How to Create a Vintage Look in Lightroom (A Hands-On Tutorial)

The post How to Create a Vintage Look in Lightroom (A Hands-On Tutorial) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Andrew S. Gibson.

Create a vintage look in Lightroom Classic

Photos with a vintage look evoke the appearance of faded prints captured decades ago. Vintage-effect images often include color casts introduced by film stock, and they (ideally) give the viewer a sense of nostalgia.

But while vintage processing effects are popular – if you spend a few minutes scrolling through Instagram, you’re bound to hit upon a vintage image! – there’s not a specific vintage look that all photographers agree on.

In this article, I’m going to explain how you might go about creating a vintage look in Lightroom. However, it’s important to bear in mind that my idea of a vintage look might not be the same as yours. Before you continue reading, I’d recommend spending a few minutes determining what characteristics you think a vintage photo should have; that way, you can tweak my suggestions to fit your vision.

Okay, are you ready to continue? Let me start by explaining my version of a vintage look: Photos with a vintage edit are nostalgic and faded. There may be a color cast or faded blacks, and the images should look like they were taken on film. Here’s one of my photos that I’ve edited in Lightroom to look vintage:

How to create the vintage look in Lightroom
Note the subtle blue color cast in the shadows as well as the faded blacks. This is a relatively recent capture, but my Lightroom edit makes it look a lot older.

Now that we’re on the same page, let me share several approaches for producing that vintage look!

Creating a vintage look with Lightroom presets

If you came here in the hopes of learning how to create a vintage look yourself, don’t worry. In the second part of this article, I explain how you can create a vintage look from scratch! But I think it’s wise to acknowledge that sometimes the easiest path is to let someone else do the hard work of figuring out the mechanics and then just buy into their expertise.

Yes, you can create a vintage look manually – but if you’re not an experienced editor, it might be easier to buy Lightroom presets or even download some free ones. There are plenty of great vintage-effect presets out there, and when you get a preset pack, you generally end up with a handful of different looks that you can apply to your images. That way, you don’t have to spend lots of time testing out different edits until you find the one you like; you can simply click on a few vintage presets, hit on a good result, make a few additional tweaks as needed, and then call it a day.

This comparison shows you some of the effects you can create with Lightroom presets:

How to create the vintage look in Lightroom

In fact, all of the presets used for the image above were downloaded for free! They’re a little heavy-handed, but that’s okay; I think the best way to use Lightroom presets is as a starting point. Once you have applied the preset, you can then go to the right-hand panels and tweak the editing settings to get the most out of your photo.

(I haven’t done that with these examples as I wanted to show you the type of results you can expect straight out of the box.)

The best free vintage presets for Lightroom

There are lots of high-quality free presets available online, and while these tend to be more hit-and-miss than paid presets, they’re certainly worth checking out.

For instance, Preset Love offers 16 different free vintage Lightroom presets to download, including options geared toward portraits, architecture, and landscape photography.

Parker Photographic has a nice set of 10 free retro presets (though to download them, you’ll need to scroll down past the sales text until you find the “10 Free Retro Presets” heading).

And this Vintage Grain preset from Illumelation is also very cool.

The best paid vintage presets for Lightroom

Not everybody wants to pay for Lightroom presets, but there are certainly some great preset collections out there. I recommend (and have personally bought and used) the following:

Nicole S. Young’s Vintage Fade presets. These are the least expensive out of all these preset packs. The set includes Photoshop and ACR presets as well as Lightroom Classic presets.

Lightgram Instafade presets. These presets emulate the beauty and nostalgia of film. I like Lightgram’s presets a lot!

Really Nice Images Faded Films presets. These presets are far more expensive than the others, but you get nearly twice as many presets plus a toolkit to help you tweak the settings. Most importantly, they are ridiculously good.

Here’s a comparison showing some of these paid presets in action:

How to create the vintage look in Lightroom
A. Original photo.
B. Nicolesy Vintage Fade: Rainfall preset.
C. Lightgram Instafade: Lightgram Faded 12 preset.
D: Really Nice Images: Faded Films – Utah Monochrome preset.

How to manually create a vintage look in Lightroom

With that out of the way, it’s time to look at a few techniques you can use to create the vintage look yourself in Lightroom.

Note that you’ll want to start each edit the way you would start any edit: crop to improve the composition, apply lens corrections, adjust the tone sliders to handle any exposure problems, apply white balance corrections, etc. Basically, get to a point where your image looks nice but stylistically neutral.

Then you can proceed with the following stylistic edits:

1. Add a fade with the tone curve

Scroll down to the Tone Curve panel, then click on the point in the bottom left-hand corner (i.e., the left end of the curve). Drag the end of the curve upward:

How to create the vintage look in Lightroom

This removes true black from the photo, making the darkest tones lighter to produce a fade effect. How far you lift the curve is up to you. The best way is to watch your image as you apply the fade, then simply stop when you like the result.

You’ll get the best results when the curve starts from a linear position – that is, when it’s a straight line from bottom-left to top-right rather than a true curve.

To complement the fade effect, you might scroll up to the Basic panel and reduce the Saturation or Vibrance slider to reduce the colors in your shot.

Another way to fade the blacks is by manually adding three points to the curve (each about a quarter of the way along), and then lifting the left-hand corner:

How to create the vintage look in Lightroom

This still fades the blacks, but it adjusts the rest of the image less, and the look is slightly different. Experiment with both techniques to see which one suits your particular photo best.

This is how those curve adjustments look when applied to my example photo:

How to create the vintage look in Lightroom
A. Without Tone Curve editing.
B. Entire curve raised.
C. Left-hand side of the curve raised only.

Note that using the standard RGB Point Curve applies this fade/matte effect without directly adjusting the colors in your image. However, you can play with the color curves as well. If you use the same fade technique with a color curve, it affects the color of the photo as well as the contrast.

Here are a couple of examples:

How to create the vintage look in Lightroom
A. Blue curve raised.
B. Red curve raised.

There’s a lot you can do with the Tone Curve panel, and we’ve only really scratched the surface here. Once you get the hang of the basic fade effect, feel free to try out other adjustments, especially those that include color grades!

2. Apply a split tone in the Color Grading panel

Another way to add a vintage color cast to an image is with split toning. The basic concept is simple: You apply a warm color to the highlights (such as orange, red, or yellow) and a cool one to the shadows (such as blue, dark green, or teal). You may be aware that warm colors appear to move toward the viewer and cooler colors appear to move away. Split toning builds on that principle to add greater depth/dimensionality to your photos.

Applying a split-toning effect is easy in Lightroom. Just scroll down to the Color Grading panel:

How to create the vintage look in Lightroom

Then adjust the Shadows and Highlights wheels until you get the effect you desire. Like I said, for a vintage look, it can be a good idea to choose a warmer color for the highlights and a cooler color for the shadows:

How to create the vintage look in Lightroom

Though for a more uniform color cast, you can tweak only the Midtones wheel while leaving the Shadows and Highlights wheels untouched. That can be a simple way to give your image a strong film-like color cast.

In this next example, you can see how the split tone added to my vintage effect:

How to create the vintage look in Lightroom
A. Original photo.
B. RGB tone curve raised (neutral color).
C. Split tone applied.
D. The tone curve and split toning settings used for these photos. (Note that Lightroom’s old Split Toning panel has now been integrated into the new Color Grading panel, but the functionality is all there!)

Try out some vintage edits!

Now that you know how to create a vintage look using Lightroom, go try it for yourself! Practice working with the tone curve, apply some split-tone effects, and see how you like the results.

The two approaches that I’ve shared are simple, but they’ll go a long way toward achieving that filmic, faded look. Of course, as I emphasized at the start of the article, your understanding of the “vintage” look may be different from my own. If you’re not completely satisfied with the adjustments I shared, see if you can use them as a starting point from which you create your own personal vintage effect!

Now over to you:

How do you plan to use this vintage effect? Do you know any tips or techniques that I missed? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

The post How to Create a Vintage Look in Lightroom (A Hands-On Tutorial) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Andrew S. Gibson.

The post How to Create a Vintage Look in Lightroom (A Hands-On Tutorial) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Andrew S. Gibson. Photos with a vintage look evoke the appearance of faded prints captured decades ago. Vintage-effect images often include color casts introduced by film stock, and they (ideally) give the…

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