Learn how to create your own film-like preset in Lightroom! But instead of creating a single specific look, you’ll learn how to achieve common film effects using a step-by-step method. So whether you want something that is natural and subtle or faded and strong, you’ll know how to achieve the look you want. You’ll also learn some tips on how to keep your presets lightweight with minimal impact on Lightroom’s performance and what settings you shouldn’t touch at all. By the end of this video, you’ll know how to create a high-quality preset that you can even sell.

Tones

Let’s start with the tones. For this, we’ll be using the Tone Curve. The tone curve in Lightroom has two modes. You want to be in the Point Curve mode which you can switch to by clicking on this button. The Point Curve mode will give you much more flexibility and control.

So not everyone is fluent with the tone curve. If you already know how to use it, you can create any tone curve you like. But for this tutorial, I’ll show a technique that’ll make it simple for beginners. First, add three points to the line like this. Try to make the points align with the grid background.

Now you should have total of 5 points. One for the blacks, shadows, midtones, highlights and whites.

You can drag the points up and down to adjust them. If you want to make the blacks brighter for that faded look, you can drag this point upwards.

If you want to darken the shadows, drag the 2nd point downwards. The same pattern for the rest of the points.

Here are some common tone curves that people use.

Hue Shifting

One of the main characteristics of film looks is the color shifting. Now just to be clear, this is not for tinting the shadows or highlights – I’ll show you how to do that later. This is simply to shift the colors. And we’re going to start with the hue, lightness, and finally saturation.

I usually like to start off with the reds and oranges because these hues affect the skin tones. With these colors, you should make very small changes – I don’t usually go more than 5% for the reds and oranges.

For the blues and greens, you can make stronger adjustments. I’m going to shift the greens towards the blues and blues towards the green.

Keep adjusting the colors until you get the look that you like. Here’s how the photo looks like before and after.

Luminance

After adjusting the hue, we can adjust the luminance. The reason why we’re adjusting the luminance before the saturation is because it’s easier and more precise to do this first. For example, if you end up desaturating certain colors, it’s going to be hard to see the luminance adjustments you’re making.

The Luminance basically affects how bright or dark the color is. For example, if you want to make skies and water darker, you can darken the blues.

Now some of you might be asking, how is this different than brightening or darkening with the tone curve? The answer is that the tone curve lets you make areas brighter or darker based on the brightness.

While the luminance lets you make areas brighter or darker based on their color.

If you have have programming experience, you can think of it as an if and then statement.

Tone Curve

if (brightness == 50) {
brightness = brightness + 25;
}

Color Luminance

if (color == cyan) {
brightness = brightness + 25;
}

Just like with the Hue, you want to be careful with the red and orange adjustments because those colors can affect skin tones.

Saturation

Finally, we’re going to adjust the saturation. This is the easiest one to adjust which is why we saved it for last. Adjust the settings just like what you did with the two other color adjustments.

However, if you’re going to significantly increase or decrease the saturation for all of the colors, it’s best to make those big adjustments with the saturation slider first and then make smaller changes in the individual color saturation settings. It just makes it easier to tweak the preset afterwards.

Tinting the Highlights and Shadows

Now that we’re done with the color, we can tint the highlights and shadows.

There’s two ways to do this. You can do it with the Split Toning adjustment which is easier but it’s also not that flexible. Basically you pick a color for the highlights and shadows, adjust the saturation, and then the balance.

If you need more flexibility, the better way of doing this is with the RGB Tone Curve. In the Tone Curves adjustment, you can switch to the red, green or blue channel from the dropdown menu here.

But when it comes to the RGB tone curves, most people think it’s really hard to use. It’s not that hard to use. It’s just looks hard because the interface for it hasn’t been updated. But the tool can be much easier to understand if you imagine the tone curves like this. Just to be clear, you can’t actually make Lightroom look like this – I just superimposed this to show you how you should be imagining the tone curves.

For the red channel, imagine that it looks like this.

For the green channel, imagine that it looks like this.

And for the blue channel, imagine it looking like this.  By memorizing this and imagining it whenever you use the tone curves, it’ll be so much easier to use.

For example, if you want to give your photo that green tint in the shadows like a Fuji Superia 1600, then switch to the green channel and lift the blacks up like this.

Or if you want something more towards teal, which is between blue and green, you can lift the blacks in the blue channel.

You can also add more points but for beginners, I recommend sticking to a total of 5 points per channel and keeping the horizontal position aligned with the grid in the background.

If you want to learn more about RGB tone curves, I highly recommend watching my video on how to use the Tone Chart technique.

Saving Your Preset

When you’re done, you can save your preset by clicking on the plus sign in the Presets panel.

Give your preset a name and then checkmark only the settings that you’ve adjusted. You also want to make sure that the process version is checked as well. Now you can apply this preset to any photo you like.

Settings to Avoid

While you can create Lightroom presets with nearly every develop settings, there are some that you should avoid. The first settings to avoid are the white balance and exposure.

Your preset should never touch these settings and here’s why. Most people start off by fixing the white balance and exposure. For a large catalog, this can take a lot of time.

When they apply your preset, your preset will override their white balance and exposure settings forcing them to do their retouching all over again. That’s a huge waste of time.

Instead, you can do this in the tone curve. To make it brighter, nudge the points upwards.

For white balance, you can do this with the green and blue channels. The blue channel is similar to the temperature setting and green channel is similar to the tint setting.

Another area to avoid is the Camera Calibration section. A lot of people do require access to this. If you need to adjust the hue, you can do so from the HSL panel.

Finally, avoid excessive develop settings. The more settings you use, the slower your preset will be. A preset with just the tone curves will render incredibly fast. Even on video clips. But if you create a preset that uses nearly every develop setting, not only is it slower to render, it’ll reduce the catalog’s performance. Lightroom isn’t the fastest software so it’s important to keep your presets lightweight.

Free Lightroom Presets

Try out these 5 free Lightroom presets I made following this tutorial. They use minimal settings and render fast.

Download

Summary
How to Create Film Lightroom Presets
Article Name
How to Create Film Lightroom Presets
Description
Learn how to create your own film-like preset in Lightroom! But instead of creating a single specific look, you’ll learn how to achieve common film effects using a step-by-step method. So whether you want something that is natural and subtle or faded and strong, you’ll know how to achieve the look you want. You’ll also learn some tips on how to keep your presets lightweight with minimal impact on Lightroom’s performance and what settings you shouldn’t touch at all. By the end of this video, you’ll know how to create a high-quality preset that you can even sell.
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Denny's Tips
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Posted by Denny Tang

  1. excellent tips

    Reply

    1. Thanks rimi!

      Reply

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