Photo Tip – Add ‘aged look’ or save a mistake using texture effects

Today’s article will be short, but pretty powerful.  Have you ever wondered how others create aged looks or background textures in their images?  You may think this can only be achieved by purchasing plug-in tools.  I know I thought there was some technical challenges to creating this effect without purchasing something.  Well, it’s much simpler than you thought.

For today’s tutorial, I am going to present to images that were nice composition opportunities when I spotted them in the field, but for various reasons, I was not able to capture the moment.  With both shots, I pretty much felt the opportunity was lost, but with the aid of concepts within this article, I created digital art worth printing.

Here is the trick

What you want to do is to go out with your camera and shoot boring flat surfaces.  Specifically, photograph macadam roadway, dirt, concrete, stone faces, marble, woodgrain, even grass.  These photos will become your texture library.

I know sounds a little lame.  Here are a couple of textures from my library:

Some of my texture library

As you can see, they are everyday surfaces.  Nothing special.  The trick is to insert a copy of one of these textures into a separate layer when processing your images.  Once you have the texture as a layer, you can adjust the opacity to create the desired effect.  Normally I find an opacity from 10 to 35% is about right.  A simple tutorial but it works.  To make my point, I am going to use two really bad images by me.

Example 1: Two giraffes crossing

As shot: Two Giraffes Crossing in front of the sun

As you can see, I was shooting into the sun, so I have heavy mid-afternoon backlight.  In processing the image, the first thing I attempted was to use shadows/highlights to attempt to recover some detail from the dark regions.  While I had some success, I was not happy with the blown sky nor with the color cast on the animals so I decided to convert the image to black and white and vignette the edges:

Two Giraffes Crossing in B&W with vignette

As you can see, this helped, but the image is still not distinctive.  Two choices, throw the image away or try creating digital art by adding a texture layer.  Here is the texture I chose for this image:

Granite rock face texture

Why did I pick this particular layer?  It was really intuitive.  I felt that the blown background needed something with a fine grain.  I am sure other textures could have also been used.  The opacity of the texture was lowered to about 25% and here is the final effect:

Two Giraffes Passing - photo © P. B. Eleazer

Example 2: Jousting Elephants

Elephants jousting at dusk

This shot was taken from a fast moving boat at dusk as we headed back to the lodge.  I saw the scene and I snapped.  In Photoshop (actually CS3), I tried to clone out distracting elephants and recover detail.  I had limited luck, but I do like the composition.  In this case, I converted the image to a sepia duotone:

Composition with sepia duotone

Once more, I have the choice of throw away or try textures.  I’ve applied this texture at an opacity of 12%:

Stucco wall texture applied

The result is interesting.  Not great, but interesting.  I probably will never print this particular image, but I feel it is ‘good enough’ to used to make my point of this article.

Jousting Elephants - © P. B. Eleazer

Conclusion:

  • Textures can create interesting effects on your photography
  • You do not have to buy plug-ins to get started with textures.  Textures are all around you
  • While good for adding effects such as age to great shots, textures can also be used to recover shots with mistakes.

7 comments for “Photo Tip – Add ‘aged look’ or save a mistake using texture effects

  1. Sam
    July 31, 2010 at 9:18 am

    Nice article Buddy. I’ve got lots of photos that would apply. Have you ever tried rusted textures? That seems to be popular with portraits. Really like the elephants.

  2. P. B. Eleazer
    July 31, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    Sam, thanks for the comment. I am relatively new to textures, but did add some rust to my collection. I liked that the rust (at least mine) imparted a reddish brown tone to the photos.

  3. P. B. Eleazer
    July 31, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    Sam, thanks for the comment. I am relatively new to textures, but did add some rust to my collection. I liked that the rust (at least mine) imparted a reddish brown tone to the photos.

  4. August 1, 2010 at 7:57 am

    That 2nd photo looks a suspicious amount like my, not that great photo. I can tell because of the drunken horizon at a 15 degree angle. Why do I do that LOL.

  5. August 1, 2010 at 7:57 am

    That 2nd photo looks a suspicious amount like my, not that great photo. I can tell because of the drunken horizon at a 15 degree angle. Why do I do that LOL.

  6. P. B. Eleazer
    August 1, 2010 at 9:27 am

    Justin, clearly has ‘your tilt’, but I think this one was my camera. As you know, we were both shooting away at that moment. I will check the EXIF data and if this is yours, I will make sure copyright is properly assigned on the image.

  7. P. B. Eleazer
    August 1, 2010 at 9:27 am

    Justin, clearly has ‘your tilt’, but I think this one was my camera. As you know, we were both shooting away at that moment. I will check the EXIF data and if this is yours, I will make sure copyright is properly assigned on the image.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *