Antique Photographs

Sometimes we want an image that is imperfect. I like to imitate the black spots that you can find on old black-and-white prints. These occur where there are "dropouts"—silver grains that have dislodged from the negative—which allow enlarger light to shine through.

While we can apply a filter and add noise or grain, it's not easy to adjust it afterward. Varying the layer's opacity may vary the noise, but it isn't that "all or nothing" effect that you get from a damaged negative.

Photoshop provides many ways to another option. To emulate dropouts, blend with Dissolve. This mode outputs pixels from either the blend or the underlying layers. The blend layer's opacity controls the proportion of the blend layer's pixels that will be present in the final image. While we could blend copies of the original, it's as easy to fill the blend layer with a color. Later we can drag the opacity slider to fine-tune the dropout degradation.

1 In the Layers palette, duplicate the original image Drag the background layer onto the "Create a new layer" icon, or use Ctrl/Cmd-J

2 Invert the new layer using Ctrl/Cmd-I

3 Using the pull-down blending mode menu in the Layers palette or the shortcut Alt/Opt-Shift-U, change the new layer's blending mode to Hue and name it "Hue "

4 Reduce the Hue layer's opacity to about 50%

5 Duplicate the Hue layer, and using either the pull-down blending mode menu or the shortcut Alt/Opt-Shift-Z, change the new duplicate layer's blending mode to Pin Light and name it "Pin Light"

6 Set the Pin Light layer's opacity to 30% and add a little blur—ro will be enough Try changing the fill opacity instead of the main layer opacity

7 Either go to Layer > New > Layer (Ctrl/Cmd-Shift-N) or click on the "Create a new layer" icon in the Layers palette to add a new layer at the top of the layer stack

8 Using the pull-down blending mode menu in the Layers palette or the shortcut Alt/Opt-Shift-I, set the new layer's blending mode to Dissolve, fill it with a dark color using the Paint Bucket tool (C), and call it "Dissolve "

9 Reduce the Dissolve layer's opacity until you like the balance between the image and the noise

I find a low percentage, around ro%, works best

10 If you want to change the image's tone, use Ctrl/Cmd-Shift-N to add a new transparent layer and change the layer's blending mode to Color Fill the layer with a color

I like to use a cold sepia tone, but vivid shades of blue can work well too.

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