I like to make my photos look like they were shot on old film, distorting the colours, crushing the blacks and even adding grain. Professional photographers probably roll their eyes, but there’s a nostalgic appeal to the film aesthetic. Here are a few ways to easily give your photos that faded film look.
In this video from photographer Mathieu Stern, we learn three simple ways to lift the black levels in Photoshop so that the photo looks more like it was shot on film. The simplest ways is to adjust the curves — just move the lower left point slightly up and right, and move the top right point slightly down. This will lift the blacks in your photo for that faded look. (Use a curve adjustment layer if you want to adjust the degree of the effect.)
Another option is to create a solid colour layer atop your photo. Mathieu paints a grey colour (hex code #4B4B4B) on a layer, sets its blend mode to lighten and then drops the opacity to around 20 per cent.
For even more control over the colours, you can use a selective colour adjustment layer. Choose blacks in the colours dropdown, reduce the black level a bit, and then try adding some blue by increasing the cyan level and decreasing the yellows. I always add a tinge of blue to the shadows; I don’t know what kind of film it evokes, but it seems familiar.
That’s all there is to it. Fading the black levels just takes five seconds, but you can spend hours tinkering with subtle colour adjustments that make it look like you were shooting on Kodachrome.