I’ve been asked a number of times what presets I use for processing street photography in Adobe Lightroom. Even with digital cameras, street photography is a style that seems to benefit form very simple black and white processing. Black and white lets you focus in on the details, the light in the city and on the story of the people you are shooting. I process my images in Adobe Lightroom, looking for a gentle film look that puts all the attention on the subject and their story.
I shoot street photos to tell a story with the image. I want viewers to say to themselves; “I wonder where that woman is going?” and not “I wonder whether he used Instagram for that photo?” So I’ve created a Lightroom 4 Preset that is specifically designed for street photographers who want the images themselves to do the talking.
I’ve written in the past about how much Eric Kim’s “Dramatic” Black and White preset helped me get over my too aggressive use of the highlights rescue tool. But Eric’s presets have a certain “look” that is more modern than I would want to use for every image. So I started a journey to discover a film look that would suit a long term style for me. I stumbled on Kodak Tri-X 400 which is a solid B&W film which tolerates lots of street shooting conditions.
If you aren’t using Lightroom yet then you can achieve a similar look by processing your images in black and white and adding mid-range contrast while saving the details in the shadows and highlights. The only tricky part will be colour mixing to bump the reds and drop the greens.
This Lightroom preset has been designed to mimic the flexibility of real black and white film. It is specifically intended for street photographers who want to maintain the gritty details that help tell a story with their images. The key features include:
– Lots of mid-range contrast to add personality and impact
– Strong blacks to provide a solid feel to street photos
– Slight rescue of the details in highlights and shadows to pack the details in
– Bump skin-tones in the B&W processing to highlight people in the scene
– Sharpening, noise control and clarity bumps to bring out details
– Very minor vignette and paper grain to mimic film
To install the preset on a Mac simply drag it onto the Lightroom icon and Lightroom will self-install. On a PC, open lightroom, find your presets folder and drag the preset file into the folder. Then restart Lightroom.
Click to download the ZIP File of the Peter Thomson Lightroom Street Photo Preset.
Every street photographer needs to find their own style of processing. But with street photography the key is to spend more time on the street and less on the computer. This means presets are a great tool and I’m happy to set mine free and contribute to the community that has given me so much.