Sometimes the light is great but the colors are wrong. Have you ever had that? I was out walking on a hilltop road near my house as the sun was going down, and while I had the timing right, the colors weren’t. With sunsets, so much depends on the height of the sun, the clouds and the atmospheric conditions – timing is everything.
I thought placing the sun right between these tree trunks would make a great shot. If I left it any longer the sun would lose its intensity, it would get too low and I’d lose the light on the grass in the background. But as you can see from the original below, the colors weren’t great. The sun was too high – they weren’t ‘sunset’ colors.
One solution would be to experiment with the while balance temperature and tint – that would probably work up to a point – but what I like to do is try out some LUTs.
LUT stands for LookUp Table. It’s a digital file that shifts colors and tones in hue, saturation, luminance – usually all three. LUTs are used widely in video editing and cinematography, but are becoming increasingly popular in regular stills photography. They are like ‘pre-processing’ for images. They give you a whole new look without involving any of the editing tools – unlike presets.
My favorite LUT collection is from lutify.me. It has LUT categories for everything from black and white to cine and vintage looks and more. The full Pro package, which I have, is $59 for the first year and $19.90 on subscription for each year after that – though once you have the LUTs you could just cancel the subscription.
The Pro package includes 232 LUTs that can be used as-is in programs that support LUTs, plus Capture One versions (LUTs are applied as ICC Profiles) and Lightroom (where the appear amongst all the other Profiles in the Basic panel).
The LUT I chose for this shot is called Albireo from Lutify’s Alternative Processes category. It gives a very warm tone and violet-tinged skies which are perfect for simulating late afternoon and sunset colors.
Oh, and the other great thing about these LUTS, and LUTs in general, is that they are software independent. You can use your favorite LUTs to get the same rendering across any programs that support them.