A LUT is a very interesting thing. LUT is an acronym for LookUp Table, a conversion profile that, basically, takes a pixel value in the original image and looks up an alternative value in the LUT file. LUTs are used widely in cinematography to recreate a specific and consistent ‘look’, but they’re also appearing more and more in still photography.
LUTs carry out color and tonal shifts in your image. You can’t edit the effects of a LUT, except sometimes the strength it’s applied with, and it’s independent of your software’s regular editing controls. LUTs are like a pre-processing or post-processing step to give your image a particular look.
This makes it sound as if LUTs might be rather limiting, but they have one very important characteristic – they are software independent. The same LUT will give you the same look, regardless of your software, and this means you are no longer tied to a specific application or its editing tools for that particular effect.
LUTs use a standardized .cube file format. The files themselves are not very large and are often distributed in collections. My favorite is from Lutify.me and contains dozens of LUTs in all sorts of categories.
You’ll find the new LUT Grading panel in the Colour tools tab, and it’s extremely simple, consisting of a drop-down menu for selecting your LUT file, a menu for the colour space (check the colour space the LUT is designed for, as it can vary) and an Intensity slider.
You might wonder why you would use a relatively inflexible LUT profile in a program which has a myriad manual controls to achieve (you might hope) the same effects and more, but LUTs are quick, simple and consistent – and the looks on offer here would take a good deal of work to achieve manually. The other advantage of LUTs is that they don’t tie up a bunch of your regular adjustment tools with custom settings in the way that presets do.
I like LUTs a lot, all the more so because in PhotoLab 7 I can import and apply my own favourite LUTs and achieve a wide range of looks that the bundled presets don’t offer and which I don’t want to have to try to recreate manually.
It’s not always easy to achieve a wide range of image effects in PhotoLab 7 unless you are very familiar with the editing tools or have DxO FilmPack installed. With LUTs you can sidestep all that effort and get great looks with just a few clicks.
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