Most people are a fan of the film look, but actually shooting, developing, and scanning it can be a bit more hassle and money than many of us are willing to undertake. The Rocket Rooster Analog Film Bundle gives you Lightroom presets for many popular film stocks as well as a range of local adjustment brushes for avoiding the need to go into Photoshop. Check out our review of the full system here.
The Case for Presets
As always, a preset is not a one-touch solution. Rather, it's a way to quickly dial in a specific look, from which you still have to make proper adjustments depending on the individual photo to get a finished product. Where people go wrong is assuming that presets are the beginning and end of editing or not understanding what is being adjusted. I personally find them a great way to quickly cycle through numerous looks if I'm unsure how I want to edit an image and need a jumping off point.
The Rocket Rooster Analog Film Bundle
The pack comes with about 60 films and over 300 total presets, with Kodak, Fuji, Ilford, Agfa, and Polaroid represented. Such popular stocks include Kodak Portra 160 and 400, Fuji Provia and Velvia, Kodak Ektar, Ilford HP5, Kodak 400 T-MAX, Kodachrome, Kodak Gold, Polaroid PX 680, and much more. Along with these core stocks are variations, including aged film, faded, push-processed, expired, cross-processed, and more (note: not every stock has every variation). There are also "H" and "S" variations designed specifically to protect the highlights and shadows of a specific preset.
The bundle also comes with a set of local adjustment brushes designed to allow for quick variations on the presets and some standard retouching to avoid needing to head to Photoshop. Such brushes include things like light leaks, skin pop, and sky boosts. They're handy for quickly doing more global work.
To start, here's a before and after of a portrait I spent about 10 minutes on in both Lightroom and Photoshop:
Now of course, a preset isn't going to clone out those stray hairs and even out blemishes; the point is just to show how I might normally edit a portrait from the raw file and where I was able to go with the presets. As you can see, I like vibrant colors, richer contrast, and a bit of a crushed histogram. So, returning to the raw file, I dove into the presets to find a look I might like. Now, before I go any further, it's important to note that presets aren't going to fix mistakes in camera. That's why I made sure my lighting was how I liked it in camera, I had hit focus, etc.
The first preset I really liked for this particular shot was the Fuji Neopan 400. It's a smoky, moody black and white with a nice pop. I added a bit of grain to taste and backed off the contrast ever so slightly, and I had a very good result. Not bad for 10 seconds of work.
Next, I went for a color version, settling on the Kodak Portra 400 Vc Expired preset. I also used the "Skin Pop" local adjustment brush with the opacity turned down and added a yellow light leak in the top left corner using that adjustment brush.
It's certainly a more stylized look, but I think the system did a good job of emulating expired Kodak stock, while the light leak really added to the effect. The cool part is that it took me all of 40 seconds to do all this; if I decided I wanted to go with this look, I'm already 80 percent of the way to something unique and out of the norm for me; if I decide I want to go another direction, I'm not really upset about having spent less than a minute on it.
Next, I tried out the presets on this drone image. As before, here are the raw image and fully retouched version so you can see what a finalized image from me normally looks like:
Fuji Velvia will forever be the landscape film of my heart, so naturally, I went straight to that preset. I also used the "Sky Boost" brush at a lowered opacity across the top half of the photo.
The blues are a smidgen aqua for my taste, but it definitely nails the in-your-face levels of blues and greens characteristic of Velvia, while the "Sky Boost" added some nice punch to the clouds. Of course, the problem (if you consider it one) is that it brought out the green of the water. This is not a fault of the preset, just a reminder that you have to take manual control at some point. As you can see in the out-of-camera file that the water (particular on the near side of the breakwall) is green, I made it blue out of my own preferences in the final edit. But holy cow, those greens make me miss my Velvia (look at those bushes).
Next, I pulled up this drone portrait, which had only had Lightroom work done to it:
I knew that due to the simple, whimsical nature of this portrait, I wanted something with less pop than a Kodak or Fuji stock, so I headed to the Polaroid section. I settled on Polaroid PX 680 H and was quite pleased with the results:
I think it emulates the matte, faded look of the film quite well, and it certainly gives a different take on the photo that lends it some real interest.
And so, I think we reexamine the original discussion a bit here. The presets (like any) do not give you a finished image; rather, their value lies in the fact that they give you a good foundation for an edit and that you can cycle through numerous options in just seconds. This is particularly helpful if you're just not feeling the creative bug and need to find a direction in which to take an image.
Rocket Rooster's presets are definitely thorough and of a good quality. They do a great job emulating the classic films (I found the black and white and Polaroid options to be particularly good), and their aged and expired presets are some of the more unique I've seen and a blast to play with for anyone who has shot film during their lifetime. Rocket Rooster was wise to use a wide range of films, creating a ton of options in which almost anyone should be able to find a look that agrees with their personal taste. The adjustment brushes allow you to add interesting effects like light leaks to really complete the style should you so choose.
What I Liked
- Diverse range of styles
- Easy to quickly audition a range of looks
- Black and white and Polaroid options are very good
- Adjustment brushes are a fun addition
What I Didn't Like
- Some of the local adjustment brushes are a bit strong, though I just turned down the opacity
Right now, the entire pack is 50 percent off only until January 10th, 2018! If you're interested in purchasing it, you can do so on Rocket Rooster.