Film looks are a great way to add a completely different feel to an image. With the software and apps available today, you can achieve many film looks with just a few clicks or taps.

Let’s face it — not every photographer enjoys the post-processing part of photography. Some photographers relish immersing themselves in hours of creating an image after they’ve taken the actual shot. Others of us just like to create as much as possible in-camera and then maybe tweak it a bit afterward. Then there is another group that is not even really interested in processing shots at all.

This is where software and image processing apps come in. They save time, they allow those photographers who have no interest in learning the ins and outs of post-processing to have some fun and be creative without tearing their hair out. Another benefit of these options is that they allow us to explore what could be, what is possible and just how creative we might want to get.

Nik Silver Efex Pro 3 by DxO Labs

For this Chevy Bel Air, I did basic cleanup, spot removal and straightening in Adobe Lightroom Classic first. That’s just my personal process for all of my images. Then I used Nik Silver Efex Pro 3 by DxO Labs as a Lightroom Classic plugin and went from there.

In Silver Efex Pro 2 I just clicked around on the presets first, just to see what happened. Exploring the presets showed me which ones were film-like and which were not. I found a preset I liked and then in the adjustments panel I chose a film type and added a bit more grain.

Nik Analog Efex 3 by DxO Labs

Analog Efex Pro 2 is part of the Nik Collection by DxO labs. They make creating a film look easy and fun. If you don’t like to spend hours on post-processing this is one of the easiest ways to get some really cool film looks. Their choices of Classic Camera, Color Cast, Black and White, Wet Plate and more are just fun to click on to see how they affect your image.

film look

Again, I started by just clicking on presets to see what I could get. Then I refined it further to get that retro film look. Easy enough to change the color tones, choose another type of film or customize the grain for the look you want.

LuminarAI by Skylum

Another simple way to create film looks is using the templates in LuminarAI. I stuck with just the templates on this one. No other tweaking was added.

Film looks with Topaz Texture Effects

This is fun, artistic post-processing to experiment with. There are so many different looks, textures, colors, light leaks, etc. to play with. I use the now-discontinued Topaz Texture Effects quite a bit when I’m feeling creative. Just to push the limit of how I would typically process an image. It can also do its share of film look editing.

Adobe Lightroom Classic to create a film look

There are likely several ways to create a film look in Adobe Lightroom Classic. For this example, I used grain in the Effects panel in Lightroom. I also adjusted the color grading to give it a color film tone.

These are just five examples of creating film looks without spending a ton of time post-processing. Of course, there are so many other options out there. Presets and templates are a great place to start your process and can help you see what’s possible. From there, move sliders, add or take away textures, play with hues, and try out the film frames and wetplate overlays. 

Here is the original of the 1959 Ford Fairlane 500 Galaxie for reference.

film look

The possibilities are endless.