I recently received a mystery package brimming with aged photographs from the 1920s-1940s. The look and feel of each print is unmistakably vintage with varying paper thickness, odd sizes and texture. They all boast a deep level of contrast that's proven ever so challenging to replicate with a DSLR. As I carefully studied this collection, the film character revealed another level of artistic expression that goes beyond the content of the actual photo. This is perhaps the missing ingredient in today's highly polished images.
Above: Scans of original film prints.
While I've been tempted to return to my film using ways, it's just not practical for a traveling photographer. Navigating through airport security is already a trying experience. Can you imagine asking the TSA to hand inspect 200 rolls of film!? Instead, I started looking into different post production plugins that could recreate this look and function seamlessly with my digital workflow using Lightroom, and/or Photoshop. I couldn't be more pleased with the solution.
With a powerful program called Exposure 5 from Alien Skin Software it's incredibly easy to create a highly stylized look for your photography with just a few clicks. I was amazed at the huge selection of film types, grains, vignettes, and yes, even light leaks! Unlike some watered down programs that offer a limited choice of borders, Exposure 5 has an unlimited array of possible finishes. You can even save a look as a custom preset to use it again, or batch process a collection of images. When done editing, you can save high resolution files that would absolutely be suitable for large prints and professional output.
Without a steep learning curve it's possible to jump right in and start creating your own fine art prints. In fact, I skipped the tutorials and began rolling over various preset thumbnails to preview each selection before finding one of my favorites, "Daguerreotype - Damaged".
If you'd like to try this software for yourself, you can download a free 30 day trial here.