How to Become a Vintage Photography Expert – Part 1

Written by Backdrop Express Photography Team on . Posted in Photography Tips

vintage styled woman on yellow backdrop

Vintage photography is a niche market that is thriving today. Establishing yourself as a vintage photographer means exploring the world of color and saturation, lighting and postproduction techniques. One of the best ways to get started is viewing old photos and black and white snapshots. In order to create images today with the look and feel of days gone by, you must submerse yourself in the old styles and colors of the past.

Finding Old Photographs

There are a number of places to find old photos if you do not have any on hand. Check out the local library and county archives or ask your parents or grandparents to borrow a few from their old photo books. Visit museums and exhibits for inspiration. You might also look through online photo sharing sites.

Notice the details in the photos. Pay special attention to clothing styles, color variations in tone, shade and hue as well as the content in the pictures. The photo background will provide some helpful clues when you are looking at old studio prints. There are a number of “new” and retro muslin backdrop options on the market to help you recreate the intriguing scenes you find during your exploring.
woman vintage photograph

Photo Credit: Irving Penn

Notice the shades and color designs in vintage photographs of yesterday-year. Although the colors are detail rich, they are not vibrant. The natural progression of time adds character and color changes. Creating these color variations in the editing studio with layers of color and texture adds the impression of age.

Using Props

Another easy way to create realistic vintage portraits is with props. Use a Victrola, an old ringer washing machine or even a 1928 Model A as aids in the perfect setting for creating your mood. Using a modern photography backdrop and period clothing for your subjects forms unique, contradictory pictures.

Outside the studio, take advantage of architecture, old bridges, fields, rivers and other treasures you find. Set aside time for a leisurely drive in the country to explore old building sites, quiet country lanes and local parks. Some experts say that water is a natural element that lends itself to beautiful vintage-style photographs. The character of moving water manifests itself in the perfect form for adding textural layers post production, too.
woman on car vintage photography

Photo Credit: Art Studio Design

Lean on Lighting

One of the first things that photographers often try to duplicate is lighting. Soft, hazy pictures are reminiscent of other eras. Capturing these mysterious, foggy pictures is accomplished by using lens gels. You can also diffuse the light by using bounce-cards, shooting through a gauzy fabric or using a reflective background fabric.

For portraits, instead of diffused lighting, experts often use a three point light set up. If you are looking for new equipment, consider a light kit with one key light and two fill lights. Play with the settings, experiment with color and black and white film or digital color settings. Varying the fill to key ratios will produce different results. In general, a 1:3 intensity variable between fill and key lighting works well with black and white. Black and white photography can handle some hard shadows, too. The starkness of black on white draws the eye of the viewer and holds his attention.

If you choose vintage as your photography specialty, prepare yourself for an interesting journey. Exploring old pictures, experimenting with color, texture, and saturation levels and wrapping yourself in the history of photography will help you find your personal approach to vintage work.
model sitting on worn planks floor drop

Photo Credit: Ryan M. Walsh Photography

There are many professional options available. From wedding and engagement vintage photos to wall art and studio portraits, the creative and dedicated photographer is certain to find his or her niche market with vintage photography techniques and equipment.

How do you add a vintage look to your photography?

-Backdrop Express Photography Team

Interested in reading more about vintage photography? Check out  How to Become a Vintage Photography Expert – Part 2!

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Comments (1)

  • myrtle


    Great! What an informative blog in here. Really enjoyed reading it.=D


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