Old postcard effects: turn everyday scenes into historical wonders

Old Postcard Effects: turn everyday scenes into historical wonders

Deserted streets and historic buildings make great subjects for a retro photography take on a notable landmark or scene. One way of doing this is to process your images to give them an old postcard look, which enhances the retro photography effect.

Old Postcard Effects: turn everyday scenes into historical wonders

The first stage of this process, though, is to capture the scene, which is worth doing early in the morning to avoid the crowds.

This will reduce the amount of cloning you’ll need to do to remove distracting elements. We took our photo of Bath Abbey at around 9am with a wide-angle lens.

The low angle and wide focal length has resulted in converging verticals, which we can correct in Photoshop Elements. Due to the cloudy conditions and poor morning light the image is slightly under-exposed.

This has helped to capture detail in the sky and foreground, but the dull lighting has created a flat and lacklustre image. However, these uninspiring conditions form the perfect starting point for our old postcard shot.

In this tutorial we’re going to correct the converging verticals by using the Perspective Transform tool, and we’ll use layers to create and add realistic film grain and a vignette. We’ll also use the Brush tool and one of its preset brushes to create a border from scratch.

How to recreate an old postcard effect


How to create an old postcard effect: Step 1

01 Correct the verticals
To correct the converging verticals, right click the background and choose Duplicate Layer. Choose View>Grid so you have a guide to work from, then Image>Transform>Perspective. Grab one of the corner points and drag away from the image so that the building’s verticals align with the grid.


How to create an old postcard effect: Step 2

02 Selective adjustments
Choose View>Grid to switch it off, then pick the Quick Selection tool. Select the sky and then switch to the Magic Wand. Tick Add to Selection and switch Contiguous off. Click a part of the sky that hasn’t been selected, then click Refine Edge and set Feather to 2px and the rest of the settings to 0.


How to create an old postcard effect: Step 3

03 Correct the exposure
Select Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Levels and increase shadows to 175. Right click the Levels layer and select Duplicate Layer. Click the mask and press Ctrl+I to invert it. Adjust the new Levels layer settings so that the shadows are at 14 and highlights at 145. You’ll now have improved contrast and detail.


How to create an old postcard effect: Step 4

04 Convert to mono
Select Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Hue/Saturation, and reduce the Saturation to -100. Go to Layer>New>Layer and then Edit>Fill Layer and select 50% grey. To add grain choose Filter>Noise>Add Noise, change it to 40 and tick Monochromatic and Gaussian. Click OK and set the layer blending mode to Overlay.


How to create an old postcard effect: Step 5

05 Add vignette
Choose Filter>Correct Camera Distortion, darken the vignette to -100 and click OK. Create a new Levels adjustment layer and set the shadows to 30, mid-tones to 0.9 and highlights to 225. Create a new layer and select an area slightly smaller than the image, then press Ctrl+Shift+I and fill it with black.


How to create an old postcard effect: Step 6

06 Create the antique border
Use Ctrl+D to deselect, then choose Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur, set the amount to 40%, click OK and change the opacity to 70%. Create a new layer and select the Brush tool. Select Preset 36 in the options and set the foreground to white. Paint around the edge, changing brush sizes as you go.


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