Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Using other people's presets

Making A Note

One of the great things about using Lightroom for post-processing is that if you create a look you like, you can save it as a preset. What's even better is that other people have already created Lightroom presets and made them available to us; and what's more, they're usually free! Great news for the lazy photographer. But rather than being totally comatose and just using other people's ideas all the time, I like to play with other people's presets to see what else I can create.

One preset that I like is Matt Kloskowski's 300 Look. It's based on the visual effect created by the super-imposition chroma key technique used in the film 300, about the Battle of Thermopylae. You can see how other people have used the 300 Look preset in this thread in the Matt Kloskowski Presets Group on Flickr. And if you're interested in trying it out, you can download the preset here.

He explains how he achieved this effect using Adobe Camera Raw in the Photoshop User TV episode 116 of 14 January 2008. If you want to see the details, start viewing from about 4 minutes and 30 seconds into the video. If not, I'll explain the basics here so you can try it yourself. He starts out by desaturating the picture, by going to the HSL panel and dragging the saturation sliders all the way to the left to give a very basic monochrome look. He then brings back a little colour by dragging the red slider to the right again, just over halfway, and the orange slider up to about a quarter of the way from the left. He brings in a little Fill Light and adds grittiness to the picture by dragging the clarity slider all the way up to 100 and boosting the contrast a little. The final touch is to give it a bronzy-gold look in the Split Toning panel; in the highlights section he drags the hue to 0 (red) and the saturation to 30; in the shadows section he drags the hue to 63 and the saturation to 24; finally, he brings the balance slider to -85 to finish the look.

I've used Matt's 300 Look preset in a few of my photos but you probably wouldn't know it from looking through my Flickr stream. The picture at the top of this article (Making A Note) is one of them. I like to start off with basic cropping and levels adjustment and then click Matt's 300 Look preset to see how it looks with a particular picture. If I think it's starting to look interesting, I'll go to the HSL panel and start to play with the saturation sliders, bringing colours back in to see what works and what doesn't. This can take a bit of time and I'll often bring the Fill Light down a little and play with the levels again to see if I can get the subject to 'pop'. This wasn't difficult with the picture at the top of the article: I'd shot it with a focal length and f-stop that gave me a nice sharp subject against a nicely defocused background so I just needed to play with the Fill Light and colour saturation until I got a nice 3D effect.

Here's another example - a picture I shot at the Holland House Queensday event at Trafalgar Square.


The visual theme of the day was orange and I wanted to preserve that in the picture of the clogmaker so it was mainly a matter of using Matt's preset then dragging back the orange a little more to the right, along with the yellow to give the wood the colour I wanted, leaving the other sliders where they were for the most part.

Is It A Protest?

I wanted to bring a lot more colour back into the above example so I brought the saturation of the red, blue and green up. I also liked the detail in the people's clothes so I dragged the Fill Light slider to where it would show that up nicely.

So, what am I achieving exactly by using a preset in which most of the colours are desaturated and then bringing the saturation back up? Isn't it easier to forget the preset and just play with the colours? Well, not in my opinion. And there are three reasons why not. Firstly, by initially going to monochrome and then dragging the sliders back up I'm being a lot more selective about which colours I want and how much of them, and these differ from one shot to the next as you can see in the three examples above. Secondly, the preset includes that 'gritty' look achieved with the Fill Light, Clarity and Contrast sliders; I could do that myself, or I can let Matt's preset do it for me. Lastly, and possibly most importantly, the 300 Look preset includes that split-toning which will have an effect even though not all of the original colours are desaturated in my final result. I could do the split-toning adjustment manually, but why, when I have Matt's preset to do the job for me?

In my opinion, this preset is a great starting point for getting some results I might never have got by any other means. If you're using Lightroom or Adobe Camera RAW to post-process your photos, why not give this method a go yourself? If you do, post a comment with the URL of the finished result so that we can all see it. And if you find other presets that form a basis for some effect you might not have found simply by experiment, why not share it with all of us? And don't forget, if you're using Photoshop CS or Elements, you can achieve the basic 300 Look by shooting in RAW and opening your photo in PS or PSE - Adobe Camera RAW will then load so you can retrace Matt's steps as demonstrated in the video.


'Show me your best "Matt's 300 Look"' thread in Matt Kloskowski Presets Group / Discuss on Flickr

Matt Kloskowski's 300 Look preset

Episode 116 of Photoshop User TV

1 comment:

  1. Regards from Glenmornan ;)

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