Cross process digital photos for a cool retro look

Here’s how you give your photos that vibrant but grungy retro style like the ‘Bad Luck and Good Times on the Appalachian Trail’ photos in OCSPLORA Volume 03.
Image edits in Google Picasa

Picasa is possibly the best free app ever developed for Mac and PC. It is Google’s take on photo management software, and it’s a pretty good take.

I’m a Photoshop user, but for polishing up digital photos I don’t even bother with Photoshop. I just open up Picasa and click ‘I’m Feeling Lucky’ in the ‘Commonly needed fixes’ tab which does an automatic light and color correction that usually gets good results without any other tweaking. Then I crop if necessary. Boom. Done.

There are a bunch of cool, simple tweaks you can do with Picasa, but my current favorite is ‘Cross Process’ (under the green tab on the Edit Controls sidebar).

In pre-digital photography, cross processing referred to the practice of developing film in different chemicals than what would normally be used for that film, resulting in high contrast, over saturated colors. Now it is common to find apps like Instagram and Picasa replicating the effects of cross processing on digital photos.

Not every photo looks good with Picasa’s ‘Cross Process’ applied, but I’ve had pretty good luck, especially on outdoor photos. You will notice the greens and yellows get intensified and the whole photo gets a bold, 70s kind of look. Or at least what I imagine a 70s kind of look to look like.

Here is the raw photo which became the cover for the ‘Bad Luck and Good Times on the Appalachian Trail’ story:

Raw photo for 'Bad Luck and Good Times' cover

And now with ‘Cross Process’ applied:

'Bad Luck and Good Times' cover, cross-processed with Picasa

And finally, I used ‘Vignette’ (under the blue tab on the Edit Controls sidebar) to finish it, which darkens the edges of the image:

'Bad Luck and Good Times' cover, cross-processed with vignetting

Pretty cool, right?

The changes you make in Picasa won’t be applied permanently to the image file until you save them. Picasa does keep a backup of your original image when you save your tweaked version, which takes up a lot of extra disk space, but at least you know the original is still around if you need it. You can also export the image to a new file on your computer and then undo the changes you’ve made to the original image in Picasa.

Post your digitally cross processed images online somewhere and mention the link in a comment below. I’d love to see your results.

Here are a few photos of old farm equipment my wife took last year with some cross processing ninjutsu applied:

Old farm equipment outside Ruggles Mine in NH, cross processed

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Cross process digital photos for a cool retro look

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