Lu­ Pro

Are LUTs the new way to style your im­ages? Rod Lawton tries the Lu­ Pro pack­age

Amateur Photographer - - 7days -

A Look up Ta­ble (LUT) will help style your im­ages. Rod Lawton tries the Lu­ Pro pack­age to dis­cover how they work

Lu­ is an im­age ef­fects pack­age with a dif­fer­ence. It gives your im­ages an in­stant one-click ‘look’, but by us­ing a Look Up Ta­ble (LUT) rather than a par­tic­u­lar set of tone, colour or curve ad­just­ments.

A LUT is ef­fec­tively a con­ver­sion pro­file that takes a colour value in your orig­i­nal file, looks it up in a ta­ble and re­turns a new colour value.

In prin­ci­ple, it’s no dif­fer­ent from a mon­i­tor cal­i­bra­tion pro­file de­signed to cor­rect the colours a mon­i­tor dis­plays, or a prin­ter pro­file to pro­duce ac­cu­rate colours in a printed im­age. Here, though, this con­ver­sion process is be­ing used to shift tones and colours for a cre­ative, rather than a cor­rec­tive, ef­fect.

LUTs are just start­ing to cap­ture the in­ter­est of stills pho­tog­ra­phers and soft­ware com­pa­nies, but they’re al­ready well estab­lished in the world of video edit­ing and cine­matog­ra­phy. So why use a LUT to cre­ate an ef­fect rather than ap­ply­ing reg­u­lar pre­sets or man­ual ad­just­ments in your soft­ware?

One rea­son is that they ‘remap’ colours and tones in ways that your soft­ware tools may not be able to re­pro­duce. An­other ad­van­tage is that ap­ply­ing a LUT does not shift any of the im­age ad­just­ment tools in your soft­ware in the way that reg­u­lar pre­sets do. You can ap­ply a LUT be­fore or af­ter you’ve made your ad­just­ments – they are two sep­a­rate pro­cesses.

Per­haps the big­gest ad­van­tage is that LUTs are soft­ware in­de­pen­dent. You can use the same LUT in any soft­ware that sup­ports LUT files. If you like Lu­’s ‘Ad­hil’ LUT, for ex­am­ple, you can use it in Adobe Cam­era Raw, Light­room, Affin­ity Photo or any other LUT-en­abled pro­gram – in­clud­ing video-edit­ing soft­ware. You’ll get the same ‘look’ each time. Fea­tures LUTs come in a cou­ple of dif­fer­ent types. You can get sim­ple one- di­men­sional (1D) LUTs for ba­sic con­ver­sions, but the best type are 3D LUTs. These remap the im­age colours in a three- di­men­sional colour space and are very much the stan­dard for cin­ema and stills use. All of Lu­’s LUTs are 3D LUTs.

Not all soft­ware pro­grams sup­port LUTs yet, but the list is grow­ing. How­ever, in many cases the LUT sup­port is han­dled slightly dif­fer­ently.

For ex­am­ple, Serif Affin­ity Photo can now ap­ply LUTs via an ad­just­ment layer, while the lat­est ver­sion of Sky­lum Lu­mi­nar has a LUTs filter, as does the lat­est ON1 Photo RAW.

Adobe Cam­era Raw, Light­room and Cap­ture One Pro sup­port LUTs slightly dif­fer­ently, ap­ply­ing them in­di­rectly as colour pro­files. Lu­’s so­lu­tion is to pack­age up its LUT files into Adobe- com­pat­i­ble pro­files which can be used di­rectly by the lat­est ver­sions of Adobe Cam­era Raw and Light­room, and as a set of Cap­ture One Styles.

In Light­room the process is very straight­for­ward. The Lu­ pro­files ap­pear un­der the reg­u­lar Adobe and cam­era-spe­cific pro­files in the Ba­sic ad­just­ment tab, and you can se­lect them from a drop-down menu or browse thumb­nail ren­di­tions of your im­age with each pro­file ap­plied be­fore you make a choice.

Cap­ture One Pro han­dles them slightly dif­fer­ently. To of­fer con­trol over the strength of the ef­fect, the LUTs are or­gan­ised into sec­tions for raw files or JPEGs, and with four fur­ther per­cent­age strength op­tions for each. It means you have a cou­ple more sub-menus to nav­i­gate, but it does give proper con­trol over the strength of the ef­fect.

All of these download op­tions are part of a sin­gle Lu­ sub­scrip­tion. Sub­scrip­tion-based soft­ware is not pop­u­lar with ev­ery­one, but this is slightly dif­fer­ent. The first year’s sub­scrip­tion is higher, but once you’ve paid it, all the LUTs are yours to download, keep and use for­ever, even if you then can­cel the sub­scrip­tion im­me­di­ately. If you leave the sub­scrip­tion run­ning, sub­se­quent years cost $19.90 per an­num, for which you get tech­ni­cal sup­port and reg­u­lar up­dates.

There are three pack­ages to choose from. The Pro pack­age has a first-year price of $59 and comes with the full set of 213 3D LUTs. This is the pack­age you need if you’re an Adobe Cam­era Raw, Light­room or Cap­ture One Pro user, as it’s the only one that comes with the ded­i­cated Light­room pro­files and Cap­ture One Styles. The Stan­dard pack­age costs $39 and comes with a smaller col­lec­tion of 65 LUTs, while the Ba­sic pack­age costs $29 and comes with 35 3D LUT files.

The Pro pack­age we’re re­view­ing is the most ex­pen­sive at $59, but this is still ex­cel­lent value when com­pared with com­mer­cial pre­set packs, given that you get such a large num­ber of ef­fects and they can be used across a wide range of pro­grams. The LUTs in the Pro pack­age are or­gan­ised into ten dif­fer­ent cat­e­gories: Al­ter­na­tive Pro­cesses, Black and White Films, Cine Looks, Cin­e­matic Base Grade, Contemporary Color Films, In­stant Films, Movie In­spired Looks, Skin Tone Ma­nip­u­la­tion, Teal and Or­ange, Vin­tage Films.

Each cat­e­gory of­fers quite a var­ied se­lec­tion of ‘looks’. Some are clearly aimed more at cine­matog­ra­phy, where edi­tors will of­ten use stronger and more ob­vi­ous colour shifts than per­haps we’d use in stills pho­tog­ra­phy, but there are still plenty of pow­er­ful and in­ter­est­ing looks to try out. What it’s like to use? In Adobe Cam­era Raw and Light­room, Lu­tify. me’s LUTs are ex­tremely easy to use. You can preview the ef­fect of the LUTs be­fore you ap­ply them, you can add in­di­vid­ual LUTs to your favourites to make them eas­ier to find later, and you can even ad­just the strength of the ef­fect with a slider. This works well with the colour LUTs, though not with the Black and White pro­files, since these are still ap­plied in a 3D colour space, and val­ues other than 100% will add colour back in.

The Lu­ LUTs are slightly more com­plex to ap­ply in Cap­ture One Pro as Styles, sim­ply be­cause there are so many vari­a­tions to al­low for JPEG and raw files and four dif­fer­ent strengths. How­ever, you can save a cus­tom Style that uses a favourite LUT, mak­ing it eas­ier to find. You can’t add LUTs to lay­ers in Cap­ture One (or in Adobe Cam­era Raw or Light­room) be­cause they are an un­der­ly­ing im­age pro­file set­ting rather than a lo­cal ad­just­ment.

Affin­ity Photo, Lu­mi­nar and ON1 Photo

RAW add LUTs as ad­just­ment lay­ers or fil­ters, so they are very easy to in­te­grate into your photo- edit­ing pro­cesses.

The Lu­ Pro pack­age it­self of­fers a very wide ar­ray of im­age ‘looks’. The Al­ter­na­tive Pro­cesses cat­e­gory is one of the most in­ter­est­ing. Some ef­fects will be too strong for ev­ery­day use but per­fect for adding at­mos­phere in cer­tain types of im­age, while oth­ers will be more gen­er­ally use­ful. ‘Ad­hil’, for ex­am­ple, gives a rich, dense and slightly cold film look, while ‘Al­bireo’ adds a rich, warm tone.

The Black and White Films cat­e­gory has both reg­u­lar monochro­matic con­ver­sions and sub­tly toned vari­a­tions. It’s use­ful to be able to skim through the al­ter­na­tives to see which is the best com­ple­ment for the tones in your pic­tures. Very oc­ca­sion­ally, though, you may see some band­ing, noise or pos­ter­i­sa­tion in blue skies, for ex­am­ple. This is a re­minder that LUT pro­files, like any im­age ad­just­ment, can some­times sep­a­rate ad­ja­cent tones so far that sub­tle gra­da­tions start to break up.

The Cine Looks, Cin­e­matic Base Grade and Movie In­spired Looks cat­e­gories are prob­a­bly of most in­ter­est to cinematographers, although there are some in­ter­est­ing ef­fects for stills pho­tog­ra­phers here too, es­pe­cially if you want to try to recre­ate the look of a spe­cific film.

The Contemporary Color films cat­e­gory is in­ter­est­ing, with two high- con­trast, high­sat­u­ra­tion LUTs (‘Hal­cor’, ‘Hy­dro­bius’) and some more sub­tle ren­di­tions, while the ‘In­stant Film’ cat­e­gory has some use­ful faded retro looks.

The Skin Tone Ma­nip­u­la­tion cat­e­gory of­fers a num­ber of ren­di­tions for both male and fe­male por­traits, while the Teal and Or­ange cat­e­gory repli­cates a colour ‘look’ that might not be par­tic­u­larly well known to stills pho­tog­ra­phers but is ap­par­ently pop­u­lar in movies.

The Vin­tage Films sec­tion has LUTs like ‘Savi’, which de­liv­ers high con­trast, warm shad­ows and dense blue skies. This is one of the good things about LUTs; they can cre­ate colour and tonal shifts that would be quite hard to work out us­ing the soft­ware’s own ad­just­ment tools. Much of the value of LUTs (and pre­sets for that mat­ter) comes from the skill and fi­nesse of a vis­ual artist.

As with any pre­set or in­stant ef­fect, you won’t use them all the time. The Lu­ web­site has de­scrip­tions for each LUT, with sug­ges­tions about when to use it.

LUTs can be used in Cap­ture One as well as Light­room where they’re ap­plied as pro­files in cus­tom styles. You can use reg­u­lar Cap­ture One ad­just­ments on top of these styles. This LUT is called ‘Al­bireo’


Affin­ity Photo can ap­ply LUTs as an ad­just­ment layer within its Photo workspace

This year’s Adobe Cam­era Raw update means it can dis­play and ap­ply Light­room LUT pro­files from Lu­ This one is called ‘Naos’ and it’s from the Skin Tone Ma­nip­u­la­tion cat­e­gory

AF­TER Sky­lum’s Lu­mi­nar photo editor now has a LUT filter where you can lo­cate and load LUTs from your hard drive. This one is called ‘Hyper­s­thene’ and it’s free to download and try out from the Lu­ web­site


AF­TER For this im­age the ‘Bal­cor’ LUT from Lu­’s Black and White cat­e­gory was used


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