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Make a Custom LUT Profile in Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom

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By now you may have heard of the Profiles Adobe introduced in a recent update to Lightroom and ACR.  You may have even seen some of us educators making some unique profiles for you to use in your workflow.  But did you know that you can make your own and it is very easy! 

You do need to know a little bit about a few things before you can begin.  With these best practices, you will be rockin’ and rolling in no time in your workflow.

The first thing you need to know is how the LUT Profile works and how it varies from settings based profiles.  A profile made from ACR settings can be helpful, but any movement you make on those sliders gets baked into the profile.  The baking process restricts some of the sliders that you used on future images. 

For example, if you made a profile with the shadows reduced to -50 and tried to use that on a future image, you will still be able to reduce the shadows in the next picture, but reducing it to -100 does not yield a -150 result.  The result is always -100 from the combined efforts of the settings in the profile and the settings on the image.

This is where a LUT based profile is critical.   You can make a Lookup Table in Photoshop from any of the Adjustment layers and use it at the beginning of your workflow in ACR or Lightroom.  But you need to know how these LUT Profiles fit into the workflow.

Imagine everything you do in ACR or Lightroom having a place on a piece of cellophane.  Each type of adjustment is a different piece of cellophane, and how these pieces of transparency film stack up are the result you see on your Raw File.  The Raw file remains unchanged, but the product made from all of them is the result you see.  These groups of adjustments and how they stack up are as follows.

As you can see the LUT Profile is a unique piece of transparency film that, while it starts at the bottom, can bend itself to the top of the stack.  This allows it to continually use the Lookup Table properties on the photo you are working on with every move of the slider!  Pretty incredible really!

In this video tutorial, I am going to share all my best practices with you, give you a guide to help you install them, and give you 6 Profiles to get your creative juices flowing.  If you are the note taking type, here are some quick ones on the best practices:

1. Do not use pixel-based layers – Stick to Adjustment Layers like Curves, Selective Color, Color Balance, Gradient Map, Photo Filter, Color Balance, and Solid Color 

2. Do not use Masks on your adjustment layers they do not translate into the LUT 

3. You may use Blend If, Opacity, and Fill 

4. Keep your LUT creation subtle, since these LUTs are always active on top of your images they tend to work hard and fast!
Create different types of LUTS.  Ones that effect Tone, others that affect only colors, and maybe some that do creative things.

“For a few months now I have kept my techniques for making LUT Profiles a secret.  Well, not really a secret, but I have held off on making a tutorial about it because what I am about to share with you is invaluable.  These best practices are what I use to make my custom built LUT Profiles and quite frankly, there is a lot of money on the table in this industry when you have this kind of knowledge.

However, I have always said that if I am doing this for money I am doing it for the wrong reason.   I wanted this tutorial to be around 10 minutes, but I had so much fun creating it I let it turn into an “Open Mic Night” here on f64 Academy.”

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