There’s an increasing demand for photographers to make their photos look like film, and I am often asked about my personal technique.

Ever since I started to shoot film, I’ve been using the same process. It is basically all about shooting in a very similar way, and then editing your digital photos to emulate the look of film.

There are a ton of apps that can help you to make your pictures look like they’ve been shot on film.

There are also quite a few ways to do it yourself, with the right gear and some post-processing know-how.

These methods won’t give you the same look as someone who spent thousands on their gear, but the difference is pretty negligible in most cases.

In this article, I’ll give you some tips on how to make photos look like film, so that you can develop your own workflow for creating this kind of style.


How To Make Photos Look Like Film

Why Would You Want To Make Photos Look Like Film?

Film photography is known for its distinctive look, which has become increasingly popular in the digital age. Its timeless aesthetic adds a vintage touch to your photos — not to mention that it’s also easier on your wallet!

The film look is probably the most popular style of image processing. There are some arguments against it. I see those as valid but still, the film look is a very popular style.

To make a photo look like film you can do many things. You can start with a film simulation preset for Lightroom or Capture One like VSCO’s Kodak Portra 400 or Fuji Pro 400H presets.

Or you can start from scratch and use any of the many tools available in Lightroom to emulate film and make photos look like film.



How To Make Photos Look Like Film

All you really need is some tape or sandpaper (or both) and a bit of elbow grease as you rub down the surface of your lens.

This will remove any light reflecting particles and give your photos a subtle graininess.

The result is best for when you have a good amount of light, otherwise the graininess might be too overpowering for your shot.

It will give it a very distinct look that can really draw people in. It’s easy to try at home and pretty inexpensive, so there’s no reason not to give it a try!

How To Edit A Photo To Look Like Film

Most of us have picked up a camera or mobile phone, taken a photo and wished we could make it look more like film. Tones and textures can be digitally added to photos to give them an analog feel.


The best photos have a mixture of tones and textures.

The best way to achieve this is by shooting with a film camera and then scanning the negatives into the computer. Now you want to boost the contrast in your photo using the curves tool in Photoshop.

A good starting place for this is to move the bottom left control point (the one connected to the diagonal line) up until you see color information onscreen over your image. Your image should now appear very dark, but this will be corrected later in the process.

Now, create two layers above your photo. These layers should be filled with black.

On one of them, go to Filter>Blur>Gaussian blur, using a value of about 1 pixel. This will add a subtle texture to your image and help give it an analog feel.

Next, change the blend mode of this layer from normal to Screen at 100%. This will allow some of the original color information to show through while still giving the image an overall tinted texture.

Step 1: Picking The Right Photo

I’ve got a confession to make: I don’t particularly like taking photos.

With all the beautiful imagery on the Internet, you may ask yourself why do you even need a professional photographer to shoot your products. Good question. Why not just use nice images from stock websites?

The answer is simple: Stock images don’t sell. They might catch some people’s eye, but they won’t convert them into paying customers.

That’s because stock images have three big disadvantages:

  1. They’re not tailored to your product – they only show generic examples of what your product looks like
  2. They’re not tailored to your target audience – they show generic examples of what people think your product is for; and, most importantly;
  3. They’re not tailored to your website and brand – they show generic examples of how images are supposed to look on the web. In short, stock images are too generic for effective e-commerce imagery.

Generic photography does not create a need for your product. It does not drive desire and it does not open wallets.

If you’re serious about increasing sales, you need photography that tells a story that resonates with your customer.

Step 2: Playing With Clarity of your Photo

This is probably the most important part of the article, but also the most technical one. I will try to give you some guidelines and tips about how you can improve your images.

Balance your exposure:

As you already know, exposure is not just about brightness, it’s also about contrast. To be specific, it’s about the ratio of bright pixels to dark pixels in an image.

A photo with a high dynamic range will have both very bright and very dark areas, while a photo with low dynamic range will have most of its areas close to middle gray.

If you look at a scene through a camera lens, you will notice that this is exactly what happens – the lens cannot produce both extremely bright highlights and extremely dark shadows. It always produces mid-tones; unless we expose specifically for either highlights or shadows, we can only capture those mid-tones. 


Imagine that in your picture there are two main elements – for example, a person standing in front of a brightly lit window. If you expose for the person’s face, then the window will become completely white (Figure 5). The opposite (exposing for window) will make the face completely

Step 3: Work With The Tonal Curves of your Photo

Now that you have completed Step 1 and Step 2, you are ready to work with the Tonal Curves of your photo.Tonal Curves is a powerful tool in Photoshop.

It allows you to adjust the tonality of your image by manipulating the shape of each channel’s curve.

This is basically doing the same thing we did in Levels, but it allows us to do more complex corrections and get better results I find the best way to use Tonal curves is by first correcting for overall brightness and then adjusting the individual channels for more specific corrections.

To do this, we will use an adjustment layer, so that we can make adjustments later if needed. We will also set a clipping mask so that only certain areas of our image are affected.

We will start by creating a new Levels Adjustment Layer:Then we will select the Green Channel and click on Clip Mask:

This means that only areas in our image which are green will be edited by our Levels Adjustment Layer. This avoids color shifts from occurring as we adjust our curve. Click OK to close out of these dialog boxes.

Step 5: Use The Camera Calibration Panel in Photoshop

Step 6: Add Some Grain in Photoshop

Once you have chosen a photo, go ahead and open it up in Photoshop. The image below is the same photo that I used to create the image above.

I just opened it up in Photoshop and started to work on it.

Step 1: Duplicate The Background Layer

The first thing that you need to do is to duplicate the background layer by going to “Layer” at the top of your screen and click on “Duplicate Layer”. You can name this layer whatever you would like or simply leave it as “Layer 1”. I chose the name “grain”.

Step 2: Apply Filter>Noise>Add Noise

Once you have duplicated your background layer, go up to “Filter” at the top of your screen and click on “Noise”. When the filter comes up, choose “Add Noise”, set your amount to about 15% and then hit ok.

Step 3: Desaturate

Once you have added your noise through filter>noise>add noise, duplicate this noise layer by hitting Cmd/Ctrl+J. Once you have duplicated this noise layer, desaturate it by going up to “Image” at the top of your screen and clicking on “Adjustments” and then choosing “Desaturate

How To Make Digital Photos Look Like Film In Lightroom

In part one of this series, I explained how to get started in Lightroom and the basics of workflow. In part two, I’ll go over the specifics for making your digital photos look like film in Lightroom.

In order to get started, make sure you have a camera that shoots in RAW. This is an image format that allows you to produce the highest quality images that retain more details than standard JPEGs.

If you’re using a point-and-shoot camera, you may be able to set it to shoot in RAW. If not, it’s worth looking into an upgrade (unless you really value compactness).

Of course, if you’re using a DSLR camera with interchangeable lenses, it most likely shoots in RAW form by default.

Next, we’ll need to download and install the free Lightroom software from Adobe (if you don’t already have it). Once that’s installed and running on your computer, we can start importing our photos into Lightroom for processing.

Lightroom has three different modules that allow you to process your photos: Library, develop and original. To get started with the film look we’re going for here, we’ll need to use the develop module most of all. 

Choosing Photos To Look Like Film

Have you ever wondered how those old photos of your family members looked so good? There are probably a lot of reasons, but a big one is that they used film cameras.

You can learn to make your digital pictures look like film too. It takes a little work, but the results can be very satisfying.

Here are some tips to get you started:

Be familiar with your camera’s controls.

Even though you’re shooting digitally, it’s still important to understand how your camera works.

By learning what each dial does, and when and where to adjust it, you will be able to fine-tune your images more quickly and easily.

You don’t need to be a photography expert, just know how your camera works!

Try different white balances.

If you shoot in auto-mode all the time, it’s time to switch up the white balance on your camera! Many cameras have presets for different types of lighting conditions: daylight, cloudy day, shade (or sunset), incandescent light etc.

Try using these options and experiment with them until you find the one that looks best for your picture.

Learn about color temperature.

When talking about color temperature in photography, we’re basically talking about the color of light (not heat). 

Shadows And Highlights in Photography

Shadows and Highlights in Photography is a book written by Harry Callahan that talks about various concepts and techniques in photography. The book was originally published in 1956, but it is still popular among photographers.

When there is a range of tones from dark to light in the same image, you can use either the shadows or the highlights to make the image more dramatic. This can be done by playing with either the tonal range or with color.

Plot Synopsis: Shadows And Highlights in Photography is about a man named Karl Muck who works as a photographer for the New York Times.  He has been tasked with taking pictures of the Kennedy Space Center for an article regarding NASA.

He leaves his home in Vermont and goes to Florida where he tries to get pictures of the Apollo 11 launch. A woman named Jane helps him out while they wait for liftoff.

He then goes back home to Vermont where he thinks he might be getting too old for this kind of thing. He also has a hard time dealing with all his equipment since everything is too heavy for him now.

Make Phone Photos Look Like Film

One of the most common things people want to do with photos is make them look vintage or give them that “film” look. There’s a variety of ways to achieve this effect, but one of the easiest and most popular is using a VHS tape.

The way that VHS tapes work is that they actually have three layers of film which are then combined into one cassette. The first layer captures the reds and greens, the second layer captures the blues and the final layer captures the yellows and blacks.

This allows you to create a sweet color fade effect by removing each color layer from your photo, in order from top down.

How You Can Do It Yourself:

Open up your image in Photoshop. Add a black solid (Layer > New Fill Layer > Solid Color).

Make it 10% opacity. Add another layer on top of it (Layer > New Fill Layer > Solid Color) and fill it with grey (0% opacity). Turn off the visibility on the black/grey solid layer by clicking on its eye icon so you can see through it.

Make sure you are working on the topmost solid black layer, then select Image > Apply Image. This will open up another dialogue box – click OK to proceed. Now select Invert (Image).

How To Edit Photos Like A Professional

Photoshop is a powerful tool and can be used in a variety of ways. In this tutorial, we will cover some basic and intermediate techniques that can be applied to a variety of situations.

This tutorial is geared towards photographers looking to enhance their images, but even if you’re not a photographer these techniques can still come in handy for you!

If you’ve taken the time to take your own photos, you want to make sure those photos look their best. One of the easiest ways to do this is by editing them.

Photoshop provides you with numerous tools and options that allow you to enhance your photos, making them look more professional.

This tutorial will explain how to edit your photos in Photoshop CS5. The content of this article has been updated.

Editing the brightness, contrast or saturation of an image using the adjustment layers within Photoshop is easy and considered a good practice when working on images.

However, there are times when it’s necessary or preferred not to use adjustment layers because they add an extra layer into the image that could potentially cause problems when printing or saving out as a JPEG file.

If this is the case, then we need to use other methods to adjust the brightness, contrast or saturation of an image.