Stop Pouring Coffee On Your Photographs – The Problem With ‘Vintage’ Photography

‘Vintage’ is a word you hear a lot in wedding photography circles at the moment. It's born out of a love of how things used to be. In the days of film pictures weren't perfect. They went wrong in subtle ways that gave them innate character. Digital pictures are, comparatively, perfect and for some it is worth adding in that character of old artificially.

I love creating a look for a photograph. By no means am I criticising those that attempt to make their look similar to film stocks of days gone by. We have affection for those films and it's not all nostalgia; some of them were developed at the time to give a certain look. Film emulation has become a major part of many photographers' workflows and it can work spectacularly.

The problem with the world ’vintage‘ is that it implies these photographs have age. That they evoke a former era. You cannot inject such a feeling artificially. Putting a filter on an Instagram photograph and tagging it ’vintage‘ is akin to ASDA putting fake dust on bottles of their 2013 wines or a mother helping her child to make his pirate map look old by pouring coffee on it and singeing the edges with a candle.

I have photographs from when I was young that are endlessly fascinating to look at as a grown man. The reason for this is because they evoke memories, feelings. They are doors into rooms in my head that might otherwise have been sealed up forever. As our photographs age, they will always do that. Your wedding photographs will accrue that magic naturally over time. Don't try to force it.

The difference between carefully processing an image to give it a look that was formerly imbued by a certain film stock and simply slapping a 'filter' on an image is subtle. I guess, ultimately, it comes down to showing taste in how you edit a photograph. Do it for the right reasons, because you know a look will suit an image, not in a vain effort to add something that only an image worthy of standing the test of time deserves.

Stop pouring coffee on your photographs.