Filmic Processing in Lightroom

Trends come and go yet film photography has been resilient through times of evolving technology. With the advancement of DSLR’s we are able to see how an image will look prior to its capture, a monumental advancement from the slow processing of film cameras. Although an image can be shot straight-out-of-camera (SOOC) with the attributes of film in mind, it comes down to the post-production phase to dial in the appropriate settings to replicate that vintage feel.

Using the SLR Lounge Lightroom Presets we are able to replicate filmic settings with a simple click of the button, transforming the mood and feel of the image completely.

Canon 5D Mark III, Sigma 35mm f/1.4, 1/4th sec at f/1.4, ISO 3200
Canon 5D Mark III, Sigma 35mm f/1.4, 1/4th sec at f/1.4, ISO 3200

Shoot with the Intention of Replicating Film

The decision to alter the style of your image, however, begins in camera. Bright and airy images are in currently in high-demand and don’t seem to be leaving any time soon. They give female subjects a softer appeal and the image overall a state of subtlety.


The image used in this tutorial was shot with the intention of being photographed using a film camera, and the grain caused by the high ISO is purposeful, resembling the granulation of film. Now, although it isn’t quite necessary to be shooting at 1/4 of a second, the blur for this shot was also intentional, creating a softer focus throughout the image.

Soft Highlights & Desaturation

Film images generally have softer highlights, never reaching a pure white look. To replicate that effect, pull the highlights down while preserving the shadows and blacks to brighten skin tones and darker portions of the image.

Any contrast lost is gained through adjustments in the Tone Curve, muting the shadows by pulling up on the left side of the curve, and decreasing highlights even further to exaggerate that matte film effect.


Dramatic alterations are made to the color in the image by fine tuning the HSL (Hue, Saturation, Luminance) panel in Lightroom. Although a speedy way to desaturated color in an image is to simply decrease it using the Saturation slider, this affects the image as a whole, disabling you from targeting specific colors. The preset used was designed to resemble the pastel tendencies of the Fuji 400h.

Sharpening vs. Grain


As mentioned above, the pre-existing grain in the image was done with intention, however, adding even more grain in without reducing the original noise might be overkill. Fluctuate the sliders to reduce noise to a balanced point where you haven’t lost edge detail.

To enhance the filmic effect, you can add in grain or leave as is. With such a high ISO you should be cautious of adding in too much granulation into the image.

Camera Calibration Adjustments


Adjusting the Camera Calibration sliders drastically can change the hues & colors existing in your image, but the important thing to remember here is your intention behind doing so. Make small incremental adjustments to see how prominent the change in color truly is.

This is just one of numerous tutorials from our Lightroom Advanced Processing workshop, helping you develop superior post-production techniques by utilizing Lightroom’s RAW processing capabilities to their full potential. Stream the entire workshop as an SLR Lounge Premium Member.