6 EASY Tricks To Edit Your Photos To Look Like Film

Simple tips and tricks to make your digital images look like film using Lightroom CC, whether it's a natural tone or a funky 70 aesthetic.

6 EASY Tricks To Edit Your Photos To Look Like Film

The nostalgic charm of analog photography has grown increasingly popular over the last few years, though not surprising. Its effervescent tones, manual touch, and relatively simple approach spark a fresh kind of inspiration in artists around the world. And while the tangible process of film is hard to replicate, the pictorial outcome is much easier to manipulate. 

Software, like Lightroom, make it fun and easy to process images similar to vintage goodies. While this guide is simple in essence and relatively basic in terms of technicalities, the below tips are a beginner’s guide to understanding the steps needed to host a similar color profile to film.

So, let’s dive in.

Shot by Mango Street.

Recognizing The Various Film Stocks

To plot your specific edit, you’ll need to discover which film stock(s) you’d like to emulate. I’ve combined a list of some of the more popular film stocks, below.

    Additionally, if you’re hungry for more, I wrote an example article on the 7 best Kodak 35mm and 120 film stocks that feature more information about each roll, as well as additional visual examples from other photographers. There’s also a guide for FujiFilm, and CineStill in case you’d like to take a gander. I highly recommend reading these pieces if you’re looking for an in-depth analysis of the various stylizations per stock.

    Which colors best suit your subject? What stock might look best for your photo’s lighting condition? Do you want a funky hue or a desire for more natural skin tones?

    Moment natalie allen lp golden suncup thumbnail


    Golden Suncup - Warm Portraits

    Golden Suncup is a brand new, vibrant Lightroom and Lightroom Mobile preset for portrait photographers by Natalie Allen.

    Buy for $14.99

    Shot On Film

    Shot On Digital

    Clarity, Sharpness, and Grain

    When editing an image to mimic film, your aim will be to emulate the characteristics of vintage cameras. Many of the cameras had lenses that were less sharp and had fewer problems with fringing and flares. It'd be worth starting your edit by positioning the clarity down very slightly to copy that effect.

    Some artists like to add grain to their images by adjusting the sliders in Lightroom, a super popular effect that's more characteristic of film than digital.

    Film II Preset by Emilie Hofferber

    Film II Preset by Emilie Hofferber

    Film II Preset by Emilie Hofferber

    Film II Preset by Emilie Hofferber

    Play With Tonal Curves

    Although there are a plethora of characteristics that make the old film unique, a well-known feature is the faded shadows and highlights. Fortunately, this is easy to recreate in Lightroom. 

    Use the tone curves to pull the dark shadows to seem more faded, while simultaneously giving a more faded highlight but sliding the whites down.

    Shot by Maris Jones.

    Warm It Up

    Have you ever noticed that vintage cameras tend to leave a warm, golden tone on the images? Recreating this vintage tonal hue can be easily done using Lightroom’s HSL panel (Hue, Saturation, Luminance) and is a major part of crafting your film-like image.

    Simply start by adjusting the hue to warm up your image, slide the luminance down in bright areas, and ensure there’s plenty of saturation within certain colors, like yellow or orange.

    Film 3 Preset by Emilie Hoffenberger BEFORE

    Film 3 Preset by Emilie Hoffenberger AFTER

    Three Primary Colors

    Although it may sound intimidating, this is perhaps one of the easiest, yet most impactful ways to shift the vintage vibe in your image. It’s similar to the HSL panel, but instead of a range of colors, you’re only working with the (3) primaries: Red, Green, and Blue. Tweak the blue to a few degrees left for a more aqua shine, which always gives your image a pop of unique color.

    Create your roadmap, right? Once you find the particular film stock you desire to emulate most, do a study of the colors within the stock’s shadows and highlights. Place a more purple-by-contrast in the shadows to mimic Kodak Gold 200.

    Focusing on these 3 primary colors will impact your image best.

    Golden Suncup by Natalie Carrasco BEFORE

    Golden Suncup by Natalie Carrasco BEFORE


    Many film photographers lust after its natural grain, be it soft or gritty with strong texture. I, ironically, dislike fake grain in a digital image because replicating that feature seems a bit gimmick to me. However, adding texture to your image will definitely create a more film-like visua and can easily fool those who don’t know the difference.

    Add it tastefully, of course, especially under darker, moodier conditions.

    Shot by Mango Street.

    Shot by Mango Street.

    Try Presets!

    While it’s fun and experimental to create presets of your own, why not make it easier on yourself and purchase some film-like presets to start with?

    We offer super batches that are more natural and timeless, to a more 70’s nostalgic vibe. Compatible with both Lightroom and Photoshop, these Professional-made presets are perfect for having a go-to consistent look to your photos.

    Moment emilie hofferber lp film I thumbnail


    FILM I

    Made for portrait and landscape photographers, the Film I lightroom preset helps you achieve a classic film look inspired by Portra 400.

    Buy for $15.00
    Moment emilie hofferber lp film II thumbnail



    A classic film lightroom preset for any time of day. It's versatile to make golden hour, blue hour, mid-day, or foggy images transform into cinematic snapshots.

    Buy for $15.00
    Moment maris jones lp the 70s thumbnail


    The 70s - Nostalgic

    A Lightroom preset pack made for street and lifestyle photographers who want an authentic 1970's filmic look. Grainy, warm, and reminiscent of old instant film

    Buy for $30.00

    "Kodachrome 64" Fujifilm Recipe