Breathe Old Life Into New Photos

I bet you found your way to this story by searching for "how to breathe new life into old photos".

What you’ve found is a story about how to breathe old life into new photos!

However, you got here – welcome!

Back in October I posted a story about creating classic analog photos in the digital age using DxO Film Pack 7.

Here I am talking about creating older style photos from recently captured images using the new On1 Photo RAW 2024. Hence – how to breathe old life into new photos!

This came about in a round-about sort of way in that having recently purchased On1 2024 I decided to use it as my “go to” photo processing app, in preference to DxO Photolab/Nik combination while away from home on our latest motorhome trip.

We left home in Invercargill in early December 2023 and travelled up the West Coast of NZ’s South Island. My camera stayed in sleep mode in its bag for the first few days and it wasn’t until we got to Haast that I took my first photo.

This is a candid, opportunistic shot and it was processed with On1’s basic/neutral black-and-white setting.

coffee at haast 6264 - on1 neutral black and white setting
Taking a break in Haast.

I’m happy to stop anytime on a road trip and grab a coffee and enjoy it, but this couple looks totally bored with the whole taking a break thing…and just maybe, life in general.

As I mentioned earlier, this was using On1 Photo RAW’s “neutral “black and white preset in the effects module. A little later I’ll show you a basic comparison of this preset with Nik’s neutral preset.

In this next photograph I like the simplicity of the lancewood tree dominating the view out to the horizon of the Tasman Sea.

breathe old life into new photos - knights point west coast south island new zealand
The view from Knights Point

The original colour version of this view from Knights Point looking out over the Tasman Sea didn’t really grab me as there was an undefined hazy blue division between the horizon and the sky.

I realise that you haven’t seen the original, but in my eyes, this black-and-white version works.

This was created using On1’s black-and-white amidol effect LUT.

If you are a Nik Collection user, as am I, you’ll be aware that not every photograph you capture can be tweaked using Analog Efex or Silver Efex to breathe old life into new photos. Many “new” photos just do not work with an old-fashioned/retro look applied to them, so I have tried to be very selective in choosing my new photos to breathe old life into.

On1 b/w neutral Nik Silver Efex b/w neutral

Above is a comparison between On1 Photo RAW’s neutral black and white preset (left side) and Nik Silver Efex Pro’s neutral black and white preset (right side).

They look incredibly close to one another to me.

Further up the West Coast is the small settlement of Whataroa – population less than 300.

From memory Whataroa boasts an old pub (closed!), a petrol station, a cafe in the main street, and this general store.

general store whataroa
The General Store, Whataroa

The General Store was processed using On1’s AI Brilliance (auto setting) before converting to black and white using a black and white titanium LUT, finished with a light grunge effect, vignette and a white keyline border.

I have to say On1 Photo RAW is so easy to use! And with so many options you can come up with almost any end result imaginable.

develop dynamic contast black and white neutral vignette6277 - whataroa pub closed
Closed pub Whataroa

It might say Meals and Accom on the roof – but the old pub at the end of Whataroa’s main street is closed!

The Preset used a black-and-white, neutral setting with a few minor tweaks and a small amount of dynamic contrast.

But to go back to the basic premise of this story…

Why would you want to breathe old life into new photos? 

Or rather, why would I want to do it?

I can think of a few reasons – not least of which is – “because I can…”

But the next couple of photos really show why I have done, and enjoy doing, this.

It was a grey, drizzly day when I set off on my bike with the express purpose of taking a few photos. The sky was dull and lifeless, and the farm buildings that I passed lacked the usual exuberance – or should that be vibrance? – I would normally expect from a combination of farm shed weathered-old-timber-dereliction and rusty red painted corrugated iron.

instant film emulation in3 black and white6306
Old farm shed

This Old farm shed was close beside the road and I saw straight away that the image would lend itself to an old-life treatment.

It was applied very simply using the On1 Instant Film Emulation Preset #3 with no other adjustments whatsoever. I rather like the one-click result.

Farm building - Moutere Valley

Farm building – Moutere Valley is also an On1 one-click-wonder…even easier than the Instant Film Emulation used for the Old farm shed above.

It is someone else’s style.

As well as a selection of AI Adaptive Presets, On1 Photo RAW 2024 also features an AI Style Advisor panel comprising a selection labelled My Style (On 1 analyses your personal adjustments over time and stores a selection as style presets), and On1 Team style – a selection of styles created by the On1 Team on a range of similar photos.

I just chose a style from On1 Team and applied it – easy as.

Short and (hopefully) sweet – but that is one way that I breathe old life into new photos. 

I know I shall be using On1 Photo RAW 2024 more, and as I become more accustomed to its wide set of features, I may even come to prefer it over other apps I have used.

Next time – and hopefully sooner rather than later – another story from The Lazy Photographer.

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