Getting the retro look starts with your shooting style. Here are some cool techniques to get you started

Retro photography is all the rage at the moment. from the out of focus, heavily vignetted results

are almost as many retro looks as there are other styles of digital photography put together. So it’s not surprising that getting to grips with retro can be a bit confusing. Looking at much that passes for retro or lo-fi photography, it might seem like it’s

simply a matter of snapping away and applying some Photoshop magic. Yet, as with any photographic style, you’ll get the best results if you shoot carefully and try to expose the image correctly in-camera. Read on for more advice…

from ‘lo-fi’ cameras such as the Holga and Lomo, to the distinctive colours and tones of much-loved vintage film, there

wHIte balance

Set your camera to its Daylight white balance setting, as most traditional films were designed for daylight colour temperature. for more stylised images, you can deliberately use ‘wrong’ white balance settings to shift the colour balance of your shots and emulate film/filter effects.

In-camera effects

almost every camera has a black-and-white shooting mode, and many now offer retro effects too, which can be applied as you shoot or in-camera post-capture.

up tHe Iso

We’d normally recommend choosing the lowest ISO setting for cleaner shots, but don’t be afraid to go for a high ISO and treat the increased noise as part of your retro riffing.


there’s a ‘shoot from the hip’ aspect to retro photography, but that doesn’t mean you should leave your composition completely to chance. the two main composition tricks that set this style apart are placing subjects in the middle of the frame, and positioning them at the extreme edges, although more normal composition ‘rules’ can still be applied. When attempting the more extreme effects, such as extreme grain, or soft focus to replicate plastic lenses, keep the composition as simple as possible to make the subject and composition stand out.


the exposure systems in most of the film cameras you’re trying to emulate were very basic, so the results were often a bit crude, too. So when exposing for retro images, don’t fret about losing highlight or shadow detail. that doesn’t mean you should completely ignore the exposure, but don’t be afraid to underexpose or overexpose your shots for creative effect – use the +/- exposure compensation button, or shoot in Manual.


Despite the blurry appearance of many retro-style shots, you must pay attention to focus – especially if you’re using shallow depth of field. But you don’t necessarily have to have the point of focus slap bang on the main subject.