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Creating a Soft Vintage Look in Lightroom & Photoshop

One post-processing question that pops up from time-to-time is how to get a “soft” look when post-processing your images. To create this look there are just two settings and adjustments you’ll want to really focus on: Curves and Split Toning. Here’s how to create the look in both Lightroom and Photoshop:


1. In Lightroom, first make sure you’re in the Develop module. Then, go to the Curves panel. If the panel is not already in the “Point Curve” mode, click on the little curve icon on the bottom-right to activate it.


2. Next, click on the curve somewhere in the bottom-left part of the curve to add a point, but try not to move your cursor. This will create an “anchor” for your curve. Then, click on the very bottom-left corner of the curve and drag it straight up. This will end up “crushing” your blacks so that they start to get a bit faded.


3. The next step is to make some adjustments to the Split Toning panel. First, start with the Highlights; move the Saturation slider in a little bit and then adjust the Hue slider until you get a color you like. Then, do the same for the Shadows setting until you’ve come up with a split-toning look you like. You can also adjust the Balance slider to push preference to one color over the other.


After you’ve made this adjustment, your vintage look is pretty much ready to go. From here, you can alter other settings to get a polished look (such as adjust your Exposure, add a vignette, etc.).



1. Now, let’s do this inside of Photoshop. Using the Adjustments panel, add a Curves adjustment layer.


2. Just like with the curves in Lightroom click once on the bottom-left portion of the curve to add a point. Then, click on the bottom-left corner and drag it straight up.


3. Next, in the Adjustments panel, click on the Color Balance icon to add a Color Balance adjustment to your document. This is what we’ll use to add a split-toning effect to the image. To start, change the “Tone” drop-down so that it is set to “Shadows”. Then move the color sliders around to adjust the shadow color to your liking. For this image, I went with a warm yellowish-red color.


4. Then, go back to the “Tone” drop-down and change it to “Highlights”. Adjust the colors again until you get an overall look you are happy with.


That’s it! Now you can continue to process the photo to get a nice, polished look to your liking.

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