Nostalgic Image Photography

Black and White Photos

Nostalgic image photography uses retro techniques and settings to capture pictures with a decidedly old fashioned feel. There are numerous ways to incorporate this atmosphere into your own pictures.

Although pioneers in color photography were experimenting with a three-color process as early as the mid-1800s, color didn't begin to appear in everyday photographs until the early part of the 20th century. When people think about photographs from yesteryear, they think about black and white portraits of Grandma and Grandpa in front of the old homestead. Because of this, a black and white image is a simple way to create a vintage look in your photographs. Nearly all point and shoot and DSLR cameras have a black and white mode, but any image editing software can convert a photo to gray scale.

Pop of Color

Prior to the 1950s, color film was quite expensive. It was a popular method to take a black and white photograph and use oils to add color to a piece of clothing or other object. Today, this simple effect can be recreated with online photo editing tools, such as PhotoBucket. Upload your color photograph and navigate to the "Effects" tab to choose the "Color Splash" option. Choose the area you want colorized and the rest will turn black and white.

Lomography Fisheye

In the 1960s manufacturers made cheap cameras with plastic lenses. Although the cameras were readily available, the plastic created interesting effects such as blurs, additional light, fisheyes and unpredictable effects. Today, there is a movement called Lomography, where photographers try to recreate these photography phenomena. The best way to recreate this type of image is with a vintage plastic-lensed camera.

Grainy, Faded Color Photos

In the mid-1900s colored film was made with dyes that didn't hold color as well as photos today. Over time, those images took on a yellow or pink tone and the colors changed, giving every subject a slightly red tinge to his hair. Today you can still recreate this vintage look with the Picnik editor. Simply choose the 1960s option, fade the photo and you'll have a modern image that looks like it was taken decades ago.

Cross-Processed Photography

Cross processing began in the 1960s when photographers began to experiment with processing film using more than one technique at a time. It continued to gain popularity through the 1990s. Today this look can be recreated with a couple of simple alterations to your photographs. Use Photoshop or other photo editing software and adjust the color balance and contrast ratios until you achieve the slightly grainy look you most desire.

Pinhole Photographs

The first cameras were large boxes which reflected the image onto a tin plate. The result of this picture through a "pinhole" was photos with a bright focal point and round, faded edges. To recreate this look today, simply use an inexpensive box that is large enough to house your camera. Cut a hole that is slightly smaller than your camera's lens and take pictures through the perspective of that pinhole.


In the 1970s and early 1980s, and before the invention of digital cameras, Polaroid pictures were at the height of popularity. These instantly processed photos were a hit at weddings, parties and major life events. Even though digital photography has taken over the market, there are still Polaroid models available. If you don't want to invest in an additional camera, you can also use Photoshop's page curl technique to create the look of the Polaroid. The online photo editing tool Picnik also offers a Polaroid effect.


Over time, black and white photos faded to tones of brown, red, or yellow--sepia tones. Most DSLR cameras offer a sepia option, but if you don't have this option or own a point and shoot, most photo editing sotware offers this effect as well.

If you'd like more examples of vintage photos to help you create your own nostalgic pictures, you can find examples on stock image sites such as Shorpy.

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Nostalgic Image Photography