So what is a LUT and why should you care? We spoke to Goran Ljubuncic at Lutify.me to find out more about this new approach to image-editing, which started out in cinematography but is now finding its way into still imaging applications like Luminar, Capture One, Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw. It’s a way of adding a ‘look’ to your images at a very basic level, and if you’ve been following the news about Adobe’s new support for Profiles, then you need to read this too!
Q: Hi Goran. So can you explain what a LUT file, is in a sentence?
LUT stands for Look Up Tables. It’s basically a text file that modifies image’s chroma and luma values based on entries in that text file.
Q: Lutify.me is a site dedicated solely to LUTs, so it looks like this is a big thing now?
LUTs were around for a very long time. DITs [digital imaging technicians] and colourists were using LUTs ever since computers were utilised in the making of movies. However lately they’re becoming more mainstream as a much wider audience starts to appreciate the ease and speed of using LUTs in their workflows.
Q: What kind of effects can you achieve with LUT files?
Basically anything that’s chroma or luma based. From simple curve edits to more complex color gamut twists or conversions it’s all possible with LUTs. Depending on how LUTs is built and which information it contains, you can also achieve pretty interesting effects such as “colouring” anything along the neutral axis into any color you want without masks, selections or qualifiers. Having said that, LUTs cannot contain any local adjustments that require selections or image effects such as sharpening or grain.
Q: You distribute ready-made LUT files, but can people make their own? It looks like a technical process
Creating a LUT from a purely technical point is a fairly easy process. Some software allows you to export your edits as a LUT. For example Photoshop or Davinci Resolve. What these LUTs do though, is another thing. Anyone can create a LUT. Creating a “good” LUT requires knowledge and experience.
Q: You mention 3D LUTs on Lutify.me. Is that a special sort of LUT?
LUTs can be either 1D or 3D. 1D LUT would be a LUT that can do anything that’s possible with the RGB curve tool. These LUTs are usually used for contrast changes or simple color edits such as setting the white point of a monitor. For example, converting a Log-C gamma into Rec709 gamma doesn’t require a 3D LUT. It’s a simple contrast curve that can easily be represented with a 1D LUT. 3D LUTs overcome the limitations of 1D LUTs by placing color and luma in a 3D space, a much more representative way of how color works in real world. 3D LUTs are much more useful for capturing and relaying complex color grades than a 1D LUTs.
Q: Are LUTs designed for video grading, still photos or both?
Traditionally LUTs originate from the cinema world but as they are becoming increasingly popular more software manufacturers are adding support for LUTs to their software making them accessible to still photographers as well. We offer integrations for Capture One and Lightroom so still photographers can enjoy the best of both worlds – the flexibility of raw format and the creativity of LUTs.
Q: I see you can use LUTs in Luminar, Lightroom and Capture One. Are any other programs supported?
Yes they are. You can use our LUTs in Photoshop, including Camera Raw and Affinity Photo as well. Camera Raw requires the latest Adobe update (April 2018) to enjoy LUTs with your raw images.
Q: It looks like the great advantage of LUTs is that you can create effects the software’s own tools might not offer and you can use a favourite LUT in different applications. Is that right?
I would emphasise “might” in your question as that would depend on the tool you’re using. There’s very little that’s not possible with Davinci Resolve for example. Other software are naturally more limited in their capabilities but yes, LUTs offer tremendous amount of creativity (especially if built by experienced colourists) that’s cross platform compatible. You can have the exact same grade in Photoshop, Lightroom, Capture One, Premiere Pro, Final Cut or even Wondershare Filmora.
Q: So Goran, last question. Are LUTs the future of image-editing?
I believe that the future of image editing is going to be much easier and quicker. Sooner rather than later everyone will be able to achieve great color edits through a much more simplified interfaces. Most interfaces we have now are pretty much two decades old. That’s not right. I believe image editing is about to become democratised and LUTs will play a big role in that. Great color edits for the masses is were we’re heading. Deadlines are constantly becoming tighter and that requires faster solutions. LUTs will be there to help you achieve your deadlines.
Thanks, Goran. Anyone who wants to know more about LUTs should visit the Lutify.me website to browse through the full range of effects and packages available. See also this Lutify.me review.