Digital Alternative Photographic Effects
Maybe you have a load of digital photos that weren't as good as you had hoped for, a bit ordinary and boring. Why not try spicing them up with a bit of digital fakery. Alternative photography has a lot to offer us in this respect. A serious endeavour for many photographers, making match box and can cameras with pin holes, using toy cameras for their extraordinary lens and colour effects, taking photos with your digital camera though the lens of an older camera to get altered and distressed effects known as TTV and the expensive film of the Polaroid. Some of us don't have the time for making contraptions that need endless tweaking or much money for processing and printing. So for me the fun is trying to find similar quick and cheap effects digitally. (You may know by now that I'm a cheap faker) I'm very happy with my digital camera and not having to go to the chemists every time I use a roll of film up.Life is bliss. I have 2 megabytes storage stick and take as many photos (and movies) of what I like. Photoshop is its companion tool, it can do whatever you require it. Well worth looking out for deals on ebay and perhaps file sharing. I use vers 7 and does the job so you might find this cheaper than the latest version. Photoshop 6 will also handle most of this (except for some downloaded brush sets )
Actions in Photoshop can be very useful here. They are step by step actions that have been saved that you can play back and have all the work done for you. There are quite a few on the web that you can download and unzip to a folder then call up in Photoshop. Some I have used here with their urls for you to experiment with.
Filters that can add vintage and retro looks, and can all make for something a little more artistic. Programmes like Auto FX Software, Virtual Photographer by optik Verve Labs. 
Frames can do some great things to your photos. Available are Edge and frame software progs,like Photo Graphic Edges which will in a flash add an interesting border. Some are available as zipped downloads for which I include the urls.
So I'm including as many as I find useful and try to explain with samples how you can achieve these interesting effects on your average (and I have many) digital photo
. Mouse over pics for more info. Click on red links a new window opens for tutorials and downloads.
Time Zero Film polaroid generator
Polaroid Generator 600
simple polaroid frame by Addicted to Design
600 wide format polaroid genertor
Polaroid, this has been popular for quite a while, but is an  useful digital fun effect  for your journals, altered books when you want a casual look. Just print them out on glossy photo paper and attach with staples or paper clips. You can find Polaroid Generator here by rawimage. These are a set of actions that can replicate Time Zero and 600 types of Polaroid film, with various retro and faded effects on your photo.. Reading the instructions that come in the zip are useful. Another simpler frame by
Addicted to Design can be found here
#A2D Polaroid
You can resize your photos to suit your purpose. Of course you can make your own or customize and distress the surfaces with PS brushes, but these guys have made it simple for you
. has variations on the frame see below for style click here To the right there is a custom frame (gif) you can right click and save, open in PS as RGB >Image> Mode >RGB and make another layer with your photo resized to the frame (I use the block rubber to erase any overlap on the photo) Put Frame Layer on top
custom polaroid frame
Polaroid frame download zip by About
Polaroid frame download zip by About
Polaroid frame download zip by About
custom polaroid frame
Polaroid Transfer effects. I have tried unsuccessfully to do these (in real life), wasting very expensive film in the process (although it is possible to do, one day) so I resorted to do them digitally. I found a peel apart series8 frame here Polaroid 89
They usually have interesting grungy stuff around the edges and the colour of the photo is subdued. To check out what originals look like click
here  and here
You can make your own transfer frame as I have done by selecting an interesting polaroid transfer image and with the magic wand cut out the image leaving the edges. On another layer insert your photo to fit and adjust the colours making them faded. A layer with some transparent yellowish tint also helps the look. Play around. The 2 empty frames can be downloaded (right click and save. They are Gif files layer them in Photoshop with your photo
Polaroid 89 Peel apart film
custom made polaroid transfer frame
custom made polaroid transfer frame
customise this frame
customise this frame
Kodak Safety film edge  These frames can transform your photos giving them a cool image. This frame set, download zip here by Smaragd, will automatically convert your colour into a black and white photo. It is high res so you may need to adjust its size
The coloured film strip effect is one I found on the web and just layerd it onto some images of Frida using the color burn. Download the empty one to try out
Kodak Safety film edge by Smaragd
Kodak Safety film edge by Smaragd
frida film strip using the customizable film strip
customizable film strip
Actions Here is a useful site that has many actions useful for digital trickey to download, ( I will also highlight others) they will transform your snaps in a flash .
How to use them in Photoshop. In the Layers palate go to Actions and the arrow on right>go to replace actions and find the folder where you unzipped your download and load. Click on the first title in the list and push the play button at the bottom (black arrow) and Voila watch the transformation. Sometimes it will ask you to go into your layers and make adjustments like hue and saturation to get the look you like
. When finished flatten the layers, and save with another name to preserve the original
Lomo free action by Addicted to Design
Lomo free action by Addicted to Design
Lomo The fans of this and the Holga plastic toy cameras are vast. Shooting from the hip to get that casual unposed look is what its all about. Plus the unexpected lighting, focus and colour it produces. Similar digital effects can be achieved cheaper and on the comfort of your home computer. Here is a nice Photoshop action by Addicted to Design AD2, that produces the effect I used for Brighton Pier. If you increase the saturation its even more zingy  For a more vintage feel with the old toy camera effect like the flying pigs below click here. For examples of Lomo Photography click here 
Lomo free action by Addicted to Design
old toy camera effect: Smaragd
old toy camera effect: Smaragd
Frames There are innumerable software programmes available for creating interesting frames instantly with some tweaking Photo Graphic Edges by Auto FX, Extensis Photo Fram I found are quite fun to play with See Vintage images below.
Also there are some free downloadable photographic ones
here Andrea's Borders. They replicate camera film effects like the Polaroid, Ektachrome, Hasselblad borders, Kodak 160 NC transparency, test frame, Vintage  Background and border and other specific film frames types plus you learn a bit about various types of cameras and film. You can combine these borders with photographic actions such as Urban Acid  (press back button and scroll through to find this action) a cross-processing technique which saturates and alters colours--see market below, and Vintage Background  by Andrea's Border's again. Also useful are
Photoshop Brushes which I use a lot. Here the one I used on far right was Borders from Spy Glass where she has many sets to download. For some polaroid brushes click here. Download and unzip. Add to your brush file. In Photoshop get your brush, click on black arrow at top >go replace brushes and add the set you want. Get a new layer over your photo and stamp the brush in what colour you want. You may resize the brush to fit your photo. Brush Search engine here.  Brush Tutorial here
Test Frame Provini 7x10
Test Frame Provini 7x10
borders B set polaroid transfer frame A. Andrea's Borders
Andrea's Borders Hasselblad A
Ektachrome border by Andreas with Urban Acid action by  Steven Almas
Vintage Background by Andrea's Borders
Extensis 2.0 frame
Photo Graphic Edges frame. PS Script Brush stamped over
Photo Graphic Edges frame
Photo Graphic Edges frame
TTV This is pretty new to me. It is  Through The Viewfinder. Apparently aficionados take pictures with their digital camera through another (older camera's) lens. This gets them some unique effects. They have a flickr group and a splinter group who are called Noise and Dust through the View Finder Their images of old scratched and dusty lenses are an ideal layer to create grungy and distressed digital effects. Save the image of the lens and layer it over your picture, use a blending mode such as Multiply or Linear Burn as I have. You could also layer 2 lens jpgs together for a darker effect. I love the borders these generate.
Noise and Dust through the Viewfinder
Dust Frame 30F
2 layers of Dust and Noise lenses
Pin Hole There are many fans of making fantastic pinhole camera contraptions, see some here. They can look dramatic and dreamy. A pin prick is made to allow light to create an image on the film behind. This results in a photo with darkish borders and a blurry image, see some here It can be hit or miss but purists enjoy the excitement. It is quite easy to achieve similar results digitally, they can be black and white or colour. You could cover your digital lens with a cap with a pin hole in it and see what the results are. Although when I tried it I got a  round image surrounded by black, not very subtle. This flickr group specialises in Faux Pinhole. To recreate the effect in photoshop there is a tutorial here
pinhole effect
pinhole effect
Cross Processing. This produces high unnatural colorization, giving your pics a buzz. In the real photographic world, the wrong chemicals are used for developing the negatives or film, all very technical, but quite easy to do digitally  here are some examples. I used this tutorial  a bit fiddly in the curves at first, but you get to know how they work at last. Once you start you cant stop.
Cross Processing tutorial
Cross Processing
pinhole effect
pinhole effect
Lomo free action Thailand
Lomo free action Thailand
Lomo free action Thailand
Lomo free action Thailand
Lomo free action Thailand
Cross Processing Thailand
Picture package cross process colours
Contact Sheets. So much fun to make your own contact sheets and quite easy with Photoshop's Automate processes. The potential for using these is great either as a full sheet of thumbnails whereby you can instantly view all your digital photos or cut them up and stick them where you want. The Contact sheet  is found under File> Automate. You will browse to where your photos are, specify the number of thumbnails, width and height, the more you include the smaller they are. An option for printing in black and white might be useful as I did and also if you want the images left in layers, this will allow you to move them around if wanted. You can also specify caption and typeface. Click OK and sit back and watch as it crazily goes to work. If you want a black background or any colour click on the first layer background and fill with Paint bucket. Add another layer and you could write some proof editor notes (either add type or write with if you have one a Wacom, drawing tablet)
Picture Package Also very useful under Automate similar to above but you can specify different sizes and layouts to print out . You choose which photos you want by clicking on the squares. I used the 20 2x2 option flatten layers unchecked so I could reposition. After flattening the layers,I cross processed them (see above ) for a more interesting look.
Textures and Layers Something I often do to my vintage images and it can also be applied to your snaps, is using a texture layer. You can find an image of a texture will add some distressed  or atmospheric feeling to your creativity. There are people who specialise in textures for layers  and 2 sites for just textures you can use here and here Thes texture images are best used with your Blending options in the Layers Palette. Playing about with the options will give a vast array of effects. In the first image of a vintage tennis lady I added a layer of Crackle from a Crackle image using the Layer Blending mode of Overlay, in the second 20's wedding I used a Rust texture with Pin Light.  3rd this a vintage ladies group where I used the Colour Burn Blend and the texture I used for the next one. The 4th was a snap photo using the texture bus stop window and Multiply and transformed the photo using the PS Filter Stamp, which makes a very graphic image
Photoshop Filters are worth mentioning here to add further effects to images, There are so many that you just have to try them out to see what they can do. Combining them with Texture Layers and Frames increases your creative options immensely.
Crackle layer and frame
Rust texture layer
texture bus stop window, stamp filter applied to image
texture bus stop window, with Colour Burn Blend
Contact sheet1
Retro photographic effect with Border created with Photoshop Brush : Borders set from Spy Glass
Polaroid Brush by Thalassa
contact sheet 2 Greyscale
I hope I've covered enough photo altering opportunities to inspire you to start playing about with these exciting variations on your more average snaps and images. I discoverd a lot and hope you do too
Any queries and you can find me on the
artezine Café Group
custom aged and stamped polaroid frame. Right click and save to try
Free Counters
Black and White. I cant leave this out. Why do all the professionals love the classic b/w photo. Instantly turn your colour photos into dramatic artistic masterpieces. First thing to try is in your Photoshop is Image>Mode Greyscale. OK on the discard colour info (save your image with another title to preserve original) Go> Image >Adjustments >Levels. Move the slider bars at both ends in to where the graph starts (this effects the dark shadow and white highlights) and the middle slider (which is the mid tones) to get enough detail to your liking.OK Its good to sharpen the image up >Filter >Sharpen>Unsharp Mask Play with the sliders I just use amount 6% thereabouts Actually I do this procedure on all my colour images especially scanned ones as it really optimises their appearance and make much better prints.
The Filters will add some cool effects like a Halftone dot. Have black and white colours for foreground and background in the bottom of toolbox. Go > Filter >Sketch >Halftone Pattern> Adjust the sliders to your liking. I used the filter Photocopy Filter>Sketch >Photocopy and then layerd some PS Brushes from
Misprinted Type (Goodies)
If you want an automatic way of getting some amazing photographic styles, then this plugin (Which goes into your Plugins and will come up under Filters), for Photoshop is free to download
Virtual Photographer You can simulate styles like Paparazzi, Cyanide, Moonlit and so many more just for B/W as well as colour. It is difficult to choose which to use. I chose Hollywood on this example. One more Programm I use is Dream Suite  although on the slow side,it will turn your photo into a slide or make it look like an old photo and do many other  great effects that you wont stop playing with
Greyscale and Levels
Virtual Photographer Hollywood
Photocopy Filter with Misprinted Type PS Brushes
Download Themed sets of loads of vintage images for your artwork and donate to the upkeep of art-e-zine
Virtual Photographer free plugin
Dream Suite Slide effect
Dream Suite special effect