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Street Photography: Lightroom Presets with a Vintage Twist

A modern day street car with a vintage look.

Street Photos with a Vintage Look

Something that I haven’t pursued in a very long time is that of capturing the look and feel of life on the streets. Just last week, I was given the challenge of preparing a five minute talk on the topic of my choosing for a video presentation. Preparation time for this talk was just under two hours. I knew that I would prepare a talk on photography but I was hard pressed on deciding the content. Then it dawned on me that I hadn’t shot any street scenes in a number of years – and so my mind was made up. As I said, I had a little less than two hours, so I hopped on the street car and headed to the busiest place I could think of – the central train station in Munich.

The original image of the street car before Lightroom processing.

Original photo of the Street Car

I wanted to present a nice cross section of photographic techniques for my talk and so I was willing to try all kinds of experiments outside of my normal “comfort zone”. In the short time frame I had allotted myself for the shoot (30-40 minutes), I took just over a hundred photographs. I chose to shoot high-contrast black and white images to enhance the drama of the shots, so I set my Canon 30D to shoot JPG (B&W) and RAW. Upon completing the shots, I rushed back to the seminar, quickly sorted my shots and delivered my talk.

Afterwards, when I got my photos back into Lightroom, I saw that I had a number of relatively interesting shots and started developing them. Well, one thing led to another, and I came up with the small collection of six (6) new Lightroom presets that I’d like to share with you.

Exploring the Street Photography Presets

While developing the shots in Lightroom, I was going after a super high-contrast look that quite frankly adds a certain amount of drama to any photograph. I started out with a basic preset – black levels cranked way up, recovery and fill sliders adjusted to match the shot I was developing. Once I tried the “look” on a number of shots it became apparent that I would need a few different levels of contrast to match the majority of shots I had taken.

It was actually quite “by accident” that I ended up creating the vintage look you see in some of these shots. I was jumping back and forth between the new presets I had developed and I accidentally clicked on a brown-toned preset I had recently developed for some portrait work. I stopped, took a look, and liked what I saw.

So what you’re seeing here is the evolutionary development of a brown/sepia vintage preset that can be toggled on/off to co-exist beautifully with the various high contrast looks!

The base photo for comparison

This is one of the photos I will use to show the various presets I’ve developed for this collection. It has a good range of tones and colors, although it was taken on an overcast day.

Same photo with the Street Life preset

The base preset of the collection – Focus – Street Life. It basically enhances the blacks, edges up the fill and recovery sliders, sets contrast to 100%, introduces a touch of negative clarity and rounds out with a good mix of sharpening and noise reduction.

Photo with the Street Life Hard preset

The next level – Focus – Street Life (Hard). In this preset the clarity slider sweeps decidely into the plus range to a value of 80. Adjustments to the tone curve start advancing those shadows WAY into the negative range. Sharpening and noise reduction remain the same.

Another sample photo - no preset

I’m now switching to another sample photo so that we can see the progression better. Here the photo without any preset effect.

Photo with the Street Life Harder preset

The next level – Focus – Street Life (Harder). In this preset the recovery, fill and black sliders are advanced – almost to the values you would need to create an HDR effect. (you’ll be able to see the HDR effect better in another sample below) Adjustments to the tone curve continue into the negative range. Sharpening and noise reduction remain the same.

Photo with the Street Life Soft preset

The last level – Focus – Street Life (Soft). Now just so that things don’t get too crazy, I’ve included a softer version. This could be used in those photos where a subdued effect is desired.

The Summary of the Street Life presets

With the Street Life Soft and Vintage preset

Now you’ll see in the screen capture above that there’s two presets I haven’t touched on. They can be used in conjunction with the other 4 presets to toggle a “Vintage Effect” on or off.

Shown here is the Street Life (Soft) + Street Life (Vintage On) effect. Just keep in mind you can toggle the vintage mode on for each of the four presets. We’ll see more examples below.

With the Street Life Hard and Vintage preset

Here’s another example of two presets used together. Shown here is the Street Life (Harder) preset applied to this photo. In order to turn on the “Vintage” effect you simply need to apply the “Vintage On” preset on top of the other preset. (as shown below)

The Vintage On preset is applied

With the Street Life and Vintage preset

Shown here is another photo with the Street Life preset applied. To add the vintage effect you apply the “Vintage On” preset on top of the other preset. (as shown below)

The Vintage On preset is applied

With the Street Life Hard and Vintage preset

Since the Vintage preset is already applied, we can switch over to another Street Life preset to see how it will look. Shown here is the same photo with the Street Life (Harder) preset applied.

With just the Street Life Hard preset

And by clicking on the “Vintage Off” preset we can see how the same photo looks without the “Vintage” effect. To remove the vintage effect you apply the “Vintage Off” preset on top of the other preset. (as shown below)

The Vintage Off preset is applied

Download the Lightroom “Street Life” Presets

Well I think you get the idea how these new presets work.

download

Download the Focus Street Life Presets

 
Collection:  Focus Street Life Presets
Version:  1.0
Updated:  7. September 2009
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Downloaded:  47,956 times.
 

I know that many of you like to upload your photos to Flickr or other photo sharing groups. I too am very active on Flickr in the Presetting Lightroom group and I’d really like to see what kinds of great shots you produce with these presets. If you use these presets and upload your photos to Flickr or elsewhere, how about “tagging” your photos with “Focus-StreetLife” as a keyword in Lightroom. That way I can search Flickr for the keyword and see the shots where these presets have been used.

Installing the Presets

Manual Install Icon
  • Installing Presets in Lightroom 2 – this video is for those that need a little help in installing Lightroom presets. The video also gives you some tips for preset folder management and backing up your presets.
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