If you’ve ever done any video editing then you’re probably familiar with a little something called “color look-up tables”. These look-up tables are lovingly referred to in the industry as a “LUT”.
At the basic level, a LUT is a preset that performs color grading and various other visual effects. Each is based on a blindingly complex set of mathematical sorcery that luckily for you (and me) doesn’t need to be explained in this article.
But wait…this is Digital Photography School, not Digital Video School. So, why are we talking about LUTs if they only help us when editing video?
Well, with Adobe’s recent release of Lightroom Classic v7.3 and Adobe Camera RAW 10.3 we now have the ability to use the awesome new Creative Profiles feature which, you guessed it, makes LUTs usable in our photo editing. It’s safe to say more and more photographers will be incorporating custom-made LUTs into their own Creative Profiles. For more information on making Creative Profiles check out this excellent tutorial by Spyros Heniadis.
So how can you make your own LUTs? There are a number of ways and most of them require purchasing software exclusively engineered for creating a LUT. But what if I told you that Photoshop is capable of exporting LUTs if you don’t want to spend any extra money on new software? And what’s more, making basic LUTs in Photoshop is insanely simple.
In this article, I’m going to show you just how easy it is to make and export your very own LUTs right inside Photoshop.
Create Your Edits
To get started you need an image file. This image can be either RAW or JPEG. If you’re planning on using your LUT in video processing then it’s a good idea to use a screen capture from your video file. For the purposes of this tutorial, I’ll be using a previously processed JPEG.
Once your photo is opened in Photoshop you can begin to make the edits that will be exported as a LUT. You’ll have the power of all the options located in the adjustments panel at your fingertips.
While you change the fill and opacity of the adjustment layers you won’t be able to add in any masking or more advanced filters. This is somewhat of a bummer, but given the fact that we’re doing all of this in Photoshop it’s a limitation we’ll have to live with for now. For this image, I’ve added three adjustment layers: Color Balance, Curves and Black and White.
With all of the edits applied, it’s time to actually export the adjustments in the form of a LUT which can then be used for creating profiles to play around with inside v7.3 Lightroom Classic or ACR 10.3 and a host of other awesome uses.
Exporting the LUT
You’ll be happy to know that exporting the adjustments as a LUT is ridiculously easy. Under the main menu at the top click File > Export > Color Lookup Tables…
This brings up the export dialog and you now find yourself faced with a few options before you can export the LUT. First, you have the choice to name the LUT. Make it something descriptive.
If you want, you can bypass this step as you will give the LUT its own filename in just a moment. Personally, I don’t always name the LUT at this time. You can enter in any copyright information you choose.
The last two options are the most important. Choosing the quality of the LUT and its file format is essential to be able to efficiently apply the LUT later in whatever application you might be using. Leave the quality set to Medium which will give a good balance between load times and quality.
The file format you choose will depend on what you’ll be doing with the LUT. For example, if you will be using your LUT to make profiles for Lightroom be sure to save it as a CUBE file. When you’re finished, click OK.
This brings you to the final step of the LUT manufacturing process. All that’s left to do is to choose where you’ll save the LUT.
You’ll notice that you now have the opportunity to again name your LUT. It’s here where you’ll want to make sure you give it a name that is easy to find. Once you’ve decided on file name and destination just click Save to store your brand new LUT!
If you need a quick and easy way to make your own color lookup tables then you needn’t venture any further than your old friend Adobe Photoshop. While there are a few limitations when compared to dedicated color grading programs the ability to create LUTs directly from Photoshop can save you time and money.
If you’re like me and do a lot of work on the road, knowing how to make your own LUTs on the go will come in handy and make your life a LUT (haha) easier.