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Vintage Photo Effect With Adobe Lightroom Tutorial

How To Create A Vintage Photo Effect In Lightroom

Step 1: Open Your Image In Lightroom’s Develop Module

Start by selecting the image you want to use from your Lightroom catalog. Here’s the photo I’ll be using (woman in vintage suit photo from Shutterstock):

The original image.

Then, make sure you’re in the Develop module by selecting it from the Module Picker in the upper right of the screen:

Opening the Develop module in Lightroom

Selecting Lightroom’s Develop module.

Step 2: Open The HSL / Color / B&W Panel

The first thing we’ll do is convert our color image to black and white. In the panel column along the right, twirl open the HSL / Color / B&W panel by clicking on the arrow to the right of the panel’s name:

Opening the HSL / Color / B & W panel in Adobe Lightroom

Opening the HSL / Color / B&W panel in Lightroom.

Step 3: Create A Custom Black And White Version

Then, click on B&W in the panel’s tab to switch to the Black and White conversion options. Your image will instantly switch from color to black and white:

Opening the Black and White conversion options in Adobe Lightroom

Clicking “B&W” in the tab.

To create a custom black and white version of your image, drag the individual color sliders (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Aqua, Blue, Purple, and Magenta) left or right. Dragging a slider to the left will darken any areas in the black and white version that originally contained the slider’s color. Dragging to the right will lighten those areas. For example, dragging the Red slider to the right will lighten any areas that originally contained red. Dragging the Green slider to the left will darken any areas that contained green, and so on.

If you drag a slider and nothing happens, it’s because no part of your image contained that specific color. Every image will be different, so keep an eye on your image as you drag each slider to judge the results:

The Black and White Mix color sliders in Lightroom

Dragging the color sliders to create a custom black and white version.

Here’s my black and white version after experimenting with the sliders:

The black and white version of the image

The color image now converted to black and white.

Step 4: Open The Split Toning Panel

Next, we’ll add a sepia tone to the image. Open the Split Toning panel in Lightroom:

Opening the Split Toning panel in Lightroom

Clicking the arrow to open the Split Toning panel.

Step 5: Add A Sepia Tone To The Image

The Split Toning panel is divided into a Highlights section at the top and a Shadows section at the bottom, allowing us to set different colors for the lightest and darkest areas of the image. In the Highlights section, set the Hue to 40 for a nice orange-yellow. You won’t actually see the color until you increase the saturation. Set the Saturation value to 20.

Then in the Shadows section, use a slightly different Hue value of 45 (just to add some variety), and then increase the Saturation value to 50 for a more intense effect in the shadows:

The Split Toning panel in Lightroom

Setting the Hue and Saturation values for the Highlights and Shadows.

Here’s my image with the sepia tone applied:

The vintage photo effect with the sepia tone applied

The effect after adding the sepia tone.

Step 6: Open The Effects Panel

Next, we’ll add some grain and a vignette to the image. Open the Effects panel:

The Effects panel in Lightroom

Opening the Effects panel.

Step 7: Add Grain To The Image

The Effects panel contains three main effects that we can apply to the image. There’s Post-Crop Vignetting at the top, Grain in the middle and a new Dehaze effect that was recently added to Lightroom (and which we don’t need for our vintage photo effect). We’ll start by adding some grain.

The three sliders in the Grain section let us adjust the amount, size and roughness of the grain. If you want to use the same settings I’m using, set the Amount value to 50, and then set both the Size and Roughness values to 60. You can also experiment with the sliders on your own to find settings that work best with your image:

The Grain settings in the Effects panel in Lightroom

The Grain settings in the Effects panel.

Here’s a close-up view of my image to make the grain effect easier to see:

The Grain settings in the Effects panel in Lightroom

The vintage effect after adding grain.

Step 8: Add A Vignette

Next, let’s add a vignette using the Post-Crop Vignetting section of the Effects panel. The main control here is the Amount slider. If you drag the Amount slider to the left, you’ll darken the corners of the image. Normally, that’s the result you’d want. But for our vintage photo effect, we actually want the opposite. We want to lighten the corners as if they’ve faded over time, and we can do that by dragging the Amount slider to the right. I’ll increase my Amount value all the way to +80. You can leave the other sliders at their default settings:

The Post-Crop Vignetting Amount slider in Lightroom

Fading the corners by dragging the Amount slider to the right.

Here’s my vintage photo effect so far with the vignette applied:

The Lightroom vintage photo effect after applying grain and a vignette

The effect after adding both the grain and the vignette.

Step 9: Open The Basic Panel

We’re almost done. Open Lightroom’s Basic panel:

The Basic panel in Lightroom

Opening the Basic panel.

Step 10: Lower The Overall Contrast

We’ll use a few sliders in the Basic panel to lower the overall contrast of the image so it looks even more like it has faded over time. First, to tone down the highlights, drag the Highlights slider towards the left. The further you drag, the more you’ll darken the brightest parts of the image. I’ll lower my Highlights value all the way down to -70. Then, to brighten the darkest areas, drag the Shadows slider towards the right. I’ll increase my Shadows value to +80.

Finally, to reduce the contrast in the midtones, drag the Clarity slider towards the left. The further you drag, the more you’ll soften and blur the details in the image. Don’t drag too far or you’ll lose too much detail. I’ll lower my Clarity value down to -40:

The Highlights, Shadows and Clarity sliders in the Basic panel in Lightroom

The Highlights, Shadows and Clarity sliders in the Basic panel.

To see a before and after comparison of your effect, press the Backslash ( ) key on your keyboard. Press it once to see a “Before” view of the image, and then press it again to see the “After” view. And here, after lowering the overall contrast with the Basic panel, is my final “vintage photo effect” result:

Adobe Lightroom old fashioned, vintage photo effect

The final vintage photo effect.

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