Digital Holga Photography – Creating holga images in photoshop

One trend that I do like but also think is pretty funny is how the “film” look of digital photography has become so popular lately. So many people use Photoshop or Lightroom to create images that look like they were shot with an old film camera like a Holga or Poloraid, there are so many really cool looks you used to get with some specialty cameras. We showcased some great lomo images to inspire you a little while back here, Great lomo photos.

Today I want to show you a way to take your current images and with Photoshop create a “holga” look to an existing photo. Here is a step by step guide to get that Holga feel to your photos by using Photoshop. Quick note for this I am using Photoshop CS3 for the mac, so a few keyboard shortcuts might be different for your system.

We will start with an image that I shot for an engagement session where we were going for a 50’s vintage feel. The setting and their clothing really will work well for a lot of start black and white images as well as toned photos. For me this is the perfect type of shot for that dreamy holga feel.

Here is the image we are starting with:

Step 1: Create a new copy layer. I always like to first copy the layer so that if any changes are made that I don’t like it’s easy to just delete the entire layer to start over. Hit Command J on a mac to automatically make a copy of the background layer.

Step 2: In the new Layer apply a Radial Blur with just the amount at 1 and blur method set to spin. This and the next step will give you that soft edge around the image that is classic in holga photos due to the cheap plastic lenses they have. The center is usually pretty sharp and then the edges get very soft.

Step 3: Do another Radial Blur, this time with the amount set to 2 and blur method set to zoom.

Step 4: Now it’s time to add some noise, remember the holga is not known for its sharpness so most of these steps are going to be softening the image and adding noise and grain. Depending on how strong you want the overall holga effect you can change these settings a little more of less. Here is what I used for this image:

Step 5: Add some grain. Go to Filter –> Texture –> Grain. Here I used 27 as the intensity, 54 as the contrast and grain set to regular.

Step 6: Soften this a little by selecting Edit –> Fade Grain and fade this by 67%

Step 7: Command J again to make a copy of this current layer into a new layer. To keep things organized change the name of this new layer to “Greyscale”.

Step 8: Convert this layer to Greyscale (or do a good contrast black and white conversion).

Step 9: Create a new Fill Layer. Go to Layer –> New Fill Layer –> Gradient. Name this Dark Edges, and then use these settings for the gradient fill.

Step 10: On this Dark Edge layer lower the opacity to about 60%.

Step 11: Make a copy of this Dark Edge layer and make the opacity 15%.

Step 12: Now that we have a good dark edge we need to lighten the center a little bit so will do the opposite of what we have been doing. First Create another new fill layer and instead of a black to transparent fill we will do a white to transparent fill. Here are my settings for this new layer.

Step 13: For this new white fill layer change the opacity to 30%

Step 14: Layer –> Rasterize –> All Layers. Now you can use the layer mask for each of the layers to dodge and burn any specific areas you need to.

You can either end here with a nice black and white holga style photo or continue to make a cool holga border around the photo and maybe even give it a little bit of a sepia tone. Since I think this photo tutorial already has too many steps i’ll end here for now and continue on with a border and tone later on.

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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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