Using LUTs For Color Grading in Lightroom - Digital Darkroom Academy

Using LUTs For Color Grading in Lightroom

LUTs in Lightroom

Color grading has long been an important part of the editing process in film and videography, and carefully chosen color grades can make all the difference between an visually dull image and a dramatic one. LUTs are a great tool to use in your own color grading on still images.

LUTs have been around for a long time, but now the technology exists for image editing programs to use them for color grading photos.  Photographers have seen the benefits in using them, and are starting to incorporate them into their workflow. In this article, we’re going to look at what LUTs are, and how they can help to improve your images. We’ll also look at how to install and use LUTs in Adobe Lightroom.

What Are LUTs?

 LUT stands for Look Up Tables, and they are a file which can be used to alter the color and appearance of an image using a mathematical formula. If you use a LUT, they can vastly improve the quality and color of your images without you having to do a lot of time-consuming work. You can use pre-made LUTs, or create your own and import them into your editing software.

So, are LUTs just presets under a new name, then? No, they are different from presets, although they are similar in some ways. LUTs have a much wider range of usage because they can combine multiple and complex color adjustments in a single file – you can then apply this data to an image to change the color and tone curve of the image based on the values in the LUT file.

Because LUTs re-map all the colors, and don’t just change the hue/saturation/lightness of an image, your images have more precise color changes, and give a 3-dimensional look than if you used a preset. They are also software independent, unlike presets, which means you can transfer your LUTs to different editing programs or video editing software, and the look would remain the same across all of them.

LUTs are formulated for using on correctly-exposed images, and will only give good results on those images. If your image has blown-out highlights or completely black shadows, you probably won’t be impressed with the results. You also need to have a properly white-balanced image for the LUT to give predictable results. If your WB is off, you may still get a good result, but that’s relying on luck, not color grading.

What is Color Grading?

Color grading is a technique that photographers and filmmakers use to change the visual ‘tone’ of an image, and to manipulate the colors of a photo. Color grading can change the aesthetics of an image completely. If you want to communicate a particular “mood” or emotion to your viewers, color grading is a great tool to use.

If you are a fan of post-apocalyptic zombie serials, or films set in a dystopian future, you will likely have seen color grading at work. The storylines are stark and grim, and the colors are generally dark/muted, with no bright and cheerful colors. This helps to enhance the audience understanding of the situation. Colorists in the film industry have been around since color movies began, and nowadays the role is taken by the “Digital Intermediate”, who manipulates the film using powerful software to color grade it.

The cinematic look in photography has become popular in recent years, with photos looking like they could be still shots from movies, and that is achieved by color grading. The content of the photos matters less than how the image is treated using color correction and color grading, and it will work on all types of image, from landscape to portrait. Shooting your original images in RAW is a must if you want to achieve proper color grading.  The idea is to shift the colors, either subtly or dramatically, so that they compliment each other.

People sometimes confuse color grading with color correcting, but the two are different. Color correction is applying adjustments to improve the colors of an image, such as adjusting white balance, contrast, saturation/vibrance, and the color temperature of an image. Color correction is the first step to complete before you start color grading.

For manual color grading, the process can be long, and involve adjustments in the curves, hue/saturation, solid color fill and levels. LUTs take that complicated process and allow you to apply it to your images in one click, which is why they are such a useful tool for color grading.

You’ll get the best results from your LUTs if you have done your other adjusting and editing work first. Adding a LUT should be the last thing you do before applying any sharpening needed, and outputting your finished image.

Finding LUTs

Where do you get LUTs from? If you search for LUTs on the internet, you’ll find websites offering LUTs both paid for and free. You can also get LUTs in black and white, for some dramatic monochrome results. Here are a few free LUT packs:

Free Cinematic Color Grading LUTs

LUTs Color Grading Pack

8 Free Orange and Teal Lightroom Presets and LUTs

Free Cinematic LUTs

500 Free lightroom presets

If you want to learn to create your own LUTs you can. There are many good tutorials out there explaining how to create LUTs in Photoshop or Lightroom that can be used by other software applications.

Loading LUTs in Lightroom

This method is a bit of a drag, but it’s really the only way to use LUTs in Lightroom. First, you must download your LUTs to your hard drive, and unzip them. You must copy them to a specific folder according to the instructions of the website you downloaded them from, as the folders differ depending on if you use Mac or Windows, and which version of Lightroom you use.

Once you have your LUTs in the correct location, open Lightroom. It depends on which version you are using, but if it’s Lightroom Classic CC, you’ll find the Profile Browser on the right-hand side of the screen, and your LUTs should be in one of the drop-down menus below:

LUTs in Lightroom

Before and After in LUTs

How to Install LUTs in Lightroom version 7.2 & earlier

Here are the instructions for adding LUTs to Lightroom version 7.2 and earlier:

For Windows

Important: Make sure Lightroom is closed before you begin.

Step 1

Download the LUTs file. The one I’m currently using for this tutorial is the package of free LUTs available at lutify.

When you have downloaded the file, open the folder containing the LUTs.

Install LUTs in Lightroom
These are the ICC files available in the free lutify package.

Step 2

Copy the ICC profiles to the following location:

C:\Windows\System32\spool\drivers\color

Install LUTs in Lightroom

Please Note: Do not copy the folder containing these LUTs. Copy the ICC Profiles (as shown in the image above) directly to this the location.

For Mac

Important: Make sure Lightroom is closed before you begin.

Step 1

Download the LUTs file and open the folder containing the LUTs.

Step 2

Copy the ICC profiles to the following location: \Library\ColorSync\Profiles

Note: Do not copy the folder containing these LUTs. Copy the ICC Profiles (as shown in the image above) directly to this the location.

When you open Lightroom next, your LUTs will be ready to use.

How to apply LUTs in Lightroom version 7.2 & earlier

Applying LUTs in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is a matter of selecting the appropriate LUT from the Soft Proofing menu in the Develop module. Please follow these steps to apply LUTs in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom.

Step 1

Make sure LUTs are installed in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom.

Step 2

Go to Develop module from the right top corner.

Lightroom Develop module

Step 3

In the bottom left corner of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom select the Soft Proofing option. This will bring up a soft-proofing box under your histogram on the right-hand side.

LUT in Lightroom

Step 4

Create Proof Copy of your image so your edits are performed on a virtual copy of your file instead of the original image.

Create Proof Copy using LUT

Step 5

From Profile drop-down menu select Other.

Install LUTs in Lightroom

Step 6

The window will open populated with LUTs from your package.

LUTs in Lightroom

Select a checkmark next to each LUT you would like to appear in the drop-down menu of Profile option and click OK. You will need to do this only once. Once the list of LUTs in the Profile option is populated you will access your LUTs from the Profile drop-down menu.

LUTs in Lightroom

Select Other… option every time you would like to add or remove LUTs from the list of available LUTs in the Profile option.

Now you can select the appropriate LUT to apply it on the image.

BECOME A LIGHTROOM NINJA!

GET CONFIDENT WITH LIGHTROOM

THE COMPLETE LIGHTROOM COURSE

Learn how to use Lightroom to get organized, create amazing photos and cut your editing time in half.

How to Install LUTs in Lightroom version 7.3 & later

For Windows

Step 1

Download the LUTs file and copy the folder containing the LUTs.

Step 2

Paste the folders containing the LUTs into the following location on your hard drive:

C:\Users\[Your Username]\AppData\Roaming\Adobe\CameraRaw\Settings

LUTs in Lightroom

Note: In this case you’re copying the ICC profiles and the folder containing them.

Your LUTs are now ready to use.

For Mac

Step 1

Download the LUTs file and copy the folder containing the LUTs.

Step 2

Paste the folders containing the LUTs into the following location on your hard drive:
\Library\Application Support\Adobe\CameraRaw\Settings

Note: In this case you’re copying the ICC profiles and the folder containing them.

Your LUTs are now ready to use.

How to apply LUTs in Lightroom version 7.3 & later

Here are the instructions on how to apply LUTs in Lightroom version 7.3 and later April 2018 update:

Step 1

Make sure your LUTs are placed in the proper location and then open Lightroom. Head over to the Develop module.

Step 2

Click the Profile Browser icon under the Basic panel.

LUTs in Lightroom

Step 3

Select the LUTs you want to use.

LUTs in Lightroom

If you’re using Lightroom CC, the method to apply them is pretty simple and pretty similar as well.

Use the Profile Browser to access the installed LUTs, select the one you want, and apply.

Final Thoughts

LUTs are a very useful tool to color grade your images, and create exactly the right mood. They won’t fix a bad photo, but will add that extra something to good, well-exposed and color corrected images.

Max Therry

Max Therry is an architecture student who is fond of photography and wants to become a professional photographer. He is also working on his own photography blog about photo editing, modern photo trends, and inspiration. Feel free to reach him by email.

View all posts

1 comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  • Wow, I did not realize that LUTS are that complex and actually different from presets. You have opened my eyes to a whole new world of Lightroom and Photoshop 🙂

The Ultimate Quick Start Guide for Lightroom

In this free guide, I will take you through the basics of Lightroom to so you feel more confident.

Subscribe to Our YouTube Channel

Recent Posts

TRANSFORM YOUR PHOTOS!

THE 3Cs OF RETOUCHING

 A mini-course that teaches you a step-by-step system that you can use to take your photos from boring to amazing in no time.

BECOME A LIGHTROOM NINJA!

THE COMPLETE LIGHTROOM COURSE

Learn how to use Lightroom to get organized, create amazing photos and cut your editing time in half!

10 Shares
Share8
Tweet
Pin2