Just over a year ago, I stumbled upon Mastin Labs while perusing Facebook. I saw a beautiful photograph and just had to click in to see what this was all about. Kirk Mastin is the founder of the company. He is a hybrid photographer (shoots film and digital) and developed these amazing presets to help photographers digitally edit their images to seamlessly align with the film style. While I'm asked all the time if I shoot film, I do not. I've had a battle back and forth with this as I'm insanely drawn to the images I see that are on film and the overall aesthetic of film photography, I just have not taken the leap to try it yet. I have an amazing digital camera that has served me so well as a photographer so far (Canon 5d Mark iii). Having found Mastin Labs, I'm able to emulate film in Lightroom. Before finding ML, I dabbled with a few different presets but quickly realized that ML presets were the only ones I could find to achieve the most consistency throughout every single image.
I consider myself a "light and airy" photographer, here is how I do it.
The biggest focus I've had on my own photography journey is achieving beautiful SOOC images (straight out of camera). In order to do this I shoot 100% manual mode. Nearly two years ago I took pictures simply for fun and had never explored the camera dial past "Auto". The moment I flipped that baby to "M", my photography changed forever. I tend to always shoot in between 1.4-2.2 for my f-stop and keep my ISO as low as I possibly can, depending on the situation. I then adjust my shutter accordingly. Some photographers might bash me for saying this, but I used to fiddle with my white balance behind my camera but ultimately made the choice about six months ago to stop custom white balancing and tweak when I'm editing in Lightroom. It's true, I may have to move that slider a bit more, but I know exactly how I want my skin tones to look so this step does not take me long at all. And because I shoot RAW, I'm able to fix the white balance seamlessly.
I want to be sure to state that I firmly believe that a preset cannot "save" an image.
Please don't take this the wrong way when reading that statement because presets are amazing, especially Kirk's presets! However, just because you buy a preset doesn't mean you are all of a sudden going to have drool worthy images. By achieving a beautiful image SOOC, applying the preset simply helps bring it to life. I personally use Fuji 400N on almost every single image of mine. I've found consistency in my work by working with the same preset, but I know plenty of photographers who jump between Fuji and Portra. Living in the Pacific Northwest, it is very green. I was instantly drawn to the way Fuji pulls the greens and ultimately determined that it was the best fit for my style and what I hoped to achieve for my brand. The first pictures I edited with Mastin Labs were at best, all right. I was using the preset, but my photography was not quite at the place yet to really bring my images to life. It's taken me some time, but I have figured out exactly how to make Fuji work with my own shooting style as it has developed and I'm here to show you how I edit in Lightroom with the Fuji 400N preset from Mastin Labs.
After applying your preset of choice (for the purpose of this post I'lll be showing you Fuji because that's how I edit all my images!) You can fine tune it further by following options:
- All Hard – Increased contrast in shadows and highlights. This is great for hazy pictures that need a pop.
- All Soft -Shadow and highlight recovery. Brings both back to keep and image from clipping/blowing out/blocking up. Similar to HDR in look. Can look cartoonish, but can also save an image with extreme contrast range. I don't typically use this because I adjust my shadows manually.
- Highlight Hard – Highlight contrast is increased. Shadows are standard.
- Highlight Soft – Highlights are recovered. Shadows are standard.
- Shadow Hard – Shadow contrast is increased. Highlights are standard.
- Shadow Soft – Shadows are recovered. Highlights are standard.
- 35mm Grain
- Medium Format Grain
Playing around with the options will each give a different look, it's fun to play around with the options. Since developing my own style I actually don't even use the options above. I simply apply the preset and make my own changes from there.
Some photographers hate editing, I love it.
I've heard from photographers who absolutely hate editing. I love editing! It's my happy place where I get to sit down and relive my sessions and really put my creative touch on each and every photograph. Since developing my style and knowing exactly how I want my images to look, I am a very fast editor. Clients cannot believe how fast I deliver images and I don't see that changing because as I said above, I strive to take amazing SOOC images which has ultimately helped me streamline my entire editing process. Sure, sometimes I'm faced with a tricky lighting situation or skin tone issue, but not often anymore since I learned how to work with my light to achieve exactly what I want.
Process for photo above:
- Apply Fuji 400N.
- Make sure skin tone looks ago and adjust if needed. For this shot I used custom white balance so my tones were fine. Otherwise I would warm up temp. It's not often I use the tint slider, but sometimes. Temp is 6500
- Next up I almost always increase exposure to remain consistent with my style. I push this until the point just before the skin looks overexposed. Exposure is at 1.55.
- Next I usually slide my contract up all the way. Set at 100.
- For my own work I usually turn down highlights and whites and then adjust shadows and blacks accordingly. Highlights -85, Shadows +9, Whites -85, Blacks +80
- I then apply the J-trick to majority of my images because I love the high contrast style in my work. The J-Trick is a Lightroom trick that uses the histogram to help you to fix all kinds of contrast issues usually due to lens flare from backlit lighting situations, or dirt/grease on the front of the lens. I do this by moving the tone curve. For a tutorial, click here. I love the J-trick! It gives my images that "pop" that I love dearly.
- For this image I did not need to adjust any of the colors on the color panel because all looked good to me!
- I split tone all my images to bring out some of those juicy warm tones. These are my exact settings I use on almost every picture, and then I adjust the Shadows/Saturation slider to where I want. I don't ever touch the highlights.
- Depending on the situation I will turn my lens correction ON. This image I turned it ON to fill in the dark edges of the image.
- I also removed part of the window that was off to the right of the bride. The spot removal tool in Lightroom is my best friend. I find myself removing all sorts of little things that don't seem like a distraction but when you see the before and after side by side, using it to get rid of little things can make a big difference! I always try to shoot in directions and locations to avoid removing things BUT it happens. Even if a twig looks annoying to me, I'll remove it.
That's it for this picture! Super easy. I don't do anything magical, I just have my go to tweaks that work well for my style.
Here is a fun one I took of my daughter the other day! My settings were a little off because I saw her walking back to the car and hadn't planned on shooting this direction but saw the moment and snapped this frame. My settings were set for a spot we were just in that was more open to the light. Hence the pretty dark SOOC. However, it is still a great photograph that only needed slight tweaking to bring it to life! Those fuji greens...yummm! Please keep in mind too that my style isn't for everyone! I love the colors I create in my images but just because I do it one way does not mean it is right or wrong! It's taken me some time to develop my style and clients browse my work and know exactly what they will get looking through my portfolio. Consistency has been one of my main priorities as a photographer so anyone who works with me will know what to expect, and that is important to me.
For this image of Riley basically all I had to do was:
- Apply my preset
- Increase the warmth
- Push exposure more than I normally have to! All the way up to 2.15 for this shot.
- Increased exposure to +90.
- Turned down my highlights and whites, increased shadows (highlights -85, whites - 75, shadows -2, blacks +80)
- I j tricked this one pretty strong, too.
- Split tone saturation slider set to +6.
- Lens correction ON.
That is all I did! And also note that for the purpose of this post I'm laying everything out but I have my own apply on import setting that does my main foundation of editing for me then. So when I go in it's even faster! Some photographers will say adjust the WB and Tint first, then apply the preset but I always just apply it first. Personal preference.
This is from my most recent photo session, you can check out the full blog post right here, but I loved everything about this one! Normally bold colors freak me out a little bit, but not in this situation! I couldn't get back to my computer fast enough to edit this session (which by the way took me less than an hour and I delivered over 100 images to the client). I don't deliver that many normally BUT this family was super flexible with schedule changes due to weather in our area! We had to reschedule twice but it was all worth it for what we got this week! Anyway, for this image I did the following:
- Applied Fuji 400N.
- Warmed it up to 7,000
- Increased exposure to 1.80
- Contrast +90
- Highlights -90, Shadows 0, Whites -90, Black +80
- J-trick heavily
- Split toning bumped saturation +10
You are going to notice a few things in my images. One, you will see that I definitely tend to underexpose. I'm not really sure why I do that, but I prefer to keep my ISO as low as I can to avoid grain and I also like to shoot pretty wide open so ultimately I focus on where my shutter speed is to make sure I don't get any blurry pictures. I also back button focus which has been a game changer for me chasing kids around and capturing all the treasured moments during a wedding day. Due to where I live and the fact that it's most overcast weather during my shoots, they tend to look darker than say a super bright wedding day in open shade outside. It really depends on the situation and how I choose to shoot. It all comes back to editing though for me personally and pushing all my photos to the brink of being overexposed before they actually are overexposed. I've been able to achieve "light and airy" with every session I've ever had, even when it's been raining.
You will also notice that I rarely take my Sigma Art 35mm off my camera body. It's my baby and most treasured lens to achieve the look I want with my photography. I swap out between my Sigma Art 50 1.4 and Canon 100mm, but the 35mm is my jam. When you cruise my website, I can almost guarantee that 95% of the images are shot with my 35. As photographers, we all have our favorite gear! Some hate what the 35 does, but I am obsessed with it. It's become my signature and I couldn't do what I do without it!
I want to hear from you!
If you have an image you are just dying to see edited with Mastin Labs, send it to my email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Just please make sure it's RAW & via Dropbox! I would love to see what I can do to help you bring your images to life in Lightroom using Mastin Labs Fuji. I have also recently started a new branch of my business with editing for other photographers! I've done several sessions now for clients and so far everyone has been thrilled with my edits as well as getting their time back to focus on other projects. I love editing so decided to incorporate that love into my services here at Emma Rose Company LLC. If you're interested in working with me and learning more, click here!
Thanks for being here and please don't hesitate to reach out if you have any more specific questions in regards to my editing style and how I use Mastin Labs!