How to Make A Nostalgic Photograph

Warm toned black and white photo of a classic street lamp at Parliament House, Melbourne, Australia

Warm toned black and white photo of a classic street lamp at Parliament House, Melbourne, Australia

Street Lamp Parliament House, Melbourne, Australia

I'm as nostalgic as the next man. Perhaps we're so attracted to nostalgia because it represents a time and a way of life that seems so much slower and simpler than the one in which we currently find ourselves. In some ways it's a myth, but a very seductive one.

The Recipe to Nostalgia in Photography

To make nostalgic photos we need, first of all, old world subject matter. Cobbled streets, traditional irish pubs, old time vehicles, farm implements and the everyday apparatus that would have surrounded us in bygone days.

The above photo features a classic street lamp outside Parliament House in Melbourne, Australia. It's a simple enough photo made, looking upwards, towards a clear blue sky. I positioned myself so that the lamp was between my camera and the sun. This helped me both avoid a silhouette and add the impression of light to the street lamp during daylight hours.

Actually the end of day feel that often results from photographing backlit subject matter lends itself well to creating the feeling of nostalgia in a photograph. What's more, to further remove the subject matter from our modern world, a black and white rendering is often successful. Adding a warm tone to the image, as evident here, further enhances the result.

The Artist's Job

Photography usually starts with interesting subject matter. Understanding lighting, exposure, composition and image processing will allow you to produce a good photo. But the photo is unlikely to have a life of its own without being underpinned by the intention of the maker. And isn't that the primary job of the artist, to transform the world we see and embed it with a deeper sense of meaning?

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Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru