5 Tips for Making Period Photographs Look Historic

The term ‘vintage’ is often thrown around in the photography world. To be technical, vintage could be anything from movie photography to black and white pictures. The vintage aesthetic is accomplished using a bunch of tools and techniques to make photographs look old.

Vintage photography has seen a resurgence recently. In a world where megapixels are increasing and smartphone cameras can see more than human eyes, vintage aesthetics is almost a resistance to the mainstream. They speak to our senses and take us down memory lanes. The vintage aesthetic is timeless and classic – it will never go out of fashion. Historic photographs have an unparalleled depth and seriousness to them. They take us back in time and evoke nostalgia. 

Let’s have a look at different editing and photography techniques to add historic drama to your pictures.

Vintage style image with vignette effect.


Vignetting typical readers to lowering a pictures’ brightness and saturation at the edges, putting the emphasis back at the center. The word vignette in photography comes from ‘vine’. It is so because the effect roughly resembles the ornamental borders seen in older hardcover books. Getting the vignette effect is not very difficult, but doing it well requires practice. The steps involve reducing brightness towards the edge until the desired ‘vine’ effect is achieved.

Making an image black & white is the easiest way to get a vintage effect.


This is probably the least complicated method on the list. Monochrome in photography translates to black and white images. It is reminiscent of historical times since original camera photographs were all black and white. Most photographs of until the 20th century were indeed in monochrome. Any modern photo editing suite like Adobe Lightroom has several monochromes pre-sets to make editing easier.

Lowering the contrast on an image makes it look aged.

Lowering Contrast

The rationale behind low contrast for historic photography comes from the fact that as pictures age, their edges often blur. The natural visual effect this gives can be replicated on the computer by lowering contrast in the photo. You would essentially be losing all the detailing and harness of the picture. These factors will work in tandem to make your photo look authentically old. When you use this editing technique, the end-result looks very authentic.

Old photo processing techniques gave images a sepia tone.


Sepia refers to a pale brownish-red hue that is present in many vintage photos. In real historic photos, the effect comes as a result of an old photo development process that increased their durability. It is surprisingly easy to recreate the sepia aesthetic. Once you understand the careful application of tints and overlays over monochrome photos, you can nail the sepia aesthetic. The sepia look is especially effective in evoking nostalgic emotions through a picture.

Reduced color saturation gives images a vintage feel.

Reduced Color Saturation

Though colored photographs have been available since the 1950s, early photo development techniques were not very developed. Often you would see faint and dull colors on older, historic photographs. Sometimes it would be a result of poor technological advances in color saturation. Alternatively, the photos sometimes lose shine and brightness due to the passage of time. You can get the vintage look in your photos by understanding how lowering color saturation works.

Stock photos via Dreamstime

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My name is Gary, a 31 year old Tech Loving marketer passionate about home tech and coffee.

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