In the Style of Old Postcards

I joined a small photography group several months ago. My reasons were purely selfish. I wanted to be around others who were interested in photography, but at the same time I didn’t want to be involved in anything hugely competitive. The group I discovered (part of the Frodsham U3A) were a small group with members ranging from inexperienced to expert. The group sets a bi-monthly challenge:

  • Four images from a group outing
  • Four images on a theme
  • One image based on a letter of the alphabet


The image sharing meetings are not competitive. It is simply a friendly presentation of 7”x5” prints and an opportunity to discover what others have made of the same challenge. The only quality demands are those I set for myself and there are no winners or losers.


The most recent challenge had the subject matter bridges. For this I had to present four prints. Bridges are plentiful; photogenic, attractive bridges, less so. As I was doing my research and thinking about the challenge I was wondering how I could present them in a way that would make them coherent and bind them together as a set. There’s something about a set that looks visually pleasing in the way that completely unrelated images don’t.


This got me thinking about old postcards.


Now, many years ago I used to submit images to a postcard publisher – J. Arthur Dixon, so I’d done a bit of postcard photography, but what I wanted, since my chosen bridges were quite old,  was to reproduce an older style of postcard. The sort that harks back to around the 1930’s when colour printing wasn’t that good. Back then colours were garish and overblown, and images a little soft. No problem, I thought, a quick Google search and I’ll have a Photoshop recipe for what I want.


I spent a long time looking and could not find exactly what I wanted. Plenty of postcard recipes for B&W and tinted, but nothing with the look I was after. I’m no Photoshop expert and I didn’t really know how to do what I wanted. It was, after all, just a vague mental image, so I had no choice but to have a go at creating what I wanted without any help.


Here’s the set of four cards I created. If you like them, read on and I’ll give you a few clues as to how you can have a go at this yourself.

Aldford Iron Bridge

Frodsham Viaduct



Dutton Horse Bridge

Dutton Railway Viaduct


Basic image adjustments were done in Lightroom. I used this to adjust saturation, contrast, exposure and the like. Nothing special here, just what I would normally do to any image to make it look as good as I can before sharing it with the world.


Then over to Photoshop.


Here I applied a Gaussian blur (Filter>Blur>Gaussian blur) I used a radius of 1.1 but I’d just use that as a starting point. The idea here was to introduce just a little softness to the image.


The next step was to add another filter (Filter>Filter Gallery>Sketch>Water Paper) Again just play around with the sliders until you get the effect that you want. This introduces that over the top glariness to the colours. I also added an fx Outer Glow to this filter (fx>Outer Glow from the bottom of the Layers panel).


Now using the Create New Fill or Adjustment Layer icon at the bottom of the layers panel, add a brightness adjustment linked only to the water paper filter layer. I just played around with this until it was looking the way I wanted. Then, in the same way, I added a curves adjustment layer and bent the line into a very gentle S. This brightened the light tones and darkened the darker tones – a gentle increase in contrast. This method gives a much finer control over contrast than when you use a brightness/contrast adjustment layer.


I found a font LittleLordFontleroy that seemed to evoke the style of the age, a suitable script font would serve just as well especially if it was not too perfect.


The last thing to add was the border which is done by CTRL-A to select the outside edge, followed by Edit>Stroke and then select a suitable width and colour and remember to select the Location> Inside radio button.


I hope you’ve found this useful.


And just to finish off here are the original images.





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