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How to Make Any Modern Image Look Like Film [Photoshop Tutorial]

Photographic technology has advanced so much since the early days of film. Nowadays, a sharply focused and well-composed image can come directly from your mobile phone – making photography easier and more accessible than ever.

These days, most people rely on social media filters to achieve a vintage look with their images. And there’s nothing wrong with that! However, filters do not allow the user to have much creative control. For those that prefer to control all of details of an image, Photoshop is undoubtedly the solution. So when when you want to make a digital image look like a film photograph, edit it in Photoshop!

If you’re not sure how to do that, no worries! Just keep reading! In this post, we’ll guide you through five simple steps you can take to make any modern image look like it was captured on film.

Step 1: Open your base image in Photoshop. The image that we will be using is a photograph of a young woman and her small child smiling – we downloaded it from StockVault, of course!

For your project, use any image you like as long as it is in color, it will work! It can be a photograph of a pet, friend, family member, landscape or a selfie. You can’t go wrong with this simple tutorial.

Step 2: Many film images look faded in appearance. This is because those images have a high black point – which simply means that the darkest areas of the photo are not pure-black. To achieve a similar look with your digital image, you’ll need to manipulate your photo’s black point and adjust each color accordingly. You do this by opening the curves panel.

Navigate to the adjustments menu then open the curves panel. You can also use the keyboard short cuts ctrl + M or command + M to access it quickly.

In this panel, you’ll want to create a slightly curved line (see image below). You can achieve this by clicking the centermost point on the line graph then dragging the left corner point upwards. Once doing so, you’ll notice the dark areas of the image will look faded. If your subject is wearing black, the colors will not look pure black. Instead, the colors will be a bit washed out – which is what you want!

Step 3: Navigate to the adjustments menu again. This time, select vibrance. In this panel, use the sliders to manipulate the color of the image. Here, you can push the colors as far as you like. For the example image below, we decreased the vibrance by -18 and increased the saturation by 8 to achieve our desired look.

Step 4: Next, create a merged layer from the layers below. Avoid working destructively. The goal with this step is to create a new image later, NOT to merge all existing layers into one. Use the keyboard short cut ctrl or command + option + shift + e.

Step 5: Lastly, navigate to the filter menu and scroll down until you see the word “Noise”. Click “noise” then “add noise”. In this panel, adjust the slider until you achieve your desired look. For the example image, we added 35.39% of noise and left the distribution uniform.

NOTE: We also used monochromatic (black and white) noise, instead of colored noise. This is only a matter of preference. You can uncheck this option if you prefer colored noise.