Using VSCO Film to Enhance Old Digital Photos
I stumbled across something quite interesting over the last few days. It started out as a comment on my Facebook page. I had mentioned taking pictures of Paris and one of my readers asked to see them. It had been quite a while since I had last been to Paris, so I set about digging out the files. I had made many trips to this wonderful city a while ago, and I had taken lots of photographs, but it has been over 5 years since I was last there. Many of my earlier photos were taken on film, but some of the later ones were captures using my first digital camera, an Eos 300D. This, a paltry 6mp by todays standards, seemed to be the bees knees at the time. Amazingly enough, many of my Paris photos were still in my iPhoto library. They were from the early 2000's - between 2004 and 2005. When I look at them now I can't believe how green I was, photographically speaking. Still, the shots weren't bad compositionally, but they were suffering from both bad technique, and a lack of post processing. I had pretty crappy lenses back then too, and combined with a fairly basic, early digital camera, they don't really stand up to today's standards. I had an idea though...what If I applied some of the VSCO film presets to them in Lightroom.
When these shots were taken, Lightroom hadn't even been invented yet, so I figured that this would be an interesting experiment. I exported them all out of iPhoto and imported them into Lightroom. It's amazing how quick it is to manipulate 6mp images using modern software and hardware. As far as Lightroom is concerned these files are tiny. It's funny too, but when you go to zoom in to check for focus, they barely zoom in because todays monitors are nearly the same size as these images were. What may have been pixel peeping 7 or 8 years ago is now monitor resolution. Anyway, I started applying some of the presets and I was amazed at the difference. I'm amazed at how much better I was able to make the images look. I used a combination of VSCO Film 1 and Film 3. Film 3 has presets for Polaroid and other instant films and worked really well for some of the images that were lacking technically (slightly soft etc).
It made me realise something. For some reason, old analogue looks much better than old digital. With an analog feel these old images look nostalgic and artistic, where as before they looked a bit dated and weak. I have to say too, if you haven't tried them, you really have to check out the VSCO presets. They really are remarkable. If you haven't heard of them before, basically they are a set of presets for either Aperture, Lightroom or Camera Raw that emulate film. They don't require the use of a plug in or any extra software, they work as recipes for the respective host software. And they are remarkably accurate. I can't fathom the amount of work that must have gone into them. Anyway, After being impressed with how my Paris images were turning out I picked a few other images from my library too see how it would work on them. Even photos taken with an early Canon IXUS camera (which really isn't very good by today's standards) can be made look acceptable and good (the sunset images above.)
It's not all down to the presets either. Using modern image processing really helps. As you can imagine, early generation digital cameras weren't great with noise or high iso. I was pushing the shadows in a few of these, and the noise, especially the chroma noise, was quite bad. However, Lightroom's noise reduction made short work of the problem. I was also able to fix the blooming and colour fringing that would have been very difficult to fix years ago. Over all I'm really happy with the results. My little experiment has brought a new lease of life to some photos I had forgotten about, and in the process it has been a good learning experience to see where I've come from as a photographer, an how much I've progressed. It's also humbling as it showed me that it mays to never stop learning and never be afraid to try new (and old) things.
Here's some more images from my Paris archives for your viewing pleasure.