How to Make Your Digital Smartphone Photos Look Old


Like the allure of vinyl records, classic video games and even the early internet, the fascination with older photography standards like point-and-shoot cameras or 35-millimeter film persists — even in people too young to remember when that gear was cutting edge. The appeal of “vintage” photography goes beyond nostalgia and Instagram filters, judging by the huge number of apps designed to emulate the film, lenses and visual quirks of predigital photos and movies.

Despite the irony of using a high-end smartphone camera to produce imperfect images that appear oversaturated, jittery, low-contrast, unfiltered or otherwise analog, going for a retro look can help you practice your composition skills. If you’re not ready to buy original equipment

, you can still evoke a different time period’s creative sensibility. Here’s an overview.

Before you dive in, here are some things to keep in mind. First, make sure you can reverse any editing on an original image; making duplicates for your experiments is a safe backup. Second, be aware that some apps capture content with the effects embedded, leaving you with a permanently vintage-looking photo or video.

You may not need extra software, depending on the visual effect you want to achieve. Apple, Google and Samsung all include a variety of filters in their default photo apps, as well as built-in editing tools. You might get satisfactory results by manually adjusting the color saturation, the tint and other elements to make the photo look as if an ancient film camera had taken it.

For a wider range of editing features, Wirecutter, the product review site owned by The New York Times, recommends Adobe Lightroom and Google’s Snapseed for Android or iOS. Adobe Photoshop Express also includes a collection of filters, themes and borders for your photos. (Adobe’s apps are free with in-app purchases, and Snapseed is free.)

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