Earlier this year, I started a new tutorial piece on my blog called Tutorial Tuesday. The intent is to stretch our shooting and editing skills…and since I am constantly trying to learn something new with regard to my own processing, I’ve had a blast picking up new tools for my bag of tricks. A few weeks ago, I shared a tutorial on vintage processing. I thought it might be interesting to revisit that tutorial using a different image for muse university.

In order to fully utilize this tutorial, you’ll need some version of Photoshop. Although most of the steps can be performed in Photoshop Elements, there will be a couple of steps in this tutorial that will not work for PSE users (still try it – I’ll offer some alternative approaches). If you’re more of a video tutorial kinda person, click HERE.

Here’s my original shot (taken at Duke Chapel in Durham, NC earlier this year):

Duke Chapel Original

For many of you, the original image looks great and you would upload to Flickr and be done. I completely appreciate those who prefer a clean and natural approach (it’s much quicker and easier). But for those of us that like to do a little more, creative processing has a lot to do with individual preferences. In particular, I think with vintage processing, it all depends on your mood. And it’s funny, because so many times, the images that inspire us to go “vintage,” weathered naturally over time. Nonetheless, let’s learn a new effect.
Step 1: Create a duplicate of your background layer. You won’t use this one right now, but this creating a duplicate layer is just good practice when editing.
Step 2: Create a Color Balance adjustment layer. (This is the one adjustment layer that will not work for Photoshop Elements’ users – you can tinker around with a saturation adjustment instead.)
  • Shadows = -45, 25, -5
  • Midtones = 0, 20, -5
  • Highlights = -25, -15, -20

Your image will look similar to what you see below:

Duke Chapel Color Balance
Step 3: Create a Curves Adjustment layer. (If memory serves me correctly, PSE9 does have a levels adjustment…previous versions can download an action to simulate the layers adjustment. Click HERE.) Create three points on your curve. The mid and upper points should be pulled up just a hair, while the lower point should be pulled down just a little bit. When you’re done, your image will look similar to mine below.

Duke Chapel Curves
Step 4: Create a Gradient Map layer. Be sure that reverse is unchecked (although I seem to recall that the video said to check it…didn’t look right to me). You’ll want to change the color of your gradient to something within the orange/brown range. Click okay and then lower your opacity. The video suggests an opacity of 80%…I lowered mine to 74%. I’m not sure there is a perfect formula for this step – just experiment with it until you see something like my image below.
Duke Chapel Gradient Map
Step 5: Create a Levels adjustment. Here, you’ll want to drag your shadows and midtones to the right just a bit. The video pulled them to 17 and 0.73.
Duke Chapel Levels

Step 6: Go back to the duplicate of your background layer (just above your background layer). Go to Filter > Enable Smart Filters.
Step 7: (same layer) Go to Filter > Select Lens Correction. On the right hand side, scroll down to vignette. Pull the vignette slider to -52 and the midpoint slider to +34. (obviously this image was taken while processing a different photo)
ScreenHunter_01 Mar. 12 19.47
Step 8: Add noise by going to Filter > Noise > Add Noise. This step is optional, but for a vintage photo, you’d typically see a little bit of noise. Add 5 and see what you think. This is the final step of the video tutorial and your image will look similar to mine below.
Duke Chapel Vignette and Noise
Step 9: If you’d like, add texture. I decided to give my image a little more of a vintage look by adding Kim Klassen’s “Paper Love” texture (click HERE). I believe I added one layer on a multiply blending mode at 50% opacity and then tinkered with my layers again. Here’s where I ended:
Duke Chapel Texture
With that said, that’s the vintage effect. What do you think? Would you rather just download an action? Here’s a link: click HERE. Just in case you forgot, here’s my original image on the left and the final vintage edit on the right. Feel free to give this tutorial a try and share your image with us in the comment section.
Duke Chapel Compare Final
Until next time,