If you subscribe to the Photofocus newsletter, then you just got an announcement about a huge pack of looks for Luminar that add all the looks from Skylum’s wonderful Tonality plugin to Luminar. Tonality is a tool made especially for black and white finishing and it used to be my favorite black and white tool — now I use it in Luminar. This pack of looks gives you a whole bunch of options to instantly create various looks in your black and white photos.

But why should you use looks?

My question is, why would you want to use a look that makes your picture look the same as someone else who uses the same look or similar preset? There are entire companies that only sell presets for Lightroom and they give you a look that is recognizable as those presets. If there’s one thing we know about photography, it’s that your differences make you stand out more than the things you do the same as others. If you’re doing it for a living, you can charge a lot more for your differences than your similarities.

Be different with the same tools

Yet, all photographers use the same tools — the same cameras and lenses and computers — and so how do you do things differently with the same tools? With your camera and lenses, you quickly learn to find a perspective that becomes unique to your style of seeing the world. You work with subjects in ways that only you can. And you develop these styles and views of the world by imitating what you’ve seen others do and then making it your own. You’ve seen their shallow depth of field portraits and you copy them until you realize that you’re now doing your own style and it doesn’t look just like Roberto Valenzuela’s picture anymore. You’ve seen wide angle landscapes with strong foreground elements and you copy those until you start doing it with your own little twist that marks it as uniquely your own.

If you use looks the same way, you’ll do great! But many folks get to the computer and forget about making the style their own.

Make Luminar’s looks your own

Looks are terrific tools because all they do is move the adjustment sliders in an app to a preset position. They usually move sliders in several different filters at once and instantly give your photo a distinctive look. All looks do not look great on all photos, and your taste is the most important thing in deciding what looks good.

The key to looks is that you can move the sliders to fit your taste. This is probably the best way to learn to use an app to edit your photos — in Luminar hit the look button and then dissect it and see what effect the settings have on your photos. Examine each filter and figure out what it’s doing. Move the sliders until you like the look for your photo. Combine another look with it and see how you like it.

Most importantly, save a new look with the changes you made. That new look is uniquely yours and is a big step in creating your own style.

Final thoughts

When you get a new Luminar looks pack or a set of presets for another editor, you have a huge opportunity to expand your personal style. Don’t be limited to the settings included with the look. Change them, explore their effects and make them uniquely yours. Who knows? Maybe you’ll end up sharing your new custom looks in a pack and help someone else find a style that is uniquely their own.

And here’s a link to those black and white looks for Luminar.

(Editor’s note: Luminar calls a group of saved settings a “look.” Other software companies use the term “preset.”)