Retro is trendy again! And you like it. Whether it’s just because it’s popular, or dark, grainy photos that please your eye, you have to admit that vintage photography has that special something.
So, it’s only natural that you want the same look for your photos.
Now, I don’t want to point any fingers, but many “retro cameras” you can find in the Play Store won’t take you too far. Sure, these apps offer some basic filters and options, but the result is usually dissatisfying.
On the other, there are a few legit tools that can help you make your photos like they were taken in the 90s. However, even those apps won’t just magically transform your photos. Any kind of editing requires skills and at least some basic knowledge of photography. So, don’t get your hopes too high, if you lack the skillset. Your photos simply won’t be as stunning as those of celebrities you keep seeing on your Instagram feed.
1- Huji Cam
Remember those disposable Fuji cameras all the cool kids had back in the 90s? Huji Cam brings that very same experience to your Android phone. Even the app’s interface resembles using a Fuji camera. That way, you’ll feel like you’re snapping photos with a physical camera, which is a nice touch.
But the representative looks are not the only feature Huji Cam has to offer. There are numerous filters, light leaks, and even dust effects that will transform your photos into a little piece of retro-looking art. The app even allows you to create “recipes”, which is a set of instructions you can apply to each photo you take, so you don’t have to edit it all over again.
In a sea of gimmicky apps that fail to live up to their Play Store descriptions, Huji Cam stands out. It’s probably the easiest app to use out of all the apps mentioned here, which creates a perfect balance. You could probably get better results with a more versatile app, but if you just want to make solid retro photos with minimal effort, Huji Cam is the way to go.
Huji Cam is available for free in the Play Store. However, there’s also a premium version that will give you even more options and tools to play with.
VSCO is not your ordinary photo-editing app. It’s a blend of a decently powerful photo editor and a streamlined social network. The emphasis is on creativity, artistry, and showcasing an author’s work, rather than on attention-grabbing, ego-feeding, or peer-pressuring. Kind of like Instagram in reverse.
The app isn’t specifically designed for creating retro photos. However, it offers a toolset that allows you to implement any style you like. On top of that, retro is widespread on the platform, so you can even steal a few ideas, and implement them in your work.
When it comes to editing, VSCO offers numerous tools. Naturally, you’ll start by applying a filter. There are dozens of filters you can use, so you’ll have to go through them all until you find the one that gives that vintage look to your image. After choosing the right filter, you can further fine-tune your photo with various editing tools. You’ll probably want to adjust contrast, white balance, tint, and most importantly add grain.
The biggest downside of VSCO is that it’s not entirely free. In fact, you’ll have to pay for the premium version to gain access to the most (the best) filters. The free version is very limited, and it probably won’t allow you to fulfill every idea you have in mind.
All in all, VSCO is a great tool not just for retro photos, but also for editing in general. Plus you can use it as an alternative social network to showcase your work or get new ideas.
Snapseed is a regular photo-editing app, and creating retro photos is not its primary function. However, the creators of this tool (and that’s none other than Google!), have recognized the peak in popularity of this art form, so they’ve implemented a few features for editing photos in the retro style.
Unlike most reprograms out there, Snapssed isn’t centered around filters, as there are only a few of them offered. Instead, this app gives you more freedom with its rich library of editing tools.
If we talk about features that specifically allow you to create retro photos, you’ll be happy to experiment with the Vintage feature, as it will probably give you better results than most filters in other apps. Of course, there’s also the Grainy film feature that will add additional effects to your photo, along with the grain effect. Because what’s a retro photo without overly-exposed grain?
For more advanced users, there’s the Curves tool that can help you fine-tune your photos, and give them that recognizable green or pink tint that characterizes pretty much every retro photo out there.
All in all, if you want to fully be in charge of editing your photos, instead of aiming for a filter to do the job for you, Snapseed might just be your cup of tea.
4- Adobe Lightroom
Adobe is a multimedia-editing-software juggernaut, of course, its app is on the list. In fact, a few of Adobe’s apps could’ve made the cut, but I decided to go with Lightroom because it’s a choice of many professional and amateur photographers and artists.
Lightroom is the most advanced tool on the list. Its wide array of features allows you to do whatever you want with your photos. But as such, it’s also the most complex tool on the list, with the biggest learning curve. Nevertheless, once you find your way around it, rewards are plentiful.
Since we’re talking retro photos, there’s no need to dive deep into Lightroom’s limitless options and features. Instead, we’ll narrow it down to the vintage photo-creating tools. And in this department, Curves and Color mix are your best friends. Master these tools, and you’ll create stunning retro photos. Lightroom also employs an increasing number of AI-powered features that will help you achieve the end result you’re looking for.
As I said, Lightroom requires commitment. Especially if you’re new to photo editing. But you’re not alone in this. There are numerous resources online, including an abundance of YouTube videos that explain how to use different techniques and styles. On top of that, Lightroom has its own Tutorial section where artists explain the fundamentals of editing.
I created a few nice retro-looking photos following the advice from Steven Wommack, so you should check him out.
Another great thing about Afterlight is that its free version offers just enough, so you don’t have to pay for the premium license. In fact, I only advise you to buy the subscription if you’re serious about photography, as its $11 a month, which is more than Netflix in some countries.
Vaporgram is another level. It’s not a photo editor, it’s a meme-spawning machine! If you’re familiar with the vaporwave subculture, you’re going to love this app, as it allows you to create your own vaporwave photos and memes.
And as a vaporwave generator, it features everything you’d want from such an app. Want to glitch your images into oblivion? You got it! Want to add ridiculous light leaks, textures, and effects? It’s all in there!
There’s also a wide range of filters that will enhance your creations even more. And if you’re really into creating surreal vaporwave magic, there’s a huge library of related images and frames you can add to your photos.
Of course, you can use this app for creating “regular” retro-looking images. In fact, this is probably the easiest-to-use app on this list. You can get stunning retro images with just a few taps (and right filters). Depending on the original material, you could get the best results with Vaporgram out of all the apps mentioned here.
Vaporgram is completely free to use, which makes this app even more appealing. There’s also a Premium version, but it won’t make a big difference. The main purpose of it is for you to support the developer, which you should definitely do if you find Vaporgram to be your thing.
We conclude our list here. Playing with retro photos is fun and rewarding, but not always easy. So, whether you choose the hard or the easy way, you now have the tools. The only thing that could possibly limit you is your own imagination. And your skillset.