Lookup Tables, or LUTs, were originally used to take one type of camera recording and translate into something else. This is frequently used in the world of video to get more dynamic range without shooting raw video. In this movie, author Richard Harrington demonstrates how to apply camera-based corrective LUTs to images.
- Let's talk about the origin of lookup tables and why they were originally used. A lookup table was often a corrective measure. It was designed to take one type of camera recording and translate it into something else. This is frequently used in the world of video and when employed properly, it allows you to get additional dynamic range without having to shoot raw video. For example, it's possible to get a dynamic range of almost 12 stops when shooting in a log color space.
We use this a lot with cameras from manufacturers like Panasonic and Sony to change the way that the video is recorded. Traditional video, often referred to as Rec. 709, has a very contrasty look but when you record with log, it really loses some of that on either end but instead, consolidates the information to the middle of the histogram. This avoids clipping shadows or highlights while recording and gives you greater flexibility during post-production. Let's take a look at a video clip from a Sony camera shot with the Sony S-log color space.
In Photoshop, I'll choose File, Open and navigate to the folder called Footage. Open up the clip called Interview and click Open. Remember, Photoshop has the capacity of opening video files. You also can shoot these types of color profiles to a JPEG image in camera. In this case, the video file comes into Photoshop and I'm going to apply a lookup table in a moment. Sony posted official LUT's or lookup tables for some of their higher end cameras, the F55 and F65.
And these LUT's are designed to convert this logarithmic recording into something that looks a bit more traditional like video or film. These are downloadable and you can freely use these for your Sony acquired material. Feel free to take a look at both the PDF and the downloadable file. Additionally, I've shared a link with a user who has posted 20 creative lookup tables for use with Sony's A7 cameras. Now, while these are designed for Sony cameras, you still may find them useful with other images.
Let me show you how this works. Now, you'll notice with this video clip, this is what a log video file looks like. This is becoming more and more common. You might instantly be tempted to color correct this but you actually don't need to yet. The first step is to click on the color lookup adjustment and then from the pop up for Load 3D LUT, you're going to need to choose that to bring up a dialog. You'll now want to navigate to the files that you've downloaded using the links provided earlier.
I can't include these in the lessons files. You have to download them directly from the website. I've already downloaded mine so I'll go into the folder that I stored them and open up these here from Sony. You'll see four different options. Let's take a look at this first one here. This is converting it to a low contrast Rec. 709 video signal and very quickly, we end up with a traditional looking video.
You might wonder why did you do all that work just to have more steps? But the truth is we have greater flexibility. We didn't have to worry as much while shooting about clipping the shadows or the highlights plus we could put additional color correction between the footage layer and the lookup table. Those adjustment layers in here can actually be more flexible and give us greater latitude when correcting. Let's do that. I'll click on the footage layer and add a curves adjustment. Now, using the On Image tool, I can easily lift up the shadows a bit and click to recover the highlights.
You'll notice how fast and easy that is. Little bit of vibrance here and I can round out the saturation and get a really nice rich colorful image. Toggling that adjustment on and off, you see how flexible that is. Now, this gives you a lot of choices. Remember, these are as flexible as you want them to be. I'll pull that black down just a little bit there and that looks pretty good. If I change my mind on the lookup table, it's very easy to load another one.
For example, here's an additional one that is designed to give it a little bit more of a cinematic look and here's one here. Changes it to a flatter look. Or a strong cinema look and you see that it really pushes the blacks and the whites and changes the look of that image.
Definitely a one click film look there which is getting us incredible contrast and a cinema type quality to the skin tones and the shadows. If I press Play, you'll see that the video plays back. So this is a fast easy way to adjust. Now, I provide this more for illustrative purposes. This is what was often done originally with lookup tables. Applying a particular lookup table to change the behavior of a camera giving you more flexibility while recording or to convert from one type of camera's look to another type of camera's look.
You saw that a bit in fact earlier when we took a conversion simulating traditional film stocks. This is one of the original purposes of lookup tables. Now, this may seem a bit advanced and if you don't intend to work with video, you might be wondering how this all ties together. I wanted you to have a sense of history. Where do these go and to appreciate how powerful they can be as a quick corrective tool plus the use of logarithmic recording is becoming more and more popular. You'll start to see this option in more cameras and whether you shoot with it on purpose or on accident, it's important that you know how to compensate for it.
Now, let me show you one more option here where these LUT's are a bit more creative. In this case, Alister Chapman here has posted 20 creative lookup tables. These are quite useful. He does ask that if you decide to use these for professional work, consider making a donation for his efforts. Let me show you what these look like. I'll load a handful of these so you can appreciate. There are two folders.
And let's take a look here and quickly apply. Some of these are very technical giving you a quick process for over or under exposure allowing you to compensate for an image that was improperly exposed. That's what these are here. They're designed to deal with over or under exposed images. The other set is very creative. Now, these are designed for overexposure and you'll see that there's Film-Like and then two different Filmic treatments.
Let's try Filmic 2 and I like that. Remember, you still have flexibility so if you decide to make an adjustment with that curve, you have a lot of control over recovering the highlights. Look at how I can really bring out the highlights and not get clipping or posterization. This allows for a really big brightening of the image but it still doesn't crush it and we don't have any clipping in the highlights of the image here. Looks very nice. I'll round that out with a quick vibrance adjustment and a little saturation and you see that we went from a very digital type image to one that very quickly takes on the properties of film.
Now that you understand the history, let's jump into some other applications.
In this course, Rich Harrington demystifies lookup tables (LUTs) and shows how to use them with Photoshop, Lightroom, and other Adobe CC applications. He also shows how to use gradient maps—where tints are based on the luminance values in the image—to add creative color and noise to images, and how to organize, store, and share these assets with other Creative Cloud programs and other photo and video professionals.
- Understanding the role of LUTS
- Working with LUTs and Looks in Premiere Pro
- Creating custom LUTs
- Cross-application workflows
- Managing your LUT library and presets