Rewind your memories: How to give your photos and videos a vintage look

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Like the allure of vinyl records, classic video games and even the early Internet, the fascination with older photography standards like point-and-shoot cameras and 35mm film persists – even in people too young to remember when that gear was cutting edge.

The appeal of “vintage” photography goes beyond nostalgia and Instagram filters, judging by the huge number of apps designed to emulate the film, lenses and visual quirks of predigital photos and movies.

Despite the irony of using a high-end smartphone camera to produce imperfect images that appear oversaturated, jittery, low-contrast, unfiltered or otherwise analogue, going for a retro look can help you practise your composition skills.

If you’re not ready to buy original equipment, you can still evoke a different time period’s creative sensibility. Here’s an overview.

Backup before you begin

Before you dive in, here are some things to keep in mind: First, make sure you can reverse any editing on an original image; making duplicates for your experiments is a safe backup.

Second, be aware that some apps capture content with the effects embedded, leaving you with a permanently vintage-looking photo or video.

You may not need extra software, depending on the visual effect you want to achieve.

Apple (left) and Google include a variety of filters in their default photo apps.

Apple, Google and Samsung all include a variety of filters in their default photo apps, as well as built-in editing tools.

You might get satisfactory results by manually adjusting the colour saturation, the tint and other elements to make the photo look as if an ancient film camera had taken it.

An array of apps

For a wider range of editing features, use Adobe Lightroom and Google’s Snapseed for Android or iOS.

Adobe Photoshop Express also includes a collection of filters, themes and borders for your photos. (Adobe’s apps are free with in-app purchases, and Snapseed is free.)

For specific historical looks (like a 1970s Polaroid, for example), there are apps with filters and algorithms designed to emulate certain analogue film stocks, camera lenses and other factors, like simulated light leaks and dust speckles.

Just enter “vintage” or “retro” when you search the app store for camera or photography programs.

Some apps charge for extra filters, require a subscription or have technical requirements, so read the specifications.

Hipstamatic for the iPhone is one of the best-known retro camera apps and may be considered an antique itself, as it was first released in 2009.

Its original incarnation, now called Classic Camera (RM14.90, with in-app purchases ranging from RM4.90 to RM9.90), is still around and uses filter combinations to mimic the look of prints taken with a cheap plastic 1980s camera.

Damon Winter, a Times photographer, even used the app for a 2010 assignment in Afghanistan.

Last year, the company released Hipstamatic X, an update with hundreds of filters and tools and its own online photo-sharing community.

Fimo Analog Camera for Android and iOS (free to try) is a similar app for emulating prints produced from various film types.

Venturing into vintage videos

For giving a classic look to your moving pictures, Google has a set of filters and effects for videos edited in the Google Photos app for Android and iOS.

Samsung’s Video Editor offers filters, as does Apple’s Photos app and its free iMovie and Clips video-editing apps.

But again, there are specialised apps. Super 16 for Android and iOS (free to try) has about 70 customisable filters for photos and videos and can be used to record directly or apply effects to existing videos.

Similar software, Nexvio’s 8mm Vintage Camera app (RM19.90, includes in-app purchases) for the iPhone lets you record clips in the style of a black-and-white noir movie, a grainy ’70s art-house film, and more.

Modernise old photos

Just as you can make new photos look old, you can make old photos look newer – by colourising them.

If you’d like to experiment, Colorize (free trial) uses artificial intelligence to convert monochrome images, as does Colorize Images (free trial). Both apps are available for Android and iOS.

Just as you can make new photos look old, you can make old photos look new with apps like Colorize.Just as you can make new photos look old, you can make old photos look new with apps like Colorize.

Some genealogy services – including MyHeritage and Ancestry – offer a free photo colourisation tool for subscribers to use on files uploaded to the site.

Depending on the original, the results may be wildly garish or – in the best-case scenario – hard to distinguish from a genuine colour image.

This may be considered sacrilege to historians and fans of black-and-white photography, but for projects like compiling a family tree, the modernisation could make the people in the photos feel more relatable.

Time-shifting images to the past or present is not for everyone, but for those who are curious, the apps are generally less expensive than trawling eBay’s used camera section or getting film developed.

Just remember, light leaks and dust specks are features (and not bugs) these days. — The New York Times

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