Create a vintage polaroid look in Photoshop

The vintage look in Photography has been something very popular lately as the retro look of certain films have definitely made a big comeback. We have done a few walkthroughs on how to create different types of vintage looks in Photoshop before and today I am going to cover how to make a vintage Polaroid look in Photoshop. First if you missed some of our past articles here are a few good ones you might be interested in:

  • Digital Holga Photography – Creating holga images in photoshop
  • Some great Lomo images
  • Creating a digital lomo photo in Photoshop
  • Create a vintage polaroid look in Photoshop

    There are many different types of Polaroid films that each have their own characteristics but today I am going to focus on an aged look that you would have with their “Time Zero” film.
    We are going to start with just an average outdoor image and in Photoshop give it a weathered summer feel to replicate an vintage polaroid look. Here is the starting image that we will use.

    First we will make some adjustments to the curves and the color channels within the curves to adjust the color tone. Open up a adjustment layer and select curves. If you aren’t familiar with how to add an adjustment layer you can simply click Layer –> New Adjustment Layer –> Curves. You can experiment a little to get the tone to fit your needs, here is a screenshot of the settings I used.
    Vintage Photoshop polaroid tutorial

    Next go back and choose the background layer and run a gaussian blur on the background of 2 pixels. Then run another gaussian blur with a 1 pixel amount. Here is what the image looks like so far.
    Vintage polaroid Photoshop3

    Then make a copy of the background image and in this copy layer run another gaussian blur of 5 pixels. While still on this new layer change the layer mode to overlay and the opacity to 25%.

    Now we want to add a little bit of grain to the image. Create a new layer called Grain and have this layer be on top of the 2 background layers you now have. Set the layer mode to screen and fill the layer with white.

    In this new white layer add noise (Filter –> Noise –> Add Noise). I used a 10% gaussian, monochromatic noise level and then also ran a gaussian blur on this of 2 pixels to smooth it out.

    Click Image –> Adjustments –> Invert (or Command – I) to invert this white grain layer. Since the layer is in Screen mode this will basically make it transparent with some white blotches of grain.

    Then while still in this grain level adjust the levels to 0, 1, 115.

    Most aged polaroid images have a low contrast range and a little brightness to them. Create a new Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer and set the brightness to +8 and the contrast to -8.

    From here you can do a final curve adjustment or color balance adjustment to change the color tone of the image to fit your taste. Here is the final version of the image.
    Vintage_Photoshop action

    The final touch is to add a border to the image to create that true polaroid look. Check back for a tutorial on how to create a polaroid border coming soon. To make sure you don’t miss any of our posts make sure to sign up for our updates via email near to top right of the page.

    Also if you love the look of vintage images download our Vintage Lightroom Presets for free.

    If you like our articles remember to share them on Facebook, Twitter or +1 them on Google. I appreciate you spreading the word to your photo friends! Also remember to always start a conversation by leaving a Facebook comment at the bottom of the page. I love to hear from you.

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    Author: Mark

    Mark is a fine art wedding and portrait photographer from Northern California. He has been passionate about photography since childhood and started his studio 12 years ago to bring a fresh style of photography to the wedding and portrait world.

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