Old Time Photos on Canvas

by Andrea on December 1, 2011

For Mo’s Portuguese grandparents, Avôzinho and Avózinha, I thought it would be fun to give them a canvas photo of the grandkids for Christmas.  I could go the simple route where I take a normal photo and have one of the canvas places make us a canvas, or… I could have a little fun with it. Guess what I did?

Have you seen those old time photos where you dress up in costume, and they print up a photo of you in sepia tones?  Perhaps something like this:

This was my inspiration.  We invited BenG, Mo’s cousin, to join us and contemplated heading over to a local oldtime photo place in Seattle.  But given that we were working with two 15 month olds, who are on different nap schedules, I realized I could just do something myself.  And that would give me a reason to organize a backdrop and set up the vignette.  I decided to have a little fun with this and made it look like the boys were playing a game of cards in an old school parlor.  I found mini playing cards at our local drugstore and whipped out Avózinha’s crocheted doilies.  They even had little n0-sew bowties that I fashioned in three minutes out of felt.  Here’s the original photo:

We really wanted the boys to have fake mustaches but they wanted NOTHING to do with them.  In fact, there were instant tears on both of their behalves.  No mustaches, but still pretty darn cute.  Then in Picasa, I made the photo sepia toned and played with the highlights and shadows.  For those with iPhoto, that program has an additional effect called Antique that retains some of the color, and makes it look really cool.  Voilá, our very own old time photo:


This photo is currently at the canvas shop and will soon look pretty stinking hilarious on a 16′ x 20′ canvas for Avôzinho and Avózinha to hang in their home.  (For those readers that personally know Avôzinho and Avózinha and find themselves in Portugal, this will be our little secret until December 24.)

This is not the first time, I’ve forced people into photos.  Last year around this time, I picked up some mustaches in time for one of our family dinners.  For this photo, we went with a classic black and white.  Check us out:

Priceless.  From left to right: El Jumbo, Carlos, Mo, Me, Brian, Sid, Emily, Pip, Juanita, and Rico.  Pip is the little squirmy one trying to rip the mustache off her face.  Coincidentally, she was Mo’s age now.  Lesson learned: 15 month olds don’t like adhesive fake mustaches.  On the other hand, Carlos, an almost three year old, LOVED his.  It looked a little creepy in person because the coloring was a perfect match to his hair, and it looked real.  Well, as real as a three year old with a mustache can look.

Anyway, you don’t have to go way way back to get your older look.  You can chose to just go back a few decades and use the CameraBag app’s 1974 effect. Classy… just look at little Mo with his massive mustache.

One last thought, canvas photos have become pretty affordable of late thanks to all of the group buying sites.  I did just hear about an alternative, where your photo is mounted on sustainable bamboo. I love the clean natural look.  Check out Plywerk, handmaking these photo blocks out of Portland, Oregon.  The website says, ‘think of us as canvas’ super-sexy cousin.’  Plus their website is currently featuring a 20% discount through December 2.


first image via Antique Photo Studio, last image via Andy Batt

Here is the final project hanging in Avôzinho and Avózinha’s home.  They were thrilled with their Christmas gift!

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