Foundations of Photography: Specialty Lenses
Illustration by Petra Stefankova

Getting the lo-fi Holga look


Foundations of Photography: Specialty Lenses

with Ben Long

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Video: Getting the lo-fi Holga look

The Holga attachment that we looked at earlier, the Lensbaby lens that we looked at earlier, certain filters that you might put on a lens, all of these allow you to create a grungy beat-up low-fi toy camera look. This is a look that most people are familiar with through applications such as Instagram and Hipstamatic. Those applications simply take a normal picture and postprocess them using image editing tricks to create their toy camera looks. And there's no reason you can't do the same thing here in Photoshop. And I'm just going to show you a few little things here that allow you to create a more beat-up toy camera effect.
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  1. 4m 10s
    1. Welcome
      1m 46s
    2. Roadmap of the course
      2m 24s
  2. 3m 53s
    1. Words about focal length
      2m 6s
    2. Understanding camera position
      1m 47s
  3. 39m 19s
    1. What filters are for
      2m 37s
    2. Shopping for filters
      3m 55s
    3. Understanding neutral density filters
      4m 53s
    4. Applying neutral density filters
      3m 55s
    5. Polarizing filters
      3m 4s
    6. Some shooting tips for working with a polarizing filter
      2m 32s
    7. Using infrared filters
      9m 15s
    8. Processing the infrared image
      6m 7s
    9. Handling stuck filters
      3m 1s
  4. 38m 37s
    1. Working with ultra-wide lenses
      7m 19s
    2. Using a wide-angle lens
      4m 43s
    3. Understanding fisheye lenses
      4m 2s
    4. Working with fisheye lenses
      3m 59s
    5. Understanding fisheye exposure
      3m 3s
    6. Taking fisheye further
      4m 16s
    7. Processing fisheye and wide-angle images
      7m 38s
    8. Correcting tone in fisheye images
      3m 37s
  5. 35m 37s
    1. Understanding super telephoto
      6m 21s
    2. Shooting distant subjects
      8m 26s
    3. Compressing the sense of depth
      7m 53s
    4. Working with shallow depth of field
      5m 35s
    5. Working with teleconverters
      2m 38s
    6. Editing telephoto images
      4m 44s
  6. 16m 47s
    1. Understanding macro basics
      2m 47s
    2. Shooting close
      4m 52s
    3. Shooting macro
      5m 20s
    4. Working with a point-and-shoot for macro
      1m 58s
    5. Using a two-lens strategy
      1m 50s
  7. 16m 39s
    1. Understanding tilt shift
      3m 37s
    2. Correcting perspective
      4m 29s
    3. Creating the toy effect
      4m 41s
    4. Deepening depth of field
      3m 52s
  8. 32m 39s
    1. Working with specialty lenses
      2m 43s
    2. Using the Lensbaby
      9m 13s
    3. Working with the Lensbaby Macro attachment
      3m 50s
    4. Shooting with a Holga attachment
      3m 4s
    5. Using an alternative mount lens
      2m 18s
    6. Using super-fast lenses
      1m 47s
    7. Correcting Lensbaby images
      9m 44s
  9. 39m 48s
    1. Correcting perspective
      10m 41s
    2. Creating the toy effect
      6m 31s
    3. Getting the lo-fi Holga look
      11m 17s
    4. Reproducing the effect of a Lensbaby
      8m 17s
    5. Cropping and enlarging images
      3m 2s
  10. 2m 47s
    1. Choosing whether to borrow or buy
      2m 0s
    2. Goodbye

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Watch the Online Video Course Foundations of Photography: Specialty Lenses
3h 50m Intermediate Dec 17, 2012

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

Join photographer, author, and teacher Ben Long on location in San Francisco as he explores the creative options provided by the kinds of lenses and lens accessories that don't always make it into most camera bags.

The course begins with a look at several common and inexpensive lens attachments, from polarizers to neutral density filters. The course then explores ultra-wide angle and fisheye lenses as well as ultra-long telephoto and macro lenses. The course concludes with a look at tilt-shift lenses, which are useful for architectural photography and special effects, and at offbeat lenses, such as Lensbaby and Holga attachments.

The course also contains Photoshop postproduction advice and examples that illustrate the creative possibilities that an expanded lens collection provides. And because some specialty lenses are extremely expensive, the course also contains advice on renting gear.

Ben Long

Getting the lo-fi Holga look

The Holga attachment that we looked at earlier, the Lensbaby lens that we looked at earlier, certain filters that you might put on a lens, all of these allow you to create a grungy beat-up low-fi toy camera look. This is a look that most people are familiar with through applications such as Instagram and Hipstamatic. Those applications simply take a normal picture and postprocess them using image editing tricks to create their toy camera looks. And there's no reason you can't do the same thing here in Photoshop. And I'm just going to show you a few little things here that allow you to create a more beat-up toy camera effect.

The first thing you might do is what I'm going to do right here, and that is to crop your image to a square. Most of the low-fi looks are built around the square format, because then you look like you're working with an old box camera or any one of the old square film formats. So I'm just going to take that out to a square and then I'm going to open my image in Photoshop. One way to figure out how to create a low-fi look is to go shoot some images with Hipstamatic or Instagram and simply try and take a part what it is they do. One of the things they do is they create images where the blacks are really crushed--dark areas have no detail and then they go to complete black.

Similarly, white areas are very overexposed. And of course color ends up with a very different saturation and a very different quality. Here's a quick way to, with just one edit, get all of those things. No, okay, actually it's three edits, but conceptually, it's just one edit. What we're going to do is we're going to stack two layers and blend them in a particular way. But before we do that, we're going to manipulate them a little bit. I'm going to take this layer and do just what I said. I'm going to crush the blacks. I'm going to blow out the whites, so you can see that I've lost detail here. All of these stuff has gone to complete black.

I'm not paying attention to numbers in any way. I'm just dragging the sliders. I want to brighten up the mids because the crushing the blacks is going to make an image that prints a little darker, and I want to brighten things up some so I'm just going to pull those up. Again, I'm being really rough here. I'm not worrying about exact stuff. This is supposed to be a very analog rough- looking image, so it's okay if I don't nail this in some perfect conceptual way. I did not use an adjustment layer. I actually physically altered this image. Well, I didn't physically altered it, but I permanently altered this image.

I baked that Levels adjustment in. I'm now going to duplicate that layer, and I'm going to do the same thing to the duplicate. I'm going to further crush the blacks, and I'm going to further blow out the whites, and I'm going to brighten up the mids some more. I'm going through all of these things very quickly, I know. I'm assuming that you're familiar with these Photoshop steps. There are lots of Photoshop courses you can take throughout the lynda library that will bring you up just being on what the Levels dialog box is, what layers are, and so forth. So I'm hoping your understanding what I mean when I say that I'm dropping the blacks out to complete black, overexposing the highlights, and brightening up the midtones.

So now, I've got two layers that are mostly identical. One has got a little more of an extreme edit on it than the other. What I want to do now is change the blending mode of the top layer. If I pop this open, I get a list of options that let me change how different layers are combined. Normally, when I'm in Normal blending mode, a higher layer simply replaces a lower layer. But if I pick a different thing here, I can change how they combine. So, for example, if I choose Soft Light, I get this effect. I choose Hard Light, I get this effect.

Everything in this category is going to lighten the image. Up here, where it says Darken, Multiply, Color Burn, all these effects are going to create an image that is ultimately darker. I'm going to go with Soft Light. I like what this is doing. It's giving me those overwrought colors that you often get from a toy camera look, and I've got total black here, total white there. It really looks like a bad exposure, and who wouldn't want that, after all? Really, that's what we're going for with this kind of look. If I like, I can attenuate the look a little bit by lowering the opacity of the upper layer.

That's going to let more of that lower layer come through. There are lots of other ways I can attenuate this look. Obviously, we'll look at a couple of this in a minute. I need to get on to the rest of the low-fi look, though. These images are often very noisy, if you're going for a low-fi. There is a filter up here called Add Noise. I could just add that to my upper filter, but my upper filter is being blended with the lower filter, and that would be a destructive edit. I would really like more control over my noise, so I'm going to add it to its own layer. The way I'm going to do that is to create a new empty layer with my New Layer button down here.

I'm going to pick a middle-gray color, and then I'm going to fill the layer with this color. There are a lot of different ways of doing that. I'm going to do it with the Paint Bucket tool. So now I've got a layer that's all gray. And then I'm going to go up here to Filter > Noise > Add Noise, and I'm going to add some monochrome Gaussian noise. I'm going to add, I don't know, this much. So now I have a bunch of noise. If I go back and change my blending mode to Soft Light, it's blending that noise into the underlying layer.

Again, because this is its own layer, I can change opacity if I want to lessen the noise. If I decide I would actually like more noise than that, I can simply go back up here to my Noise menu, choose Add Noise again, turn up the Noise. This will simply replace the noise that was there before. It's not cumulative. So this is great. Now, I've got some noise in my image. These types of images are often heavily vignetted, and you also saw that with the Holga attachments. So let's add a vignette. I'm going to take these two layers and merge them, because I am confident in the color effect that I have there.

I'm not going to want to change those. And now I'll add a vignette to this layer. So I'm going to go to Filter > Lens Correction. If I go over here to the Custom tab, I have vignette controls. So I'm just going to slide the Amount slider down to darken the image. So, there we go. I've got a nice vignette around the image. What's cool is my noise is being laid on top of that vignette. So this is looking pretty good. I've got a pretty beat-up image. It's noisy. It's got a vignette. It's got this weird color. It's got this strange contrast ratio.

Maybe I wanted a cooler image, though. Maybe I was looking for more of a cool los-fi look. I can easily get that if I go down here and add an adjustment layer called Photo Filter. You can see by default I got a warming filter. My image is warm enough already. I don't want that, but I could also throw on a cooling filter. And now I've totally changed the color palette of the image. I can change the density of the filter. I can even change the color that's being applied. I've got a few different cooling filters here. So this is a way that I can easily change the color palette. This is something you can't do that easily with low-fi application on your cellphone, is really go back and change to look after, and I can do that here.

I'm going to stick with the original warming. Well, now, I think I'll keep the cooling. I like it. So that's another edit that I can make. A lot of these low-fi apps will add dust and scratches and texture to your image. We can do that easily enough here. I'm going to create another empty layer, and this time I'm going to set black and white, our foreground and background back to black and white. And I'm going to go to Filter > Render > Clouds. And that's going to give me a layer filled with clouds that's now being rendered a little bit blue because of my photo filter. And I'm just going to do my Soft Light trick again.

I'm going to change the blending mode of the cloud layer to Soft Light, and now it's compositing the clouds over my entire image. This looks a little bit look like I'm looking at the image through a screen door or something. That's not quite what I wanted. I don't like the carpet looking stained. So I'm going to mask this off a little bit. I'm going to add a layer mask to this layer. And now, if I just grab the paintbrush and paint with black paint, I can remove the clouds from different parts of the image. So I think I'll leave them maybe up here on the wall and on the screen.

Maybe I'll take them off of Larry's face. I kind of like them on the guitar. So now, I've added some texture. If I wanted to add that pattern in to a more varying degree, I could paint with a shade of gray, and that's going to give me a little bit of masking in those areas. So this is a way that I can drop other textures onto my image. I could go out on the web and very easily find scans of scratched film or other grungy artifacts that I could then simply composite on my image, by dropping those scans into their own layer in choosing Soft Light.

So I want you to think about this as a way to work when you want to grunge up an image, that by duplicating a base layer and changing its blending mode, I get changes in contrast and exposure, particularly if I'm manipulating the levels on the individual layers. And I can drop noise and scratches and texture and other artifacts on top of the image by sticking those artifacts in their own layer and changing their blending modes to Soft Light. And I can tone and color the image after the fact with a photo filter adjustment layer. If you do this type of edit a lot and you get to look that you like, you can record it as an action and then easily apply it to lots of other images.

If this is something you really need to do an awful lot, then you might want to consider using a plugin such Alien Skin Exposure 4. I'm going to open one more image here and show you Exposure. Exposure is a film stock simulator. It's got a big list of very specific film stocks, and it will make your image look as if it were shot with those analog film stocks. So this is great if you are used to shooting with a particular film look, if you're trying to merge an image with a particular film stock. You can see I've got a long list of films of all kinds, very specific films, and I've also got, down here, Lo-fi.

And I've got Lo-fi cross processed also. And so I can just go through here and pick a look. I'll try some Kodak Ektar 100 with Dust. I'm sure that's just what you were thinking; you wanted some Kodak Ektar 100 with Dust. It's going to apply that filter and when it's done, I will have a nice low-fi-looking really analog image, complete with dust spots and scratches. What's cool about this dust spots and scratches is that they are not simply a composite of scan dust. They are procedural. The computer is making up what they look like algorithmically, which means if I apply this effect to a bunch of images and line them up side by side, they won't obviously all have the same dust.

Finally, one last thing I want to take a look at. In Camera Raw, I have the option to add a vignette and to add noise. Over here in the Effects tab I've got Grain. I'm going to really show you some big chunky grain. It does a very good job of adding realistic-looking film green. And I've got the option to add a vignette. There are two vignette controls in Camera Raw. There's this one in the Effects tab. There's also this one in the Lens Correction tab. This is the better tool of both because it works on a cropped image and because it creates, through this highlight priority style, a very realistic-looking vignette. A bright light here in the corner would still show through. There are some other styles I can choose.

The problem with these is you have to apply this to your raw file before you get into the Photoshop. So then if you start manipulating color exposure in Photoshop, it's going to change your noise and your vignette. So I don't recommend using these in Camera Raw if you're planning on adding additional effects in Photoshop like we saw here. So these are some simple ways you can grunge and beat up your images to get that toy look. That way if you are out shooting regular images and decide later that you should have been using a Lensbaby or a Holga or maybe your cell phone, you've got the option of adding these effects.

Also, of course, your camera has a tremendous advantage over your cell phone, in that it captures far more pixels so you can print your toy images much larger.

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