Make a New Photo Look Old in Lightroom

Everyone loves old photographs. A lot of photographers these day are going out of their way to give their digital photos a “vintage” or “film-like” look. This treatment can add a timeless look and feel to a modern photo. Here is a simple way to give your photo a vintage look in Lightroom. Since we’re using Lightroom, the adjustment is totally non-destructive, and we can edit or undo the effect at any time.


I’ll start with this photo of my friend Ryan and his son Billy Joe. I like this shot a lot in it’s original form, but let’s see what we can do to give it a more classic look.

The first place I’m going is the Split Toning panel in the Develop Module. Press the ‘D’ key to choose the Develop Module, then command(cntrl)+4 to select the Split Toning panel. You may have used this panel for tinting black & white images, but have you used it for color photos? Click in the colored rectangle next to ‘Highlights’ to open the color picker. I’m going to choose the second swatch from the left for a warm highlight color. Without closing the color picker, click on the color swatch beside ‘Shadows’. You could close the color picker and then re-open it, but this saves you a couple of seconds. I choose the second swatch from the right for a cool shadow color. You should get creative and try different color combinations, these are just the colors I picked for this demo.


You can adjust the look of the split toning using the ‘Balance’ slider in the Split Toning panel. Just play with it until it looks good to you. I add a slight vignette, then head to the Basic panel. For this image I lowered the clarity to about -50 and increased the contrast a bit. Every image is different. Try adjusting the brightness, vibrance and saturation for different looks. I move the sliders back and forth until I find the ‘sweet spot’ where I like the adjustment. For this photo I ended up adding +4 to the vibrance and saturation, and +16 brightness.


When you get your treatment just the way you want it you can save it as a preset. Click the ‘+’ icon in the Presets panel on the left side of the Develop Module. Select the adjustments you want to save and give the preset a descriptive name. I might call this one “Old Polaroid”. Then you can apply the effect to other photos quickly and easily.

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This post was written by:

- who has written 23 posts on The Digital Photo Experience.

Rob Knight is an Adobe Certified Expert in Photoshop Lightroom and a two-time Photoshop Guru finalist. Based in Atlanta, Georgia, Rob loves to travel and share his passion for photography with others.
You can follow Rob on twitter @RobKnightPhoto, and find out about Rob’s classes and photo workshops at Rob Knight Photography

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2 Responses to “Make a New Photo Look Old in Lightroom”

  1. Anton Khoff Says:

    Thanks for the lesson! I need to practice with “old look” technique a bit more :)


  2. sebi Says:

    thanks for the tip… cool effect. deffinettly using it from now on. all the best


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