How To Re-Create the Film Look Using Lightroom
Vintage is suddenly new! A recent trend in photography is to create an old-school look similar to film photography. You can do this with Lightroom more easily than you’d imagine. While you can use presets to give your images that old-film look, below you’ll find some tips on how you can create the look on your own in Lightroom.
Define old-school, film “look”:
Unlike the look generated by the modern pixels of digital photography, film photography offered up image details in a different but dynamic way. Film photography was at its finest in the mid-tones. Black wasn’t entirely black, and white wasn't perfectly white. If you study an image captured by film photography, you will notice a certain amount of grain or noise. It was par for the course when you used film unless you opted for a soft focus. You can replicate this look in Lightroom with some easy adjustments.
Those of us who are old enough to have worked with film photography will readily recognise the names Kodak Gold and Ilford Delta. Most film photographers had their favorites among a broad range of film options, but they knew to choose a film according to what they would be shooting.
Recreating the Color of Film:
The colors of film varied by brand or type of film as we stated above. In the days of film photography, you had to change film to change your color spectrum or range. Even hobby photographers quickly learned how to change film mid-way through a roll without exposing the film! No easy feat!
Today, you don’t need to pull the film out of your camera to recreate that same old-film look!
Black & White Adjustments:
To emulate the grain of film, you can do it by adjusting black and white using curves and some minor tweaks. But first, it’s important to understand the curve. The left side of the curve represents black while the right point controls the white. Adjusting those points, allow you to change the black and white points of an image. Remember, the Histogram pointers about shadow (on left) and highlights (on right)? Adjusting the curve is pretty similar to adjusting the histogram.
The black and white are associated with the distinctive look of classic film images. These are the first steps in trying to replicate that look:
- Open Lightroom’s Develop module.
- You’ll use the Tone Curve panel.
- To modify the curves, look for the button in the lower right-hand corner of the panel and click.
- It should change the view, and you should see points appear on the curve shape. You’ll be able to click and drag them.
Black to Gray: If you’d like to convert a black point to a dark gray (like you’d see in a film image), grab the point on the lower left side and drag it up. You should see that the darkest aspects of the photo are changing from black to gray.
White to Gray: To convert white to a light gray, just drag the point down rather than up.
You can use the sliders to adjust the color of the image. It will take some practice (and some fun) playing around with these adjustments because the possibilities are endless! Much of the success you achieve in Lightroom comes down to practice and working within its many easy to use options.
In the Develop module, you can use the HSL (Hue, Saturation, and Luminance) panel to make any color adjustments. You can also click on the color tab for a larger selection of changes. You’ll be able to adjust any of the image’s colors you want.
Grain and Noise:
Anyone who has studied film photography can easily recognize the distinctive grain film captured so well. After adjusting your colors, you can turn to changing the grain or texture of a photo. In the same Develop module, scroll down to Effects panel and sliders. You’ll use those sliders to adjust the level of grain you’d like to see in the image. For the best results, we suggest zooming into the picture for a closer look before you begin. We recommend you start to add grain slowly and judiciously. Use the sliders to fine-tune the level of grain.
Using the sliders, allows you best to set the grain's size and its roughness or rawness. Setting the grain to be larger and rougher is equivalent to having used high ISO film. The smaller grain in an image would be reflective of having used a medium ISO film. You can play around with the look until you achieve the effect you want.
Rather than having to re-create the look each time you open an image, you can save the look as a Preset. Lightroom presets by BeArt Presets save time because they save all of the settings, and you can easily replicate the look in another image later by selecting a Preset.
Also, you can create your own preset: go to the Presets panel on the left and press the plus (+) button on the upper right-hand corner. You just saved a new preset! Next time the box appears, you should uncheck the boxes except for the ones you’ve applied. Based on what we’ve presented in this tutorial, we suggest leaving only the Tone Curve, Grain, Process, and Treatment (Color) Version boxes checked. This allows you to apply the film style you’ve saved while still being able individually to adjust other settings such as exposure or light.
Adobe’s Lightroom offers users - both professional, hobby, and serious photographers - tremendous flexibility and opportunity with photography. It also provides post-production creativity such as the ability to recreate the old film images from more than 30 years ago! It’s not so difficult to recreate vintage using Lightroom.
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