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Hello! I have a couple of similar shots and I wanna duplicate this look in Lightroom. I’ve been trying but I can’t seem to get it right.

How is this look achieved?

Thanks in advanced!

closed as unclear what you're asking by mattdm, scottbb, Michael C, inkista, Olin Lathrop Mar 29 '18 at 12:07

Please clarify your specific problem or add additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it’s hard to tell exactly what you're asking. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    What about the look do you want to achieve? Each person who looks at these photos sees a different thing. Please be specific about what you're trying to do. This meta question may help you clarify this question. – user1118321 Mar 24 '18 at 6:06
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    Step 1: Stop shaving. Step 2: Buy a ticket to Paris. Step 3: Figure out the actual problem that you're having. Do you not know how to separate the subject from the background using depth of field? Are you uncertain about how to create soft but contrasty shadows? Is it the color palette that you're having trouble with? Step 4: Tell us. – Caleb Mar 24 '18 at 19:35
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    You know, I'm actually thinking that picking one image, and then also displaying your attempt, would make this question really shine. Also, it'd allow us to really go for the make x look like y with an objective answer. – Hueco Mar 28 '18 at 15:47
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    Yeah, this is kind of frustrating because this kind of question is theoretically ideal for this site. We just need more to go on. – mattdm Mar 28 '18 at 16:13
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A shot like this actually starts at the camera; you wouldn't be able to turn just any image into one as dramatic and striking as these.

The Setup

Composition:

First, pick your location and composition wisely. You'll notice that the colors in the background are very neutral (no bright greens, reds). The wear in the bench/box in the second photo adds a lot of character.

Lighting:

All of these shots have a horizontal light coming across the face and body, causing a dramatic shadow displaying depth, but it's a not a harsh shadow (not sunlight). In the first one, you can see that the shadows on the face are a very soft shadow, but the shadows coming from the table and chairs are harsh. To me this sounds like it was shot in daylight, but the subject was lit with a flash. It doesn't necessarily have to be a flash, it could be the subject sitting in a shadow, or just be clever subject positioning in the right time of day with some cloud cover.

Lens:

Shoot with a large aperture (f/2.8 or lower) and a focal length of 80mm+, this will give you the blurry background (bokeh) and compress the features so the face looks more pleasing and the background looks close and more interesting.

The Edit

Drama:

Crank up the contrast and clarity. You'll notice that all of the images have some elements bordering on underexposure (the jackets and shadows) and some elements bordering on overexposure (chairs, reflection, sky).

Sharpness:

The details are not so sharp. Digital cameras often have a sharpen filter built into them, and lightroom also has a sharpen slider which defaults to a number above zero. You will need to play with this until you get the level of sharpness desired. When doing portraiture you often don't want the sharpest lens because it's not flattering.

Colors:

Perhaps what makes this photo the most unique are the colors. We're getting really strong bronze / brown / skin tones but the other colors are faded. This can be done using the HSL / Color panel in lightroom. You'll need to drop down the saturation and luminosity of the colors you don't want. There's also a "cream" color coming through on the background, that could've been a more yellow tone that was adjusted in the same way

All of the above should get you close. The biggest thing to remember is that if you start with an image that already came out of the camera looking good (good diversity of interesting lighting), it's much easier to achieve effects like this. If your photo is very flat coming out of the camera it will be very difficult.

  • You have really good information but unfortunately a lot of it is incorrect in application so I had to downvote. For example everything in drama is wrong - none of these images have any white or black in them. – RyanFromGDSE Mar 28 '18 at 13:31
  • @RyanFromGDSE: Feel free to correct the details here in a new answer or with an edit. I don't have all the answers and am eager to learn if you're willing to elaborate instead of just saying "you're wrong" and downvoting. – caesay Mar 28 '18 at 15:27
  • Not really sure why you're getting so defensive when I didn't just say you're wrong. I explained that none of these images have white or black in them. I also said you have a lot of really good information. – RyanFromGDSE Mar 28 '18 at 15:31
  • @RyanFromGDSE: I'm not being defensive (apologies), I'm asking you to elaborate in the hopes that you know something I don't know, and we can all improve. When I said "white" and "black" what I meant was "light" and "dark", I've removed that from my answer. – caesay Mar 28 '18 at 17:52
  • I'll make a tutorial later today. And I saw you removed that part and removed my downvote :) – RyanFromGDSE Mar 28 '18 at 18:12
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Note that if you inspect these photos none have any blacks or whites. You can do this by looking at a histogram or opening in photoshop and using threshold. Also might notice the black is actually a very deep blue. Then you can probably tell the skin tones pop while the rest of the image is desaturated. Real easy to achieve:

  1. Raise the black point on the RGB curve
  2. Lower the white point on the RGB curve
  3. Reduce the saturation of everything that isn't skin tones
  4. Refine luminance and saturation
  5. Refine contrast
  6. Possibly add clarity
  7. Depending on image can also add blue to the shadows either using the Curve or the Split Tone function

Here's a quick video for you (and please consider subscribing): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pioMmZAQnD8

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