5 Ways to Add an Analog Touch to Your Images
5 Ways to Add an Analog Touch to Your Images
With any old technology, we discard it or hide it away, only to find ourselves digging for that old Walkman, 35mm camera, or video game console 20 years later. It makes us nostalgic to use relics of the past, reminiscing about simpler times and telling the current generation “When I was young…” stories. It was such an inconvenience when your favourite CD got too scratched to play, and you had to be careful organizing meeting times and places with friends because cell phones weren’t a thing. You couldn’t just slide into people’s DM’s like today – instead it was your crush’s phone number on your hand, written with a pen in their handwriting that hopefully didn’t rub off of your sweaty palms.
The advancement of technology continued to solve practical problems such as these ones. CDs were replaced by mp3s, messaging your friends halfway around the World is now instantaneous, and even robot lawyers are available to help get you out of speeding tickets. The digital age is now in full swing.
Photography has been an industry greatly affected by technology. We all have cameras now. One is probably within arms reach from you right now in the form of a phone or tablet. Every year they get better and easier to use. Our cameras capture so much detail now that we can see our individual pores, hairs, and the tiniest of wrinkles when we zoom in, and every shot has become a perfect digital recreation of what we see in real life. However, the imperfections in analog photography that were fixed by technology and the digital age were some of the characteristics that made us feel closer to an image, which is why we still use vintage filters and add light leaks and 90s effects to our seemingly perfect images. I have 5 ways you can add an analog touch to your images, but this is by no means an exhaustive list. These are my personal favourites.
Apps and Post-Processing Filters
There are a vast number of apps available for your phone to add an extra layer of feeling to your photos. My personal picks for post-processing images are VSCO, Afterlight, and Snapseed, but there are many new ones always being created that you can use to add dust textures, light leaks, and grain texture.
Other apps I’ve really enjoyed have been ones where the analog experience is mimicked, such as Huji Cam, Hipstamatic, and Thirty Six. With these types of apps, the images you take will already have filters applied to them as you take pictures, and the effect can vary from photo to photo giving you less control over what happens to them. The feeling of using these apps is more like using an analog camera as the end result is always a nice surprise. Even if the image isn’t perfect, its imperfections and randomness somehow make the photo more valuable on a personal level.
Instax Printers and Instant Film
Instax printers have been around for a few years now, and even sisterMAG has one in the office for use during events. You can wirelessly connect your phone to them and print out any image on your to instant film in all its vintage glory, complete with faded colors and retro vibes. Photos printed this way I found is a good balance between digital and analog photography. Edit your photos as much as you like on your phone then print it on instant film. Seeing your photo come to life before your eyes IRL is so satisfying to me. Sometimes I’ll even take a photo of the instant photo with my phone photo app and post the photo of the photo online to my photo feed for friends to see. I also recommend the alternative of going full analog and buying a basic Instax or Polaroid camera for an even better analog experience, complete with a physical shutter button, a viewfinder window that you can actually look through, and no screens or wifi whatsoever!
Cheap and Old Lenses
Flea markets are filled with old lenses waiting to be used again. If you’re able to get an adapter for your interchangeable lens camera, you should be able to find many great old lenses for very cheap at flea markets or online! These lenses are not only likely to have poor optical quality, but may also be very scratched and foggy, which will add a lot of soft and vintage qualities to your photos. If you can’t find an adapter for the lens you want to mount, you are still able to do macro photography and achieve great effects with it. Just remove your current lens from your camera body and turn on your mirrorless camera (or use live view on a DSLR), open the lens aperture to the widest setting, and hold the lens in reverse with the front of it against the camera body mount. As you move the lens and camera around, you’ll be able to focus and do some great macro photography. This also works using the lens with a phone camera. (Only do this reverse lens macro photography technique at your own risk. Be careful not to touch or damage your digital camera’s sensor, which may ruin your digital camera completely!)
Maybe you can’t afford a vintage camera, or don’t know how to use one. Instax cameras and printers might be too expensive for how you’d use it, and same with old vintage lenses and lens adapters may not be an option. Maybe you don’t have a phone or digital camera at all! (Then you wouldn’t need a digital photo detox anyway so why are you reading this?) Well there are cheaper ways to get a quick taste of that analog honey.
Disposable cameras are still readily found in electronic stores and drug marts. When you finish the roll of film, just take it back to the store, where there will most likely be a service to develop your film. In a week, you’ll have your images ready and printed onto real photo paper. Along with these photos, you’ll also have your prized film negatives, which we’ll talk about later.
Using disposable cameras are great for long term use as well. You don’t need to use the whole roll in one sitting. I find the most enjoyable way of using disposable cameras is to bring it with you in your bag or purse once in a while (they’re lighter and smaller than most other analog vintage cameras) and just take a quick photo and put it back into your bag if you’re out. Take images sparingly – one image a day or less. Forget about the camera sometimes. Then later on when you’ve finished your roll of 36 photos months later, get it developed and you’ll have so many forgotten and interesting memories that feel more meaningful than the 100 digital images taken in one night with your camera. If you also have a digital camera, phone camera, or scanner, feel free to take a photo of the photo and enjoy your new age fun with a vintage feel.
Experimenting With Film Negatives
The hardest part about developing and making your own pictures (but arguably the most satisfying) is enlarging your negative onto photo paper. You need a lot of equipment, chemicals, and a darkroom with access to water in order to see the magic of your picture come to life. You might be able to find a communal darkroom in your city (in Berlin It’s a little more difficult, as the first Google search results for “Berlin darkroom” was not what I was expecting), however you can do more than just print film negatives. With a scanner you can scan your film onto the computer and invert the colours in an editing software (<ctrl + i> is the keyboard shortcut in Photoshop). Another option if you don’t have a scanner, is to use my favourite method: a loupe and phone camera. Tape your film negatives to a window or any glass with light coming in from the opposite side. Then, with a film loupe or magnifying glass in one hand, and your phone camera in the other, take a picture of the image through the loupe. If there’s daylight, the light coming in from outside will expose the negative to your phone. Then edit the photo on your phone or computer and invert the colours, and you now have a digital image from your analog film negative with a very heavy vintage feel. Any colours coming from outside your window will also affect the image. This is my preferred method and also opens up many ways of experimenting and playing with film negatives. For example, find new effects by taping the film negative to a computer screen or a lamp. Feel free to think up new ways to work and play with film negatives and digital media. This will add an authentic touch to your photos that only you can create.
Humans are physical creatures by nature. With technology and digital perfection refining the way we work with photos, achieving perfect images becomes easier over time, but even though the benefits of using digital and modern devices far exceeds that of its analog counterparts, nothing will take away the human-like imperfections and characteristics of analog photography. There is no need to abandon our modern technology, but by mixing the old with the new, we are able to add a touch to our images that is normally absent from a perfect digital replication, and experience a closer connection to the digital media we create.