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How To Add Vintage Effects To Portrait Photography

By Melanie Doncas | Basic Photo EditingPhoto Editor Tutorials

Have you ever glanced at a portrait only to suddenly experience a feeling of longing or wistfulness about the past? Whether it’s the vignette, grainy texture, subdued colors, or soft focus, there’s just something about a nostalgic photograph that stirs our inspiration and draws our mind back to another era.

vintage photo editing tutorial

While this look might seem like history, it doesn’t have to stay that way. You see, BeFunky’s Photo Editor has the perfect tools to help you recreate the nostalgic vibe of decades past – no matter when your photo was taken. Keep reading to find out how!

Nostalgic Portrait Inspiration

When aiming to create a nostalgic portrait, it can sometimes be difficult knowing where to start. As we mentioned earlier, there are a few different elements which can give a portrait that nostalgic aesthetic, so we’ve outlined each of these in more detail below. 

Dark Vignette

Vignetting is a visual effect where the edge of a photograph is darker, softer, and less detailed than the center of that image. This effect actually stems from the painting world of centuries gone by, when artists would make the corners of their scenes slightly darker and less detailed to give their work a three-dimensional appearance. This look can easily be achieved when editing your portrait in the Photo Editor.

how to add vignette to photo in BeFunky

Simply locate Vignette in the Edit menu, select the style (Radial, Square, or Linear), the Color (darker works best for that ‘old world charm’), Blend Mode, and Opacity. You can also go one step further by blurring the edges of your portrait to give these areas a softer, less detailed look. Click Blur Edges in the Edit menu, then adjust elements such as Size, Blur Amount, and more. 

Soft Focus

While softly focused edges are a great way to ramp-up the nostalgia factor on your portrait, you can also go all-out and create a soft focus look on your entire image. This gives it an ethereal, other-worldly appearance reminiscent of portraits that emerged in the 1860s (thanks to the availability of the Dallmeyer Patent Portrait Lens). Early 20th century impressionist photographers made soft focus photography an art form, and you can easily replicate this look today.

how to soften photos in BeFunky

To add a soft-focus effect to your portrait, locate Soften in the Edit menu. You can adjust both the Softness and Lightness of the effect, using the two to create the dreamiest portrait imaginable.

Daguerreotype Texture 

Thanks to the cameras of the present, achieving a crystal-clear photo is a cinch, but once upon a time, it wasn’t so. The first publicly available photographic process, the daguerreotype process, was widely used during the 1840s and 1850s and produced black and white portraits with grainy textures and grungy splotches.

how to add texture to photos in BeFunky

To recreate a portrait reminiscent of this era, you don’t need to mirror the laborious daguerreotype process. Instead, click on Textures in the Photo Editor’s side menu and choose one that takes your fancy. For an on-point nostalgic look, we recommend Scratches, Metal, Grunge, or Paper. Play around with each to see what looks best on your chosen portrait.

Film Grain

A century later than daguerreotype photography, the 35mm camera was commonplace in the mid-to-late 19th century. It was the first compact camera to become available to the public, so you’ll find that the photography from the 1940’s-1980’s has a similar vibe: film grain texture and muted colors. 

how to add film grain to photos in BeFunky

Located in the Cinematic category of BeFunky’s Effects tab, the Film Grain effect can help you achieve this timeless look. Just choose the Intensity and decide whether you want to add color film grain or monochromatic, then watch your photo transform into a nostalgic masterpiece all in a few clicks! 

Muted Colors (or Black & White)

While some photographic styles of the past produced highly saturated photos, we usually associate old world, nostalgic charm with those that had a more muted color palette. Less saturation in a photograph can also give the image a faded effect, further adding to its seemingly antique past. Turning down the Saturation of your image is very simple. Just locate Color in the Edit menu and move the slider underneath Saturation to the left. Want to make your portrait Black and White or Sepia? Find both of these effects in the Effect tab.

black and white photo effects in BeFunky

If you’re still not sure exactly what effects you want your nostalgic portrait to have, but want to give it that ‘old photo’ look, then you’re in luck. In the Photo Editor’s Effects tab, you’ll also find a category called Old Photo, dedicated to the images of eras long passed. The majority of these combine many, or all, of the elements we listed above, giving you a one-click solution to creating a nostalgic portrait. 

How To Edit Nostalgic Portraits

Ready to transform a photo of your own into a nostalgic portrait? Start by heading to the Photo Editor and uploading your chosen portrait. Firstly, we’re going to reduce the Saturation of our image. To do this, navigate to the Edit menu, followed by Color.

how to edit a photo in BeFunky

Adjust the slider underneath Saturation by dragging it to the left to decrease this setting. Dragging the slider all the way to the left will result in a black and white image. We’re going to keep a little bit of color in ours, however. Once you’re ready to continue, click the blue checkmark button.

how to correct color in BeFunky

Now that our portrait has a more muted color palette, the next step is to add a Vignette effect to it. Click on Vignette in the Edit menu. Start by choosing your Vignette effect’s shape (we’re sticking with Radial) by clicking the buttons at the top of the menu, then use your mouse to click and drag the edges of the target and position it on the subject of your photo. Everything outside of the target will fade into the Vignette effect. 

how to add a vignette to photo in BeFunky

Select a Color from the color chart or type in your desired shade’s HEX Code. Portraits from eras gone by tend to have dark Vignettes, so we’re going to keep ours black. You can also adjust the Opacity of the Vignette by adjusting the slider to the left or right. Once you’ve achieved your desired look, click the blue checkmark button to apply.

Now that we’ve finished tweaking our portrait with some of the effects in the Edit tab, it’s time to move onto additional details which can really ramp-up the nostalgia. First, we'll add a Film Grain effect by navigating to the Effects tab, followed by the Cinematic category.

cinematic effects in BeFunky Photo Editor

Click on the Film Grain effect (the top effect in the Cinematic category) and adjust the Intensity of the effect using the slider. If your photo is more colorful, you can stick to the default RGB film grain. If your photo has a more muted color palette (like ours!), check the Monochromatic box. This will change the color of the film grain to better blend with muted or black and white photography.

how to add film grain to photos in BeFunky

For even more nostalgic texture, navigate to the Textures tab (the bottom icon) in the side menu, followed by Scratches. This will give your photo more of a "worn from the years" look. There are several Scratches textures to choose from, so pick the one that takes your fancy the most. You can adjust the Strength of the effect using the slider or hit the Settings button (the mixing board icon) on the effect thumbnail to alter elements such as Blend Mode, Opacity, and the position of the texture. Once you’re happy with the look, just click the checkmark to apply it. For this image, we’ve applied Scratches 8.

how to add scratches to photo in BeFunky

Ta-da! All that’s left to do now is to Save your nostalgic portrait so it’s ready to print, share online, or do whatever else with it that your heart desires.

how to save a photo in BeFunky

Click on Save at the top of your screen to save your work to your Computer, as well as Facebook, Dropbox, and more! 

Before and After

See how these nostalgic photo editing tools helped send this portrait back through time?

how to add vintage effects to photos with BeFunky
portrait photography editing tips

Before

After

You don’t need to step into the past to create nostalgic portraits, nor do you have to invest in fancy camera equipment to try and mimic the effects of eras gone by. When it comes to giving your portraits a nostalgic effect, it’s easy in BeFunky’s Photo Editor! Try it for yourself by clicking the link below:

Photo Editing, Simplified.

Photo Editing. Simplified