As a learning exercise, I'm trying to recreate the Instagram Lark filter using Gimp, but it is a tough nut to crack. I can't seem to get the slighly purplish hue in the sky tones without trashing the greens in the field. Also, how do you brighten the image without lessening contrast? Any ideas about this?

The first image below is the original, the second is processed with Lark.


Original image

Image with Instagram Lark filter applied

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ This is a refreshingly good question related to Instagram filters. I wish more of them were like this, rather than the typical "what's this effect called?" \$\endgroup\$
    – scottbb
    Jul 22, 2016 at 20:59

1 Answer 1

  • Import the image to Instagram
  • Apply the "Lark" filter
  • Export the resulting image

Sorry, but I couldn't resist.

I'm not real familiar with the Lark filter in Instagram nor am I familiar with the labels Gimp puts on certain controls, but based on the images above, here are the differences that I see between the first image (which looks much better to my eyes) and the second. As long as the application you are using has the necessary tools, it's all pretty much the same. You need to be able to fine tune the Magenta-Green axis and the Blue-Yellow axis independently of the color temperature. You also need to be able to edit the hue, saturation, and luminance values of selected colors independently of the rest of the colors in the image.

The Magenta-Green axis seems to have been shifted towards magenta just a bit. The Blue-Yellow axis seems to have been shifted towards yellow just a bit.
The yellow channel has also been boosted using some type of selective color tool. Believe it or not, most grasses as well as a lot of other types of "green" vegetation have more yellow than green in them.

In Lightroom the selective color tool is called the "HSL (hue-saturation-luminance)" tool and looks like an eight band graphic equalizer that adjusts the colors in the photo based on which of the 8 divisions the sum of the RGB channels for each individual pixel fall into. Only the specific pixels that have the colors included in the band you are adjusting are affected with the HSL tool. This is completely different than the white balance/color temperature adjustment that shifts all values of all pixels in the same direction along either the blue-yellow or magenta-green axis. I don't know what Gimp calls the HSL tool, but I'm fairly sure it includes one.

Without spending a lot of time on it, here's an example using a picture with similar lighting conditions and overall color elements. Color temp was set at 5400K for all images below. I probably went a bit too far on the M-G fine tune axis so the effect can more clearly be seen. Image as originally edited "straight" next to modified image.
Straight image"Lark" look

Here are screenshots (for the second image settings) of the white balance section of the raw conversion control (original image has values of +1.1 B-Y and +1.5 M-G) and the yellow and green sections of the HSL control panel (original image Y values were S:-1 and L:0, G values were S:-2 and L:0) from Canon's Digital Photo Professional:
WB fine tuneHSL Yellow Green

Finally, just for kicks, here's the same photo both without and then with the B-Y/M-G shifts and with the yellow all the way down at -10 in both:
straight-No yellowM+Y-No yellow
What look to be yellow yard line markers are actually just over the threshold into the orange channel. Pulling the green down to -10 in the second image makes no difference to the grass. Most of the green has already been pulled out by the -6 shift to magenta in the raw conversion panel, and there's none left for the HSL control to affect.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you Michael for an instructive and engaging reply. A few comments. First, Instagram, AFAIK, does not actually have an export function; basically you can only just save to disk the on-screen version at 1024px or whatever. Second, I think you might be right! Looking at it again, the original is better. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 26, 2016 at 18:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ Having said that, I find the Instagram filters quite fascinating. With a few clicks, one can markedly improve certain kinds of photos. I have no interest in mechanically aping the results, I would simply like to learn the underlying techniques. I have now managed to reverse-engineer several of my favourite Instagram filters using Gimp; Lark however remained illusive. Gimp has a good feature set these days, but it will take me a little while to sort out the Lightroom equivalents you mention. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 26, 2016 at 18:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ My current theory (subject to change) is that modern digital cameras are brilliant at producing extremely neutral, even images, but ones that are also rather characterless. The better Instagram filters reintroduce something of the old character of film; they are less perfect in an engineering sense but more appealing aesthetically. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 26, 2016 at 18:27

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.