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Since the arrival of Instagram, photo filters have transformed the way we share and view images. Filters now come standard on any mobile phone’s camera app, and they’re a prerequisite for any image-sharing platform.

Image filters are settings that instantly transform images with the touch of a button. Every filter is designed to have a different effect by combining preset color levels, saturation, and contrast. Filters are a simple way to convey mood in an image, whether it’s drama, elegance, mystery. They’re especially useful when you want to achieve a vintage effect for nostalgia marketing.

Used strategically, vintage photo filters can make a design much more engaging, especially on a social media feed. In fact, according to a study out of Yahoo Labs, “filtered photos are 21 percent more likely to be viewed and 45 percent more likely to be commented on.”

Here’s how to achieve a sense of nostalgia in your photos using simple filters. All of these photos and designs were created in Shutterstock Editor. Click here to access these templates and experiment with your own vintage photo filters.

Use sepia or ‘old’ photo filters for a sense of nostalgia

Sepia tone filters create the effect of an old fashioned photo exposure. This is great for giving images an antiqued look by applying a warm, yellow tinge and often increase the contrast between light and dark. Filters designed to mimic the look of other vintage photo processing techniques are also very appealing, like a cross-processing effect.

adding vintage photo filters with shutterstock editor
A vintage filter with a yellow tinge makes this simple ad Instagram-friendly. Click here to edit this template in Editor for your own feed.

Occasionally a lithography filter is used to create the appearance of a photo taken at the dawn of photography. Lithographs are images made with a special printing process; the filter mimics this look by increasing the contrast, amplifying the shadows, and giving the image an overall “gritty” appearance.

Use blurs and auras for a dreamy memory effect

Filters that apply blurs or auras to images are great for creating a soft, dreamlike quality. A blur filter will soften the image, blunting the harsh edges created by angled light or hard surfaces. Blur filters can also be used on portraits to achieve an especially unblemished look.

The blur adjustment helped us achieve the soft, dream-like quality of this image.

Auras filters lighten certain areas of the image so that objects or faces appear to glow slightly. The effect can be surreal and dreamy, softening an image for increased appeal. Experiment with different aura filters to see how their various settings transform the colors, edges, highlights, and shadows of each image. You may discover details of the image becoming more and less visible as you apply different filters.

Create your own vintage filter

In Shutterstock Editor you can adjust preset filters to customize your own look. Create a filter for any mood by adjusting controls for values such as:

  • Brightness
  • Contrast
  • Saturation
  • Hue

We modified the brightness and saturation on this image to create an undeniable vintage look that lends itself perfectly to the photo’s subject.

Start by importing a Shutterstock image, or one of your own, directly into Editor and see what can be achieved with the help of filters. You will quickly discover which ones work best for different images. Soon you will be able to transform any design project with the help of engaging and intriguing filters.