Film Effect on Lightroom

Back to Lightroom for me again!

I stopped meddling with lightroom for a while because of exams, and I finally got down to doing it again. I probably only have 10+ days left on the trial ):

Today I was looking at one my images from Fanling Wai, a walled village in HK. Pre-editing, it already had a very “vintage” feel to it, but I really wanted to bring it out more.


What I reeeeeally wanted to achieve for this picture was the “film” effect.

Film photography has been increasing in popularity in recent years, and I really love how the photos turn out. Some of my classmates primarily shot in film for their holidays and man, the results were amazing. What I love about film photography is the element of uncertainty. You have that one shot, and whatever comes out later is a surprise.

I say one shot, because the lighting, the set up, everything is unique to that moment. The light will never be the same again, especially for film. I LOOOVE how everything about film has to be so YOLO, or in the moment.

But that being said, I haven’t been able to get myself a film camera (because $$$), and so I find myself having to settle for film-like edits in lightroom.

I found several online guides to achieving this film effect, but I found this amazing tutorial the most easy to understand. Despite that, being an ultimate beginner, I found myself not being able to understand certain steps, so i’ll share what I did and how I achieved the effect through a guided trial and error.

As with other tutorials I found online, this guide also recommends using the tone curve. This can be found in the right bar under the Develop tab. However as a default setting, the point curve is set to custom (this doesn’t have point sliders), and that doesn’t give you as much room for editing. What you need to do is then click the small box at the bottom right corner (as shown below). This will switch it to a curve with more point sliders and greater flexibility.

Basically in noob speak – just more points on the curve that you can play with.

Screen Shot 2016-03-09 at 1.13.10 PM.png
Click the small curve on the bottom right to switch

As you can see, the Channel here (see bottom center) is set to RGB, but you can switch that to Red, Blue or Green individually if you wanna just deal with the Tone curve of a single colour. I didn’t touch that though, because toggling with the blue alone added a horrible blue tinge to the photo.

Personally, I felt that the Tone curve didn’t help me much, probably because I didn’t really know how to toggle it. There are instructions to follow, but I felt I could’ve just done that on the main panel, toggling the Black, White, Highlight and Shadow sliders.

The two pointers which I found made the most difference to achieving this film effect were

  1. Split Toning
  2. Grain Effect

Split Toning

I found this to be an AMAZING tool. You know how on films they have the dreamy effect with some colours thrown in? This helps you to achieve that.

You can find it under Split Toning, just two segments down from the Tone Curve.

Screen Shot 2016-03-09 at 2.26.52 PM

So as you can see, there are two sections – one for the highlights and another for shadows. According to the guide, you have to find complementary colours etc.etc, but my noob mind couldn’t really comprehend it, so from trial and error, I found that the Highlights section basically changes the overall colour of the entire photo, and the shadows section gives it a more subtle colour change (basically changing the shade of the shadows in your picture).

To change the colour of the highlight, click on the rectangle right beside the word “highlights”- a colour screen will appear for you to choose the colour you want.

Screen Shot 2016-03-09 at 2.30.52 PM.png
Colour screen appears. just click on the colour you want

It’s a little bit “duh”, but as you go higher, you pick the more vivid colours which will turn your photo a drastic shade of that colour (e.g. Cyan Blue – see below).

Screen Shot 2016-03-09 at 2.35.17 PM.png
Basically, ew. 

What I found most useful was thus going all the way down towards the grey area at the bottom of the colour palette. This gives your pictures a more subtle hue change, and you can now choose the dreamy colour of your film edits!

The Shadows tone just adds a more nuanced colour change on top of the highlights. Its not too obvious, but using it helps. Contrary to Highlights, choosing vivid shades would be the most helpful for shadows, since the changes are not as obvious.

Adding a purple Shadow Tone – before and after

/edit: Somehow for my other photos, the shadow tone also produces a really drastic colour change, so choosing muted colours would apply as well.

Grain Effect

The guide distinguishes between “noise” and “grain”, but basically, in noob speak, its just adding small dots to your photo which gives it a “grainy” look.

You can edit this in the Effects bar (3 segments down from split tone).

Screen Shot 2016-03-09 at 2.49.54 PM.png
Amount, size and roughness. (this is rather.. that’s what she said)

I just toggled around with the three bars until I acheived the grain effect that I wanted. It really varies with every picture, so just play around with the sliders until you are satisfied with the effect.

In general, Size and Roughness kinda increase the visibility of the grain, and amount is well, amount.

Well, that’s all for the film look! To summarise with wise words from the online guide:

“The film look is something you should use in order to make a photo feel more melancholy and nostalgic. In other words, use it only if you shot with that intention.”

Hope this helps! Also if anyone has any advice to give, please help this noob along by leaving a comment 🙂

The finished product! Before and after

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