Making Your Own "Old" Photos

Back in April, I wrote a blog about the inherent goodness of black and white images (here).  There are many ways to convert color images to black and white, using Lightroom, Aperture, or Photoshop.  I also use my favorite plug-in from Nik Software, Silver Efex Pro.  Silver Efex Pro works with all these programs and  is considered by many to be the best black and white conversion program.  We are going to limit our discussion to Lightroom since this program is the most common amongst our readers. As Mark wrote earlier this week, we recently paid a quick visit to the Gettysburg Battlefield.  In my opinion, Civil War battlefield pictures pretty much demand a black and white effect of some sort.  The most common you'll see is sepia tone, a mixture of rich brown tones that was very popular.  (Even though the sepia process wasn't actually invented until the 1880s, long after the war.  Many of the original plates were reprinted after the war.)  The photos were usually fairly high contrast since the plates needed lots of light and long exposures, which meant they often shot in mid-day when the quality of light is worst.  To make the photos more "realistic," I usually increase the contrast and keep the light harsh.

confederate, gettysburg, battlefield, artillery, gunner

During the Civil War, the Confederate Army artillery battery had 4-6 guns.  Batteries were further divided into sections, each containing 2 guns.  The artillery re-enactors from Maryland represented one section.  The first image shows the smoke from the first round fired.  By the second round, the battlefield in front of the guns is obscured.  Imagine what occurred when the hundreds of cannons fired on those 3 days in July, in addition to the tens of thousands of muskets.

confederate, gettysburg, battlefield, artillery, gunner, sepia

confederate, gettysburg, battlefield, artillery, gunner, sepia

You can accomplish this look in Lightroom by using the preset for sepia in the Develop module (it's on the left-hand side of the window).  You can further tweek the image to get the look you want in the HSL/Color/B&W adjustments (it's on the right-hand side of the window).  Moving the sliders allows you to get the exact look you want.  Go ahead and move them around, and, remember, these are non-destructive changes that you allow you to return to the original image if you don't like the results.


Selenium toning produces a silver-blue tint to the image and is less common because the real process was not as stable as sepia toning.  It still adds an old-time feel to the photo.  This is applied in the same manner as the sepia imitation, but using the selenium preset.

confederate, gettysburg, battlefield, artillery, gunner, selenium toning

I had only one complaint about the Gettysburg trip.  On some of the monuments - this one is near the spot Reynolds was shot on 1 July, after opining that his position was too far from the Confederates to be dangerous - they list the body count using ditto marks!  What brainiac thought it was OK to use these marks on a war memorial?

memorial, gettsyburg, battlefield

Take a trip to a historic location near your home and  create your own "old" photos.