a vintage vein all winter!

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