Introduction: Ye Olde Film Effects in GIMP

About: I'm just one of those people with way too much time on my hands and a knack for pulling things apart...still haven't quite figured out the "putting back together" thing though...

Once upon a time, people used to use film to take photos and wished for a sharper cheaper option. The digital came along, give it a few years and the birth of Instagram and people started slapping old timey filters on all their photos. So today were going to take an ordinary photo and give it a nostalgic look using GIMP, a free image editing software. (I'm assuming you already know some of the basics of using this software, if not then there are plenty of videos on you tube to get started with.)

Step 1: Brightness/Contrast Adjustment.

There are loads of types of film out there all with different looks but they all have a a fairly low amount of contrast. We can achieve this by playing about with the curves function. This increases or decreases the shade of light and dark colours. We can start by going to "colours" then "curves" and get display with a grid. You can click on the line at different spots on the line to add a not that you can adjust. I usually place 2 extra nodes on the lower quarter and upper quarter of the graph.

Step 2: Brightness/Contrast Continued

Now to actually change the curve. hover the mouse over a node and move it up and down on the graph. Notice how it changes the image. Now, to achieve our film look we need to lighten the shadows and darken the highlights. we can do this by grabbing the nodes at the very end of the line. The bottom of the line needs to be raised and the top needs to be lowered. Play around with this until you get a look you like. Changing the contrast follows the same idea but this time, use the nodes at the upper and lower quarter and move the bottom node down and vice versa. Again, play with the curve until you get a look that you like.

Step 3: Colour Adjustment

Now we need to adjust the colours. I went for an old faded look on my photo however you may wish to use a sharper colour scheme or maybe even add a certain tint. Lots of cheap film ended up making blues a more of a purple colour and reds a magenta. All these combinations are possible with our new best friend: the curves function. Not only can you adjust the picture as a whole, but also the RGB (Red Green Blue) channels which make up the actual photo. The same ideas apply here too, just click to make a node and slide away to your hearts content. There aren't any rules to follow here, just play about with each colour channel until your happy with it and if it all goes wrong, there's a handy reset button at the bottom so you can simply start again.

Step 4: Grain

Grain is a key feature of those classic film photos and we can emulate this by using digitally produced noise. This is essentially the white noise you might see when you don't have a signal. The noise is going to be used as an overlay on the photo to produce a faded look. First you need to make a transparent layer on top of the image you have, then pick a grey colour and fill in that layer. Don't worry about obscuring the image as the layer will become transparent when we're done. To add the noise go to "filters" then "noise". Finally, pick "RGB noise" and press "OK" in the dialog box. You should see this grainy pattern appear on the layer. The last thing to do is to make the the layer into an overlay which is easily done by clicking "overlay" on the drop down menu in the layers page.

From here you can adjust the opacity of the layer to vary the intensity of the effect..

Step 5: Artifacts

Old film may have been damaged before being developed which causes these blotches to form on the image. the same thing can be achieved by drawing blotches on the grain layer we just made. The airbrush tool is ideal for this as you get soft edges and you van vary how dark the patches are by airbrushing that area multiple times. If you need to, you can change the grain layer back to normal mode to get a good idea of what size and shape the blotches are, then change the layer back to an overlay.

Step 6: Enjoy

That's it! Simple right? Don't forget to export your work rather than save it, or else you'll be stuck with a project file as opposed to an actual image. These effects can be applied to pretty much anything you want whether that be a profile pic or a landscape, it's all up to you. I hope this helps and inspires you to give post production a go rather than letting an app do it. Thanks for reading.

Photography Contest 2017

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Photography Contest 2017