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Lately I’ve been very impressed with the work of Flickr photographer K. Deslandes. She has been capturing some unique images of our state, particularly old farm houses and images of the disappearing South. She has been applying some interesting post-processing techniques in Photoshop/LightRoom that I wanted to replicate. Here’s one photo of hers that had caught my eye…
There are several elements contributing to the antique feel here. First, the photo uses square framing instead of rectangular. There is also the desaturated sepia tonal palette. The sepia doesn’t look overdone, as I’ve seen in some processed photos, but looks like a natural fading from the original black and white.
While these two elements contribute to the antique look, there are two others that really make this shot stand out. Deslandes has used a selective blur to mimic lens abberations in an older camera. On top of that she has added other image defects, such as spotting and scratching. What’s nice about this shot is that the image defects are in sharp focus, even in the areas that have selective blur, such as can be seen in the top corners of the photo. This makes the defects look like they occurred over time, after years of abuse to the photo.
I’ve worked with antiquing before, following a tutorial on the Digital Photography School blog. The tutorial suggests using a Gaussian blur, but it also suggests introducing some noise into the background. That tends to detract from the blur effect a bit, so I hadn’t really focused on the blurring technique. Deslandes photo reminded me how effective a good selective blur can be.To create my photo of the old Shiloh School seen at the top of this post, I first rendered the image in black and white using the ReDynamix plug-in in Photoshop. This helps balance the image tonally, but you could use any method of desaturating the image such as a channel mixer or gradient map. Here’s the image after desaturation, but before I added any other antiquing effects…
The next step is to duplicate the desaturated base layer into a new layer. On this layer I applied a lens blur with a fairly hefty radius, similar to what I might use for a tilt-shift effect. To the blurred duplicate layer I applied a layer mask, and used a radial gradient to make sure that the center of the image is sharp, but the outer edges are blurred. I’ve used this same technique before when working with textures to create a focal point.
Once the blur layer is in place, you can adjust the layer’s opacity to back off on the blurring and adjust it to your taste.
After the blur has been added, texture layers or image defect layers can then be added. Textures can be added as overlays, but keep in mind that they may pick up some of the blurring effects. You should be able to add other image defects such as scratches and spots with a normal blend mode rather than as an overlay. This will keep them sharp and in focus.
The upshot is that all of these antiquing techniques and tutorials can be tweaked. These are just some suggestions for bringing out one or more elements of the antiquing process. Here are a few more samples from some of my image files. These have had various levels of blurring and texture applied. I’ve been a bit lazy and haven’t squared the images, or made the edges rough, but I think you get the idea.