Photography often seeks to capture the essence of a moment, but sometimes adding a touch of nostalgia can elevate the emotional impact of an image. Lightroom presets designed to give photos an “old photo” look can effectively transport viewers back in time, imbuing modern images with a vintage charm. In this article, we’ll explore how to use Lightroom presets to achieve an old photo look, discuss the styles and notable works that utilize this aesthetic, and answer frequently asked questions about these presets.

Understanding Lightroom Presets for an Old Photo Look

Lightroom presets are pre-configured settings that apply specific adjustments to your photos with a single click. An old photo preset typically emulates the characteristics of vintage photography, including faded colors, sepia tones, grain, vignettes, and reduced contrast. These elements collectively create a nostalgic, timeless effect reminiscent of photos from the past.

Styles of Old Photo Presets

  1. Sepia Tones: This style mimics the warm brown tones of early photographic prints, adding a soft, antique feel to your images.
  2. Black and White: Converting images to black and white, combined with adjustments in contrast and grain, can create a classic, timeless look.
  3. Faded Colors: Lowering the saturation and adding a slight color wash can replicate the appearance of aged, discolored prints.
  4. Film Grain: Adding grain to photos gives them texture and the look of old film stock, enhancing the vintage feel.
  5. Vignettes: Darkening the edges of the photo can draw attention to the center and mimic the natural wear of old photographs.

Notable Work Using Old Photo Presets

  1. Vivian Maier: A renowned street photographer whose work often features a classic, timeless aesthetic. Her black-and-white images capture everyday life with a sense of nostalgia that is enhanced by the grain and contrast typical of older photographic techniques.
  2. Sally Mann: Known for her evocative black-and-white portraits and landscapes, Sally Mann’s work often carries a vintage quality. Her use of large-format cameras and traditional development techniques brings a historic, textured feel to her images.
  3. Henri Cartier-Bresson: Often referred to as the father of modern photojournalism, Cartier-Bresson’s black-and-white street photography is imbued with a timeless quality, thanks in part to the natural grain and contrast of the film used.

Creating the Old Photo Look with Lightroom Presets

To create an old photo look using Lightroom presets:

  1. Choose a Preset: Start by selecting a preset that aligns with the vintage style you want. There are many free and paid options available online, or you can create your own by adjusting the settings manually.
  2. Adjust Tone Curves: Modify the tone curves to soften contrasts and create a more faded look. The highlights and shadows can be adjusted to reduce overall image sharpness.
  3. Add Grain: Increase the grain setting to add texture and mimic the appearance of old film.
  4. Apply Vignette: Darken the edges of your photo slightly to draw the viewer’s eye towards the center and create a vintage feel.
  5. Color Adjustments: Experiment with sepia tones or reduce the saturation for a faded color effect. Split toning can also be used to add color tints to the shadows and highlights.


Can I create my own old photo preset in Lightroom?
Yes, you can create your own old photo preset by adjusting settings like tone curves, grain, vignetting, and color adjustments. Once you achieve the desired look, you can save the settings as a preset for future use.

Are there free Lightroom presets available for an old photo look?
Yes, there are many websites and online communities where you can find free Lightroom presets that provide an old photo effect. Be sure to download from reputable sources to ensure quality and compatibility.

How do I install Lightroom presets?
To install Lightroom presets, open Lightroom and navigate to the Develop module. In the Presets panel, right-click and select “Import Presets.” Choose the preset files from your computer and click “Import.”

Can I use old photo presets on any type of image?
Old photo presets can be applied to any type of image, but they work particularly well with portraits, street photography, and still life images. The nostalgic effect may not suit all types of photography, so use your judgment based on the image content.

How do I adjust a preset to better fit my photo?
After applying a preset, you can fine-tune the settings in the Develop module. Adjustments to exposure, contrast, and color balance can help tailor the preset to better fit your specific photo.


Using Lightroom presets to give your photos an old photo look is a great way to add a sense of history and nostalgia to your images. By understanding the various styles and techniques, you can transform modern photos into timeless pieces of art.

This page was last edited on 29 May 2024, at 9:32 am