How to give photos a retro style in Photoshop

The turbulent twenties are inextricably linked with hedonism, new freedoms for women and impeccable style.

In this lesson, the photographer Tigz Rice will talk about how she stylized, photographed and retouched the image of a coquette woman, inspired by the 20s of the last century. Model in the picture – Anna Swiczeniuk.

You will learn how Tigz with Anna picked up clothes and accessories, as well as read how the photographer created the lighting in the style of Hollywood, perfectly emphasizing the image of the model.

In the next steps, Tigz will talk in detail about the camera settings that will provide a sophisticated look, and then demonstrate how to use Photoshop and create an authentic black-and-white style with a grainy film.

If you already have a photo, you can immediately proceed to step # 5 of this lesson in the twenties.

Step 1

First of all, let’s look at the stylistic aspect of the picture, on which we spent a lot of time, choosing clothes and accessories (as well as hair and makeup), in order to accurately portray the portrait image of that era.

For Anna, a sleeveless dress was selected to the knee without an accentuated waist with long beaded threads. Although the cape gave a modern touch to the costume, it retained the overall style with appliqués and edging.

Step 2

Anna’s bob-square is a popular hairstyle of the 1920s. As for hair ornaments, a ribbon with feathers was selected – another stroke that tells the viewer that this is exactly the “roaring twenties”.

Step 3

On the day of shooting, we tried many different hats. Here is the image of Anna with one of them. If you cannot immediately decide which element is better – take a few pictures and review them later.

Step 4

Now let’s see how the light was installed. Here I used Paramount’s lighting scheme, which was a popular solution for shooting during the “golden age of Hollywood” in the late 1920s and early 1930s.

Also known as “Butterfly lighting”, this scheme got its name because of the butterfly-like shadow under the nose. To achieve this effect, you need to place one light source above the subject and direct it down.

The effect of hard contrast usually works well for people with rough outlines, so in order to emphasize Anna’s natural features, I decided to soften the angle of inclination of the light.

Step 5

After the lighting is ready, it’s time to shoot. I prefer to photograph on a dark background to get a low-key look, which was also very popular in early Hollywood portrait shots. Another important point – I take pictures in color. At a later stage, this will allow more accurate adjustment of black and white levels.

Using a wide aperture setting (F1.2 – F2) on the camera, you get a shallow depth of field. This will allow to convey more of the softness for which the photograph of the 20s is known.

I also asked Anna to turn a little while shooting, giving movement to long strips of beads and edging.

Step 6

After the photo shoot, select the image you like and open it in Photoshop.

Before proceeding to tone corrections, be sure to clean the image, getting rid of any defects.

Step 7

When you’re satisfied with the photo, let’s strengthen that soft focus, which I mentioned earlier.

Remove the lock from the background layer by clicking on the lock icon on the panel Layers (Layers Panel), then right-click on it and select Convert to smart object (Convert to Smart Object)

Step 8

Go to menu Filter> Blur> Gaussian Blur (Filter> Blur> Gaussian Blur) and set Radius (Radius) 3 px. This is enough to soften the image without making it too blurry. Click OK.

Step 9

Now back to the panel Layers (Layers Panel). Click on Masked Smart Filter (Smart Filter’s Layer Mask). Using a soft black brush with 50% Opacity (Opacity) return the detail of the area around the eyes of the model and other parts of the body with the same depth of field.

For my photo I made a sharp edging on a scarf, part of a raincoat, as well as beads around Anna’s waist.

Step 10

Let’s go ahead and take a photo in black and white.

Click on the icon of the adjustment layer “Black and white“(Black – White Adjustment Layer) on the panel Corrective layers (Adjustments panel), taking the picture monochrome. Thus, we convert the photo not destructively, and also we will be able to get access to original colors if it is required.

Step 11

Click on the adjustment layer “Curves“(Curves Adjustment Layer) on the panel Corrective layers (Adjustments panel). With this tool we will create a tonal effect of faded photos.

First click on the lower left corner of the line. Curves (Curves), then drag the point slightly to the right and up, putting down some of the shades of black.

Step 12

Add a couple of extra points for the curve, if required. Here I made a couple of minor corrections to enhance the contrast for the remaining tonal range.

Step 13

Let’s go back and adjust the layer “Black and white“(Black – White). Click on the icon with the raised index finger in the upper left part of the panel Properties (Properties Panel). With this tool, I clicked on the red beads and dragged the cursor to the right, making them lighter.

Remember, these changes are based on the original colors of the photo, so other areas may also change.

Step 14

As a final touch, let’s add some grain. First you need to either rasterize the image or select the entire contents of the panel. Layers (Layers panel), right-click and select Convert to smart object (Convert To Smart Object), aligning all the layers in one Smart layer.

Step 15

Go to menu Filter> Camera Raw (Filter> Camera Raw) and notice the right half of the window.

Click on the tab Effects (Effects). Number, size and sharpness Granularity (Grain) will depend entirely on the size of your photo.

When you are satisfied with the result, click OK, returning to the main Photoshop window.

And here’s what we got:

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