Kodachrome Effect

by Linda Johnson

Photographers appreciate the warmth and richness of the Kodachrome effect, that technicolor look of vintage photos shot on no-longer-available Kodachrome film. The look is not easy to come by in today's digital world of photography. Even Paul Simon sang “Mama don't take my Kodachrome away.” Happily, through the magic of Photoshop, the use of plug-ins, or the settings on newly available Kodak cameras, you can emulate, if not duplicate, that Kodachrome effect in digital photos.

LAB Color Space in Photoshop

Under the Image heading in the top Toolbar in Photoshop, clicking "Mode" brings up some familiar options such as the RGB and CMYK color spaces. Another option is the LAB color space which lets you do a quick fix to simulate Kodachrome. In LAB you work with three channels, "L " being the lightness channel, "A" controlling the green and magenta in the image, and the "B" channel managing blue and yellow. This allows you to adjust the lightness in the image separately from color adjustments. In RGB and CMYK color spaces color and lightness are not separated, making it hard to lighten or punch up color without affecting everything else.

Plug-Ins for Kodachrome Effect

To quickly replicate the look of Kodachrome film, consider plug-in software that works inside Photoshop, such Alien Skin Exposure 3. It has more than 500 presets with different effects, and even lets you try to create the grain associated with certain flms. Alien Skin Exposure 3 by Alien Skin is a plug-in effect system for Photoshop, Photoshop Elements and Lightroom. While the cost is a bit high for casual amateurs -- list price $249 at time of publication -- this plug-in is a must for those wishing to quickly replicate the look of "real" film. With morethan 500 presets the biggest problem photographers will face with this plug-in is deciding which effect they want to use.The free cross-platform image editor GIMP can do a whole lot with images on its own, but its extensible nature lets it do much more, from goofy transformations to custom algorithms. Technology blog tech Zilo offers a handy list of more than 40 free plug-ins that cover tools many photography enthusiasts, using noise reduction and red eye removal, and web designers, using anti-aliasing and "save for web" functionality, would especially find useful. At least some of the "film" plug-ins attempt to create the grain associated with different films.

Digital Kodak EasyShareCamera With Kodachrome Setting

Kodak Easy Share digital cameras now have filters and settings that allow you to add classic effects to your photography. Even though the effects are digital, they simulate the look of photos shot on Kodachrome and Ektachrome film.

When to Use Kodachrome Effect

The Kodachrome effect is desirable for photos you want to have a vintage look. It makes colors warm, vivid and truer than life. The Kodachrome effect can add to the quality of any photo or snapshot by giving you robust color that still manages to look natural, and a sharpness that looks real, but not sterile. Of course, the effects created in Photoshop, derived from plug-ins or digital effects in-camera are not as dramatic as real Kodachrome film results, but they can be quite effective.

About the Author

Linda Johnson is a veteran writer and Photoshop and Illustrator aficionado. She is a TV-radio producer, ad agency owner and a winner of Addy Awards and the First Place Award for Best National Public Service Film. In addition to Johnson's online work, her writing has appeared in "Poetry Guide," the "Indianapolis Star" and Indianapolis Dine magazine.

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