Categories
Lightroom Editing Series Photography

How to Edit a Cinematic Scene in Lightroom

Images © Wei Xi Luo | Photograph IO. All rights reserved. For more Lightroom editing workflows like this one, click here. View the different steps distraction-free using the lightbox by clicking on the images.  Did it ever happen to you that you took a shot in camera but visualized something totally different with your eye? […]

Before/After
Before/After

Images © Wei Xi Luo | Photograph IO. All rights reserved.

For more Lightroom editing workflows like this one, click here. View the different steps distraction-free using the lightbox by clicking on the images. 

Did it ever happen to you that you took a shot in camera but visualized something totally different with your eye? Have you ever wondered how to turn a seemingly ‘ordinary’ image into a cinematic scene?

In this third article of the Lightroom Editing Series, we’ll turn a mundane scene of a New York yellow taxi into a cinematic-style piece of art. The picture itself was shot using a Fuji X-Pro1, 35mm f/1.4 lens at 1/125 sec @ f/1.4, ISO 400.

1) Cropping, straightening and white balance

Original Image
Original Image

Since the taxicab didn’t completely fit in the frame, I decided to crop the edges of original frame to form a 5×7 image in Lightroom. That way, the entire scene is much less distracting now than it was before, and allows the viewer to focus on the people inside the taxi rather than the taxi itself.

Cropped Image
Cropped Image

As for straightening and white balance, I decided to leave them untouched as they were spot-on originally.

2) Basic exposure and contrast

The exposure of the image was perfect, as shown by the histogram, although I did dial up +20 contrast in order to give a bit more “punch” to the image. One thing to keep in mind when it comes to the punch of an image is to always prioritize contrast over clarity; while the former can be applied to almost any picture, over-using the clarity slider will completely ruin almost any kind of image, landscapes and architecture apart.

Contrast Adjustment
Contrast Adjustment

3) Advanced exposure and tonal editing

Since the highlights were nearly clipping in the image, I decided to reduce the highlights slider by -50 and the whites slider by -25 in order to mitigate the effect. As for the shadows, I’ve left them untouched. However, in order to get an even deeper contrast, I took the blacks slider all the way up to -25 for richer blacks.

Before and After - Advanced Exposure
Before and After – Advanced Exposure

4) Local adjustments and vignetting

The entire secret of a this scene, and most cinematic style pictures, is in the the way it focuses the viewer towards a particular point in the image. In this case, the two passengers in the taxicab are the main subject, and I’ll use radial filters to isolate the subject from the background, as well as some vignetting.

The inconvenience with radial filters is that they are usually quite obvious when used too strongly, and this is why I (and many other photographers, too) choose to use 3 radial filters in order to isolate the subject. One to isolate the taxicab from the city in the background, another one to draw the eye onto the rear section of the taxi, and finally a radial filter around the passengers to draw the viewer’s attention there. I accentuated the radial filter’s effects and removed the feathering to show you more clearly what I mean by 3 radial filters.

Radial Filters Stacking
Radial Filters Stacking (effects accentuated)

While the example above was greatly exaggerated, I usually strive for a + or – 1 EV difference between all the radial filters combined. Basically, it means that the total EV difference among all filters should add up to around 1 EV :either a single 1 EV radial filter, 2 0.5 EV radial filters, 3 0.35 EV radial filters, 4 0.25 EV radial filters, etc. In this case, all three radial filters were set to -0.35 EV.

The real thing
The real thing

Finally, I dialled -10 in the post-crop vignetting section to give further attention towards the center of the frame.

Post-crop vignetting
Post-crop vignetting

5) Global tone curves

As always, I recommend enabling point curve editing by clicking on the bottom-right button of the tone curve section. For this specific shot, I chose to add some fade as well as a slight S-Curve in order to simulate the tonal response of cinematic film. Notice, on the histogram, how the blacks have shifted slightly to the right.

Tone Curve
Tone Curve

6) RGB specific tone curves

As for the individual channels, I reduced the red channel the most, followed by the green and the blue, in that order. Pretty cinematic, eh? You can see the results below :

RGB Tone Curves
RGB Tone Curves

8) Effects

The only thing needed here is to add some grain (but not too much!) since it helps hide the fading applied on the image : a digital image with faded blacks will look very unnatural, unlike film. I’ve added 20 grain and 50 size in this case.

Film grain
Grain

As you can see, the shadow areas look much more natural now.

Shadows
Shadows

 

9) Sharpening, detail and noise reduction

Finally, as for sharpening, I use my standard Fuji Raw Sharpen Preset in order to maximize sharpness with X-Trans files in Lightroom. No noise reduction was added since it was shot at only ISO 400. The detail at 100% is pretty amazing, as long as you have the right technique, and sharpening settings to begin with.

100% Sharpening
100% Zoom

Final result

For a total of maybe 5 to 10 minutes, the final result is pretty amazing for a Adobe Lightroom edit, and as close as you can get without using dodge/burn in Photoshop. Look at the tonality and color in the image; it is truly a lot better than the original one. Scroll up for the before-after comparison!

New York
The final picture!

As always, RAW files are available upon request. Feel free to contact me if you wish to learn more about post-processing in Adobe Lightroom!


If you liked the article, please share it to the world!

Don’t forget to follow Photograph IO’s Twitter page and like Photograph IO’s Facebook page! Also, share your own images on our reader’s Flickr group!

2 replies on “How to Edit a Cinematic Scene in Lightroom”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *