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You don't need a fancy phone for retro pics

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Posted: Monday, May 23, 2011 11:24 am

Spend any amount of time online and you're sure to run across sites like instagr.am, a photo sharing website for the iPhone, which gives photos a washed-out, older look that's become quite popular these days.

I have to admit, I like the look of the photos. It's like perusing an old photo album and talking about the good old days.

If you don't have a high-end camera with all the whistles and bells (read lens and lighting), but you happen to have a copy of Photoshop, you can achieve the same results with your regular photos.

A simple search online will yield plenty of tutorials, but I've taken the basic steps and simplified them for you here.

As you can see with the attached photo, I took an icon of Lodi — the grape — and applied the Photoshop effects required to give a retro look. What I produced (using Photoshop CS2) achieves a rich looking photo. You may achieve different results based on the photo you work with, and, no matter the outcome, it's time well spent learning Photoshop.

In most cases, the retro-style photos are faded and have increased levels of yellow and green.

Start by opening your chosen photo in Photoshop, make sure the color profile is set to RGB and create a new adjustment layer by clicking “Layers,” then “Adjustment Layer” and the “Levels” option. If you don't know how to pick your color mode, it's simple. Click “Image,” “Mode” and choose RGB for this tutorial purpose.

Slide your “Output Levels” to about 40 or 50.

While your adjustment layer is chosen, select the “create new fill or adjustment layer” option button at the bottom of the layers window. Choose the “Photo filter” option.

The default setting is “Warming Filter (85).” Click on the setting and pick “Yellow” from the drop down menu. Adjust your density setting to around 45 percent, then uncheck “Preserve Luminosity.”

Once again, click the “create new fill or adjustment layer” option button, but this time select “Curves” from the menu that pops up. At this point, you can play with the various curve balances under the Red, Green and Blue drop-down options. Tweak each one until you achieve a result you like (always choose the “Preview” option to see how the photo will look when you click “OK”).

After finishing with your curve adjustments, click on the original image layer. Drag that layer onto the “create a new layer” icon at the bottom of the Layers window.

A duplicate layer will appear above the original image layer. Drag the new layer to the top of the top of the layers list.

Now choose “Filter” from the menu bar, “Other” and “High Pass.” Select a value of about 60.

On the “Layers” box, you'll see a drop-down menu that defaults to “Normal.” Click that and choose “Overlay.”

You can have a little more fun with the lighting or aging of the image by choosing the “Lens Flare” option under the “Render” filter option. 

Again, the final outcome is up to you. Play with every step, and have fun with it.

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