Mastin Labs out of Seattle is the creator of some of my favorite film emulation presets for Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw. Today they're releasing their latest preset pack, Portra Pushed. Check it out my review of the pack after the jump.
Push processing film is the practice of "overdeveloping" less sensitive film to increase the exposure. This typically results in a more contrasty image with more, and sometimes some funky, oversaturating of colors (among other things). It's a technique that film shooters have been using for decades, and it's a look that a lot of popular film presets are using as a starting point before going way over the deep end.
I love Mastin Labs presets because they're originally designed for hybrid shooters who work with both film and digital, to get as close a match between their film shots and their digital files as possible. What that means is they tend to be extremely close to the film stocks they're emulating, and they don't go overboard with crazy fade effects or wild levels of saturation and contrast. The new Portra Pushed presets continue that legacy of subtlety and accuracy, doing an excellent job of giving you that slightly over-processed effect, without ending up look like you set all of your Lightroom sliders to 100. The pack includes presets for Portra 160, 400, and 800, pushed +1 and +2 stops. They also include Kirk Mastin's excellent soft/hard shadow and highlight adjustments as well.
"But how close are these presets REALLY to emulating film?" you ask. Glad you brought that up! Check out some comparisons below between actual film scans and digital files edited with the Mastin presets and guess which is which.
Could you tell which was which? Well good for you because I'm not going to tell you!
Just kidding, film was on the right. But the point is the images are damn close. You're never going to get a perfect reproduction of film aesthetics with digital files, it just isn't possible, but being able to get your images this close to film is quite an achievement. Editing is not a process with individual parts; everything you do is connected to some degree, so finding a way to balance all of those tools to get you to a single unified look without compromising in some areas is quite an achievement.
I feel a little silly gushing over presets, but the fact is that Kirk has put crazy amounts of time that I don't even want to think about, into making these as realistic and accurate as possible, and it shows. From the subtle adjustments to contrast and saturation to the included 35mm and medium format grain tweaks, each one of these film stocks shines in digital form.
I'm selling one of my cameras and just tossed it on the table in the conference room at my office to snap some shots since the light was decent. I went into Lightroom to do some quick touch-ups and decided to give the new presets a try. Color me surprised when I actually really liked the photos as photos, and not just as images for Craigslist. It's subtle (I seem to be using that word a lot, probably because it's accurate) but the colors pop out a bit more, the contrast in the shadows is lovely, the highlights feel edgy and a little sharp; the images are just better. And yes, I could have spent time and toned them myself and tweaked the colors and all that but again, the beauty of presets is that someone else has already done the heavy lifting to get this 95 % of the way to where I want them. So with one click, my for sale posting becomes a lot more attractive.
Mastin Labs is using the tagline "Moody. Not Muddy." to advertise the new presets and I think that's right on the money. When using the presets on portraits, I felt like they added just enough mood without going so far that I needed to spend excessive time pulling every photo back to keep them from looking overbaked. I've found that most presets I've used in the past that go for that "moody" look, tend to do some hefty damage to the skin of my subject, but I found the Mastin presets give me that "mood" without making the skin all blotchy and awful. In particular, the presets really shine when you take an already contrasty image and give them a whirl.
I have a feeling that the Portra Pushed presets will become a new go-to for me when I need some quick editing. They're a great starting point if you want to dial in more towards your own look, or they are fantastic as a 1-click solution to add some quick character. Each of the three film stocks included in the pack has some unique characteristics, just like the actual film, so make sure to play with them and see which looks you like best. Check out some more samples below.
In case you couldn't tell, I really like these presets. My goal is to start shooting film by the end of this year, and I am looking forward to being able to match my scans up almost seamlessly with my digital files. I have some editorial shoots coming up in the next month that I think this "pushed" look is especially well suited for. If you do happen to buy the presets, please make sure to comment below with some of your own images, I would love to see what other people shoot with this new tool.
What I Liked:
Actual film emulation, not just an over-edited "look."
Grain emulation is on point.
What Could be Improved:
- This section is hard when you genuinely love everything about a product.
- I could say that the price is high, but knowing a little about the amount of time and effort that goes into these presets, it actually feels like a pretty fair price to me.
- Maybe if the presets were delivered via singing telegram?