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Create A Faux Holga Effect In Photoshop
The Holga is a cheap (US $30) plastic medium format film camera mass-produced in China. Originally manufactured in the early 80’s for the home consumption, it has now gained cult status amongst bohemian western photographers who are drawn to the grunge ‘art’ aesthetic. The camera represents the antithesis of everything that the modern digital camera manufacturers are striving to achieve. If you are looking for edge-to-edge sharpness and color-fidelity then give the Holga a very wide berth. If, however you are looking to create images that are full of ‘character’, but without the hassle of going back to film, then you may like to look into the wonderful, and weird, world of Holga-style imagery and give this Photoshop workflow a spin (no Holga required).
Getting tired of pin-sharp, noise-free, character-free images from your 24 Megapixel Pro DSLR? Then try this grunge effect to give your images the toy camera aesthetic - think WEIRD – think GRUNGE, think ART! The treatment outlined in this tutorial is also available as an automated Photoshop action that can be downloaded from www.markgaler.com.
Images produced by the Holga camera are square so grab the Crop Tool from the Tools panel, hold down the Shift key to constrain the crop marquee to a perfect square and drag over the central portion of the start image. Hit the Commit icon or Return/Enter key to get rid of the unwanted pixels.
Duplicate the background layer using the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + J (PC) or Command + J (Mac). We will start to degrade the sharpness of your image (the Holga camera has a single simple lens element). With Layer 1 selected in the Layers panel go to Filter > Blur > Radial Blur. In the Radial Blur dialog box set the Amount to 3 and then select the Zoom and Best options. Click where you would like to preserve maximum sharpness in the Blur Center control box (to the right of the Zoom and Best options). There is an element of guesswork in this step but sharpness can be restored later in the process. I have selected the region in the lower centre (where I estimate the pedestrians to be crossing the bridge in the actual image). Select OK to apply the blur to Layer 1.
Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Select a Radius of 1.0 pixel and then select OK to apply the blur to Layer 1. Duplicate this blur layer by dragging the layer to the Create a new layer icon in the Layers panel. The next blur is called Diffuse Glow but to make sure the glow is white and not any other color we must set the Foreground and Background Colors to their Default setting (either click on the small Black and White box icon in the Tools panel or press the D key on the keyboard).
Try setting the Graininess and Glow Amounts to 4 and the Clear Amount to 17 as a starting point. You can increase the Graininess to simulate a high ISO film. Alternatively the grain can be set low in this dialog as we will have more control over how the grain looks if we apply it to a separate layer. Select OK to apply the Diffuse Glow to Layer 1.
To create a Grain layer, hold down the Alt key (PC) or Option key (Mac) and click on the Create a new layer icon at the base of the Layers panel. Holding down the Alt/Option key while clicking on the icon will open the New Layer dialog. Name the layer ‘Grain’, set the mode to Overlay and check the Fill with overlay-neutral color (50% gray) checkbox. Select OK to create the Layer. The effects of the layer will be invisible at this point in time (courtesy of the blend mode) until the grain is added in the next step.
In the Add Noise dialog set the Amount to 7% for a 12-Megapixel image (adjust it higher or lower if you are using a higher- or lower-resolution image). Choose the Gaussian option and select the Monochromatic checkbox before selecting OK to apply the Noise to the Grain layer. Adjust the opacity of the layer if the noise is too prominent.
We will now replicate the dark vignette that is a characteristic of Holga images. Select the Rectangular Marquee Tool and set the Feather to 150-pixels (adjust this higher or lower if you are using a higher- or lower-resolution image). Drag a rectangular selection so that the central portion of the image is selected (this will leave a border around the edge of the image that is not selected. From the Select menu choose Inverse and from the Edit menu choose Copy Merged to copy the edge pixels to the clipboard. From the Edit menu choose Paste.
The pixels will be pasted to a new layer (Layer 2). At the moment they are identical to the pixels on Layer 1 but when we select the Multiply mode from the Layers panel they can be used to darken down the edges of the image.
Another characteristic of the Holga image is the surreal color-palette that is present in many (but not all) Holga images. This is a result of either poor processing or cross processing of the film (cross processing intentionally uses the wrong chemicals for the film stock used). We can replicate this look with a just a few Adjustment layers. From the Create new fill or adjustment layer menu (accessed from the Layers panel) choose a Levels adjustment layer. Select the Blue Channel from the drop-down menu in the Levels dialog and then drag the Output Levels sliders to 64 and 190. The Output Levels sliders are located directly underneath the Input sliders. This action will weaken the blacks, render the whites slightly dull and introduce a color cast in both. Select the Green Channel and set the Output sliders to 40 and 230 to increase this effect.
Select the Red channel and drag the central gamma slider (directly underneath the histogram) to the left so that it reads 1.10. Clip the shadow and highlight tones by setting the Black input slider to 30 and the White input slider to 225 (these sliders are located directly underneath the histogram).
We can alter the color and tone using a Levels adjustment but we will need to use a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to alter global saturation levels and target specific colors for further attention. Start by raising the Saturation level to +25 in the Master channel. In the red channel Adjust the hue to -10 and raise the saturation to +20. In the Cyan and Blue channels raise the Saturation to +10 for both.
Note > Use these target values as a starting point only. When applying this technique to your own images you may like to try experimenting by raising the saturation levels of key colors within a specific image.
Too increase the overall contrast and fine-tune the brightness of the image add a Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer and adjust the sliders.
Some Holga images ‘suffer’ (or are ‘blessed with’ - depending how you look at it) from serious edge clipping and/or light leaks. The corner clipping can be unevenly distributed and more severe than your typical vignette. The corner clipping can be replicated by first creating a new layer and then making another edge selection using the Rectangular Marquee Tool with a 150-pixel feather as we did in step 7. Choose Inverse from the Select menu. Go to Select > Transform Selection (this feature only became available in Photoshop Elements 8). Zoom out so that you can see the corner handles of the Transform bounding box. Hold down the Ctrl key (PC) or Command key (Mac) and drag two of the four corner handles out in a diagonal direction. Commit the transformation by hitting the Return/Enter key.
Go to Edit > Fill selection and choose Black as the contents before selecting OK. Lower the opacity of the layer depending on how severe or subtle you want the effect to appear.
Light leaks in Holga camera’s appear as light orange patches on some frames (some Holga camera owners use black tape around the film loading area of the camera in an attempt to minimize this problem. These light leaks can be simulated by first adding a new empty layer, set the Mode to Screen, then click on the Foreground color swatch in the Tools panel to open the Color Picker. Select an orange color (around Hue 40°). Select OK and then select the Gradient Tool in the Tools panel. Choose the Foreground to Transparent gradient and the Linear Gradient options in the options bar and then drag a diagonal gradient across one of the corners of the image. Lower the opacity of the layer if you need more subtlety – although to be honest, subtlety if not the name of the game here.
The treatment outlined in this tutorial is also available as an automated Photoshop action that can be downloaded from www.markgaler.com
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