Every year I learn a new photo trick or two that propels me forward towards being a better photographer. There was one cool trick that is trending right now. It’s matte photos. The photo appears to have a low contrast and soft appeal to it. I don’t use Light Room. I know it streamlines the process, but I haven’t bit the bullet yet and purchased it since I still have Photoshop and all. A similar process to Light Room’s presets are the Adobe camera RAW presets. I haven’t found anything wrong with using them for my purposes. If I was editing thousands of photos, perhaps Light Room would be better suited.
So I wanted to share my findings on this “matte” trend. At first I thought it was a camera specific deal. I shoot with an amateur Nikon DSLR with a 50mm 1.8f lens and I have also used a friend’s high end Canon Mark 5D. The color gamma was much different in the full frame (canon) camera. Or it seemed to be, for me at least. These findings led me to believe the camera or lens could attribute greatly. This friend also happened to mention the use of Photoshop actions to generate that matte effect. So, I downloaded and gave it a try. It was very cool. Didn’t work for every photo, but cool. The problem was that it was too dramatic and what I was going for is mimicking the higher end models. Most of the actions flattened all the layers and were applied to a jpeg, so once it was done that’s it. No adjustments could be made. Plus, most were tailored actions like “Peach Matte” (made it all peachy), “Deep Forest Matte” (on the dark green side), “Natural Matte” (lightened it so much it looked wrong). You get it.
So, then that’s when I discovered the source of the matte effect. It’s in the curve points. Once that was discovered it was all down hill.
The next step was to make a camera RAW preset so I could just open the RAW files, apply the preset, adjust as necessary and there it is!
When I saved the preset here, I didn’t preserve the contrast, brightness, exposure, etc… because those are setting that are different in each case.
To load these:
You need to go to the Presets folder. Then drag the new presets in with your current ones. This method ensures they will stay saved. If you just “load” a preset from inside camera raw settings it may not save for future use.
The major thing to note here is that you cannot just depend on the presets. They are a starting point towards something even greater.
Normally the process for me starts with resetting the raw settings to default. Then I tweak the contrast, exposure, blacks, brightness, etc. I get the image looking nice then I apply the preset on top of that. :0
The preset isn’t magic. It looks different on different settings. So it won’t make your image magically look nice, you have to start with something with good tone. For example the original below looks decent and the preset on top of it just enhances it.
(Note: For me the preset adds to what I have already edited it does not replace the editing. I’m not sure how that works exactly.)
Matte (very subtle, with additional fine tuning of contrast)
Black and white Matte
Black and white matte with the yellows, greens and blues preserved.
Here’s the bundle. Have fun and start something new.