4 Tricks to Give Digital Photos a Film Look in Lightroom (VIDEO)

by John Stapel

We all strive to make images that stand out the crowd, and one way for digital photographers to do that is to create photos that look like they were shot on film. In the video below you’ll see how to do that in less than six minutes.

You might ask, “If that’s the goal, why not just use a film camera to shoot the images in the first place?” Well, some photographers don’t own a 35mm camera, and even if they do, the cost of film and processing can get expensive in a hurry.

So pull up a chair, watch the quick tutorial below from our friends at Mango Street, and learn four simple tips for getting the job done in Lightroom. The techniques you’ll learn work great for just about anything you shoot—indoors our outside.

Experienced photographer and instructor Nick Spruck’s advice is simple enough for anyone to follow. He says, “While you’re never able to perfectly emulate the look of film, here are four things to do in the editing process to get pretty close.”

Spruck’s first tip has to do with the fact that digital images sometimes come out of the camera with unrealistic green hues. Often the issue is too much saturation, while other times there’s a bit too much yellow. He uses a digital image, and another shot on film, to demonstrate how a quick trip to Lightroom’ HSL panel will make the digital image look almost indistinguishable from the film photo.

Tip number two involves how film stock often adds coloration to the shadows—a characteristic that’s less common with digital images. In this comparison, you’ll see how the shadows in the film photo have a somewhat bluer tone. To make them look more alike, this time Spruck turns to a quick Lightroom color-grading trick.

For his third tip Spruck compares an images shot with Cinestill film to another of the same scene made with a digital camera, and he demonstrates a quick edit to make the latter photo more closely resemble the former. Spruck’s final trick explains how to add “halation” and film grain to digital images, and all four tips are equally easy to accomplish.

You can find other interesting videos on the Mango Street YouTube channel, and see more of Spruck’s work on his Instagram page. And be sure to check out another helpful Lightroom tutorial we posted recently, explaining how to quickly create different variations of the same photo and save a bunch of time.