Are LUTs the new way to style your images? Rod Lawton tries the Lutify.me Pro package
A Look up Table (LUT) will help style your images. Rod Lawton tries the Lutify.me Pro package to discover how they work
Lutify.me 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 Lutify.me’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 Lutify.me’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. Lutify.me’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 Lutify.me 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 Lutify.me 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 Lutify.me 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 Lutify.me 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 Lutify.me 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 Lutify.me. 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 Lutify.me website
AFTER For this image the ‘Balcor’ LUT from Lutify.me’s Black and White category was used