I know it has been years as I google on faded photography. However, none seems to mention about the hype of this effect.

Does faded photography create positive moods? Photography having vibrant colors (not HDR) create a more 'happier' mood than faded, which I think is dull and gloomy.

Could someone enlighten me on this trend?

My apology as I should have added how this question was initiated. Below give a more directive account.

I do Instagram and was actually intrigue by VSCO Cam app which officially introduced as "The Standard of Mobile Photography", in particularly on faded photography searchable.

But one of the aesthetic value on photography is the vibrancy and vividness in colors. For example, Food photography, this is usually the sequence of composition depiction; colors, smell, and lastly comes to taste, where the latter 2 don't physically exist visually, however, physiologically arouse one's mind imaginable to act (i.e eating) after seeing.

In opposite manner, food photography as faded doesn't look appealing to fancy, even one has a hungry appetite.

Having said that, I'm not against faded photo or VSCO Cam, I do like them at some point. I think it is merely an individual perspective for those who like vintage-old-timer-nostalgia-look.

Beside that particular flavor, I don't see other driving cause for the trending faded photography.

If you have time, try instagram search with hashtag #vscocam. The results look majority with faded, yet, googled none has elaborated on this overly hype filter for some years.

Perhaps, vintage-old-timer-nostalgia-look could, after all, be the only factor to define aestheticism in photography, which has nothing to do with Social Media.

Or someone would like to shed more light on increasing trend relatable to VSCO Cam on faded photography, ruling out social media.

Thank you.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ It's an attempt to bring up nostalgic feelings and give an impression of the photo being one of the old masterpieces of film photography era. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 8, 2014 at 16:08
  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ It is an attempt to make mediocre (or worse) photos look like the best of those from years gone by that survived the test of time. Those old photos that we still see are classics because they were, for the most part, well done photos or denoted historically significant events. The crappy ones from those eras are long gone. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Feb 8, 2014 at 17:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ These photos have been annoying me for a good 2 years now. I hope to god that 2 years is the full life-span of this tacky insta-fad. (end angry rant) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 9, 2014 at 8:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ I haven't seen so many photographers passionately hate on a trend since the selective coloring trends of the early 2000's. If you don't like the trend; don't use the technique! Sounds easy enough to differentiate yourself from "the rest" :) \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Commented Feb 9, 2014 at 21:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ @dpollitt - I only hate on the overuse of a trend because it brings down hate on the legit uses too. :) \$\endgroup\$
    – AJ Henderson
    Commented Feb 10, 2014 at 16:37

5 Answers 5


One word, Instagram. It's become a social fad. It does have roots in Polaroid photography which tried to capture casual moments instantly, on low-fi instantly developing film. This look carried forward in to the filters of Instagram due to it being a legit cultural reference to Polaroids.

From there, the vintage feel of it took on a life of it's own for it's ability to easily hide imperfections and to make things look classical. It then further got magnified by becoming the latest version of social status updates and became a cultural fad.

As mentioned, there is some potential artistic justification for it in the realm of instagram since it is intended for the Polaroid type style, which focuses on low-fi photos with an emphasis on capturing what is happening, as it happens, in life. This is the goal of instagram.

Where things went horribly, horribly wrong is when that fad expanded into the traditional photography space and people started applying it to mediocre photos that do not follow the old Polaroid shooter mantra. Instead, what you get is a crappy filter on a crappy photo that doesn't fit the artistic context of the shot. There are times when a vintage look does help an image speak its message, but the vast majority of current uses do not match the design language of the vintage look, but rather slap it on to capture some of the social popularity.

The problem with doing such sell-out techniques to capture some fleeting popularity now is that it will cause the image to age as soon as the fad changes. Right now, the casual viewer may see a low contrast image and think it looks cool simply because it matches up with the fad, but a few years from now, as the fad passes and it becomes clear to everyone else that it has been overdone and overused, those images will become recognized as the irrelevant, trashy gimmicks that "snobby" real photographers will already tell you they are.

The images that used it properly will survive as classical examples of the era and the ones that used it for a quick popularity boost will be forgotten. If you want to make truly great, timeless, memorable photographs, you shouldn't use gimmicks to play to the cultural fad of the day unless they fit. In other words, use a low contrast style of post production not because it is popular, but because it adds to how your image tells the story. If it doesn't add to the aged and rugged feel of your content, then don't use it.

  • \$\begingroup\$ could you show a good example and a bad one? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 8, 2014 at 19:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ omg thats horrible. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 8, 2014 at 22:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ok, finally found one I actually do like. As far as bad ones, look for pretty much any that are using it on a posed portrait. \$\endgroup\$
    – AJ Henderson
    Commented Feb 8, 2014 at 22:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ feels like the rotation is a bit off in that one. so I found a good bad example: oddstuffmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/5.jpg \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 8, 2014 at 22:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ Then the social popularity of the filter from Instagram (probably started by photographers who actually understood the meaningfulness of it in the Instagram context) led to its expansion and overuse outside the instagram context by those who don't understand the relevance or language of lo-fi, but simply know they saw photos they liked on Instagram and want to emulate the look in all their photos. If you want a more extended discussion on the topic, I suggest dropping in to chat as soon as you have enough reputation (20). \$\endgroup\$
    – AJ Henderson
    Commented Feb 10, 2014 at 14:24

Because everyone is tired to death of Kinkade-like super-ultra-HDR neon glowing over-processed images? And the barbie-plastic super cleaned look has been over-done since the airbrush was brought into play.

Plus the seeming ease of creating digital images has heightened an appreciation of the craft of creating images by hand.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ nope, most of those images are taken using crappy phone cameras and tortured like that in order to hide how crappy they are. Make them look "artsy" to hide the terrible lighting, horrid constrast, and frighteningly bad focusing. \$\endgroup\$
    – jwenting
    Commented Oct 16, 2014 at 10:48

I think there are two classes of people who look at using this effect (and other effects).

  • Semi-serious photographers who are finding a "look" for their work. Broadly, they may choose HDR, true-to-life color, or faded colors as a way to help establish their "look" and individuality. Users of these looks may start out with a "canned" starting point but will often try to make it their own in some way.
  • No offense to anyone, but less-skilled "photographers" who like to try effects for their photos, perhaps to mimic the old photos they remember or have seen.
  • \$\begingroup\$ Hi Dan, Your point could possibly define this trend. Thank you. \$\endgroup\$
    – Edwin
    Commented Feb 10, 2014 at 10:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ If the photographer is semi-serious, then copying an overused look isn't really a great way to differentiate yourself. I'd argue it is more to grab some of the cultural popularity of the look to boost their own popularity. You don't differentiate yourself by looking like everyone else. \$\endgroup\$
    – AJ Henderson
    Commented Feb 10, 2014 at 16:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AJHenderson, I agree, if you're finding this look now you aren't doing a good job of differentiating. But what if this look has been what you've used for years? And perhaps now you're more popular? Do you give up the effect that might have contributed to your success? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 10, 2014 at 17:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DanWolfgang - depends on how well you do with the look. I'd say if you are a serious photographer making great use of it you don't, but if you are looking to be unique and are still semi-serious, maybe you do maybe you don't. I was mostly just commenting that it isn't a good reason to start using the look now though. \$\endgroup\$
    – AJ Henderson
    Commented Feb 10, 2014 at 17:20

Faded photography is and example of stylization that is instantly available via mobile apps and plugins.

Stylization helps removing resemblance to the physical world. It makes the pictures feel more artistic and since it removes some of the distracting reality, it actually makes it easier to show emotion in the photograph.

I suspect it is used by people who feel that it improves their photographs somehow, but do not yet have enough photographic education and experience to understand why. And I guess this is a large population these days when everybody has a mobile phone and Instagram in their pocket.

Oh, and because it is so popular now, it will be eventually replaced by other means of one click stylization in the future.


I feel like personally, a lot of my favourite memories only have blurry dark photos... most of my friends post pictures on vsco like this because they're not 'perfect' enough for instagram but they show how the particular moment feels. The filters are also pretty complimentary on those dark or low quality pictures. I put all my colourful high quality photos on Instagram and all my blurry dark ones with my friends on vsco.


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