The past few years, so called lo-fi photography has been all the rage. I’m not sure if it was Hipsters rediscovering cheap film cameras like Lomos, or the Instagram app, that has created the movement where everything has to look like it came from a cheap plastic camera rather than some of the most sophisticated computer electronics built by man. And speaking of cheap, has anyone seen the prices of some of these Lomo cameras? Pretty pricey considering this particular camera technology was originally developed by the Soviets. I guess the capitalists get the final laugh on this one. Though a careful search online can reveal lo-fi cameras that have a price that better reflects their origins.
Regardless, of who (or what) started the trend, the appeal is obvious. In an age where digital photography rules, it’s easy to take great photos. Though to be fair, digital cameras can take a flawed photo, but they tend to blow up images in obvious ways that are easy to detect and eliminate long before prints are made or are shared online to friends and loved ones. Recapturing the warmth and atmosphere of analog photography would seem be the goal of young people growing up with the cold, predictable nature of digital photography. But for people like me who grew up with cheap disposable cameras, it’s just crappy photos. 🙂
Of course you don’t actually need to buy a film camera to have all the benefits of faded colours and strange focus. There are apps for that. As mentioned before, there’s Instagram, along with a bunch of competitors. For the professional photographer or graphic designer, there are plenty of Photoshop Actions that can easily achieve these effects. Many of them are free.
I’ll show you a few of my favourites.
For a sample image, I was trying to find an image that wasn’t too professional looking and wouldn’t embarrass me too much. So I decided to make our other cat, Jessie, famous. Click on any of the images to see a larger sample.
This was the first set of lo-fi camera Photoshop Actions that I ever came across. Its aim was to replicate the original set of Instagram filters for use in Photoshop.
I can’t say I’m a fan of these actions. At least not by themselves. But with the power of Photoshop, the results of different actions can be combined in different ways. In my experience, this vastly improves on these Actions, and can help you as the designer come up with a more personalized and unique image.
I originally had pretty high hopes for this one. I was a little disappointed with the effect on my test image. It was just too monochromatic. Fading back the effect improved the look of the image. I also thought that perhaps my test image was too green to start with. Choosing another image with a combination of warm and cool colours gave better results.
A simple but clever effect. This free sample belongs to a large kit that has different colours and gradients that bleed off into different directions.
This is perhaps one of the more comprehensive of all the Photoshop Actions covered in this post. This action really goes out of its way to beat up your image. It even tries to simulate the barrel distortion you’d get with cheap plastic lenses. I find the effect to be a bit heavy handed. Because of the barrel distortion, it does make it difficult to combine this Action with other effects. Good thing the Action comes with instructions on how to tone down some of the effect.
I think this one turned out to be my favourite of the bunch. It’s still pretty monochromatic, but I do like the overall colour cast and it doesn’t hammer down too much on the details of the photo.
You can download the action here.
This was another good, retro-style image. Blows out quite a bit of detail though. A lighter image with lots of highlights would suffer quite a bit under this action I think.