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What exactly are LUTs?

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Perhaps you’ve heard the term “LUT” before, but aren’t really sure what it all means. So what exactly are LUTs, especially in regard to photography?

Well, a LUT is short for a Lookup Table. It is basically a color grading tool, that takes a conversion profile that takes predefined color values and applies these to your images. In a way, it’s a little like a look or preset, but it goes further than that.

How are LUTs helpful?

A photographer can save loads of time by applying the same LUTs or collection of LUTs to their images. Instead of individual edits to your images, you can apply the same LUTs to color grade all your images. This helps give a cohesive feel to a series. In Photoshop you can even set them up as Actions.

Where can you find LUTs

In LuminarAI they are found in the Mood tool in the Creative Panel, whereas in Adobe Photoshop they are found in the Adjustment Layer section as Color Lookup.

Both programs come with some pre-installed, but you can also buy them online and add them to your software. You can even purchase a particular look from your favorite movie or TV show.

I have found that the basic LUTs that come with Photoshop are great and I can mix and match them for my needs. I must admit, I have never bought any others.

Can they be altered?

Not exactly, but you can change the blending mode and transparency of the LUTs if they are a separate layer, especially in Photoshop. You can also stack multiple LUTs to give you different looks.

Using LUTs in Luminar AI

In Edit view, scroll down to the Creative panel and select Mood. You will see a little arrow allowing for selections. Choose your favorite look and apply it.

You can preview different LUTs by hovering over the name. Then once selected you can alter amount, contrast and saturation.

Using LUTs in Photoshop

I must confess I adore using LUTs in Photoshop. In the adjustment layer, select Color Lookup, then you can select which LUT you wish to use. You do need to actually select it to see it, but they can easily be changed for another LUT.

The fact that you can add multiple LUTs on different layers, alter the blend mode and the opacity is a fantastic plus. You can even add a layer mask if you wish to. On the image above I used the Bleached Bypass LUT on Soft Light blend mode at 90%, and then the Night from Day LUT at Normal blend mode at 85%. Quick easy, and it makes such a difference.

These can be also be terrific for adding color, tone and contrast to portraits. So now you know exactly what LUTs are — consider using them in your next editing session!

Create more, with Luminar Neo

Fulfill your creative ideas with Luminar Neo! Preorder now and get the Photofocus preorder bundle, full of extras like a deep dive training video, templates, LUTs, textures and more when Luminar Neo launches.

Julie Powell

Julie Powell

Julie Powell is a passionate photographer and educator, running online classes and workshops for still life, macro, food and portraits, based in Melbourne, Australia. Julie is also an award-winning digital artist and photographer who has a deep passion for fine art and conceptual photography, having exhibited in galleries in Europe, USA and Australia. See more of her work on her Website Juliepowellphotography.com or on social media.

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