A Google Buzz post from my friend Staci sent me to a recent Boing Boing post on Through a Plastic Lens: Toy Camera Photography. This led to me to a search for toy camera actions for use in Photoshop. I found a link off of a Flickr page from Dave Ward Photography (see below) that produced outstanding results. When the final image came through, I laughed out loud. Makes me want to find an old toy camera and get deep into the darkroom alchemies of actual film.
The "Old Toy Camera" action gives photos a look similar to an aged print shot on a toy camera (like the Diana or Holga), or on an antique camera. This particular action is not intended to imitate any one camera's particular look, but rather to simply add some of the general elements which make aged photos and images shot on toy and antique cameras so beautiful.
The file also includes two additional actions which imitate the borders often found on vintage and toy camera images.
The action was created on a Mac using Photoshop 7.0, but should work on a PC and on later versions of Photoshop.
Download the Old Toy Camera action for Photoshop
This action is also available at the Adobe Studio Exchange.
How a specific time is represented photographically is fascinating to me. I sense that this is going to become a moot point in the digital age, but not long ago you could "tell" the time period of a photograph by a wide variety of semiotic markers extraterritorial to the subject of the photograph. Types of camera, film stock, developing processes, etc. all marked or "dated" the image quite specifically.
A few examples all from the excellent Square America: A Letter From The Vanishing World (The Readers):