By Meiling Menin on | No Comments
There is something undeniably captivating about the way movies transport us to different worlds.
As a photographer, I have always been inspired by the ability of movies to capture the beauty of life in a way that feels almost surreal. From The Grand Budapest Hotel’s cheerfully colored compositions to Fight Club’s gritty landscapes, all the way to Interstellar’s out worldly visuals, I have always been enticed by the colors of cinema.
In this tutorial, I will cover how to turn a bland RAW image file into a captivating movie-like still using Adobe Lightroom!
By learning how to manipulate light, color, and effects, you can transform your photo into a stunning cinematic masterpiece that capture the magnificence of our world!
To showcase the versatility of these edits, I will use a photo I took on a foggy night. I really love how the light accentuates the person’s shadow, so I thought this would be an interesting piece to edit.
As a general tip, an often defining feature of a cinematic photo is the importance of light: the more dramatic, the more eye-catching!
Beginning with the Light section in the Edit tab of Lightroom, the first step is to adjust the values of the photo. Remember, depending on the photograph, your adjustments can (and most likely) will be different! The settings used in this tutorial pertain particularly to night photos but can be used as a base for most edits.
Using the sliders, I adjusted the exposure, contrast, highlights, and shadows, bringing more brightness to the photo but still keeping the overall feel dark. I also slightly decreased the blacks to maintain a good contrast between the subject and the environment.
Moving on to the next step, color is the most exciting part of the editing process! What often separates a cinematic image visually is its distinct look created through color grading. This post-production step of color manipulation can transform films to look more dramatic, romantic, industrial, etc.
In this photo, the colors are all over the place, making it rather unappealing. Often, movies are more cool-toned, but for this image, having more warm-colored hues would be more fitting for the subject.
To enhance the warmth, I adjusted the temperature to increase the yellow tones and shifted the tint toward the magenta side to eliminate some of the green hues in the background. I also slightly increased the vibrance to make the colors pop!
Moving on to the Color Mixers, I want to make the colors around the lights flow more smoothly with each other, so I made some adjustments to the HSL (Hue, Saturation, and Luminance) of the red, yellow, green, aqua, and blue colors.
A general rule of thumb is to be moderate with these sliders and try to maintain a balance of colors and values.
Then in the Color Grading panel, you can use the color wheels to change the predominant colors in your image. Personalization is essential in this process, as you can choose various colors to make your image unique.
For a cinematic look, it's better to stick to complementary or analogous color schemes, especially if there is visible skin in your photos. You will also want to ensure that the colors are cohesive and imitate realism (for the most part).
As mentioned, I want to maintain a warm look for this photo, so I primarily use yellows/oranges to reflect the red and yellow street lights. With the top traffic lights being an aqua tone, using yellow in the shadows helps subdue the contrast between those lights and the rest of the photo.
I also adjusted the balance and blending to combine the adjustments with the original colors.
Movies tend to be crisp and rich in detail, so I increased the texture and clarity to make the subject and primary light sources appear more evident.
The dehaze tool is helpful when shooting in misty or foggy conditions as it can remove the haze, but I liked the atmosphere created by the fog in this image, so I slightly decreased this slider.
Moving on to grain, it's totally up to you how much to apply to your image, but remember that the bigger the grain size, the less detail in the photo will remain.
I like to use the following grain settings to give my cinematic images a nice overall texture:
As a finishing touch for this image, I added a manual vignette around the edges of the photo to help draw focus to the man walking across the street.
To do this, I used a Brush tool to make a mask around the edges of the photo. Then I adjusted the light settings to create the dark vignette.
To complete your cinematic look, you can crop the image to get the classic 2.35:1 ratio (the one used in commonly used in theatrical releases) or the standard 16:9 (screen types).
Image 1—2.35:1 Ratio:
Image 2—16:9 Ratio:
Movies have a fantastic ability to capture the beauty of life in a unique way. And as a photographer, you can use Lightroom to transform your image into a magnificent cinematic masterpiece.
You can develop various styles that capture the majesty of the natural world by adjusting light, color, and effects; the aim is to personalize your edits while maintaining a pleasant color and value balance.
The result is a photograph that transports viewers to a different world, much like a movie. So take a picture, open Lightroom, and let your imagination run wild!
Here are my before/after images:
Do you have any questions or comments about How to Edit Photos to Look Cinematic in Lightroom? Leave us a comment below - We would LOVE to hear from you! And PLEASE SHARE this post using the social sharing buttons (We really appreciate it)!
Meiling will be pursuing Film Studies at Toronto Metropolitan University in the Fall of 2023. Her passions include all sorts of visual arts, including drawing, sculpting, photography, and film! She's a big movie buff and loves to experiment with telling stories through various creative mediums.