Retro faded grunge: Sicilian Style



I’ve had quite a few requests for the post production treatment I used on this image I recently posted on Instagram.

This image was taken on one of the Sicilian food and photography tours I run with my fellow Sicilian crazy BFF, Carm Ruggeri.

We were staying in Taormina and I’d gotten up at dawn to watch the city wake up. This is one of my all time favorite things to do when I’m travelling. It’s when I feel I get my best images.

I love to edit images in a style that they look in my minds eye. In this case I have a great deal of nostalgia when I think about Sicily because it reminds me of my childhood and my love of the godfather movies.

So for this image of a Taormina local enjoying his breakfast I wanted to create a faded desaturated and grungy style with a touch of warmth.

The best and quickest way I achieve this look is to use Lightroom.

Adobe® Photoshop® Lightroom 5 is king. I would marry it and have its babies if I could. It’s that good.

I love it because I can now do about 90 percent of my photo editing and post-production in one tool. It allows me to work with RAW files, it saves the history of my adjustments and makes it quick and easy to batch process my files.

So here is my step-by-step edit to create a retro faded grunge image with a side order of Sicily!

Click on a neural area in image (white or grey) using the eyedropper icon in the Basic Module of Lightroom

Step 1: Correct the White Balance using Basic Module

There are a few ways adjust the white balance. The most accurate way is to use a grey card.

A. You can guess by dragging the Temp and Tint sliders around. Getting a good result using this technique has a similar success rate to winning the the lottery. It might happen – but the odds are fairly low.

B. Use the dropdown menu WB pre-sets which will give you a pretty good start but it’s not always ideal.

C. The Eyedropper Tool is my favourite way to find a good white balance. To use this tool I click on the eyedropper icon and find a neural area in my image (white or grey). In this case I’m using the paper napkin holder, which has an area of white that is correctly exposed. I simply click the eye dropper on that area to give me the right white balance.

Reducing saturation, opening up shadows and adding clarity is the way I achieve the retro faded grunge feel.

Step 2: Adjusting the image

To create the grungy feel in this image I used these basic adjustments

Highlights -20

Shadows +93

Whites +25

Blacks -22

Clarity +38

To create the retro faded look I decreased the saturation -50 and increased Vibrance +23.

To add “nostalgia” I’ve increased the colour temperature to 5500 which adds warmth to the image because Sicily is always thought of with golden tones in my minds eye.

You can use this recipe as a base for your own images and tweak it till you get the look you like.


Step 3: Crop it

I thought the guys shoulder in the right of the frame was distracting and the overall image was too loosely framed so I’ve cropped in to fill the frame and give the image a better composition.

Image showing vignette with 50% feathering on the left

Step 4: Adding a vignette

The final stage in editing this image is to add a vignette or darker area around the edges, which really helps draw the eye into the image.

My favorite way to add a vignette is to reduce the feather slider so I can see exactly where my vignette is. Then I add about 47% feathering so that the vignette looks really gradual.

The final image


Leave a Reply


Get your copy of Gina’s guide “The Shot” FREE when you sign up to her newsletter. You’ll also receive FREE Lightroom presets every month.

How to direct and pose like a pro


Want Gina Milicia as your mentor?

About Gina

About Gina

Gina Milicia is one of the most widely known and respected photographers in Australia. She is the master of capturing that ‘magical moment’... READ MORE