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Tips on achieving a "muted" look to photos?

Discussion in 'Image Processing' started by j-rad, Oct 31, 2015.

  1. j-rad

    j-rad Mu-43 Regular

    May 20, 2015
  2. barry13

    barry13 Mu-43.com Editor Subscribing Member

    Mar 7, 2014
    Southern California
    Some are de-saturated, some are split-toned, some may be using a film emulation filter.

    Which software do you currently use?

  3. j-rad

    j-rad Mu-43 Regular

    May 20, 2015
    Nothing currently, looking to purchase something for the first time and starting to learn PP so I can get whatever is most recommended.

    Mind giving me an example of a photo from those sites that fit into those three types you mention (desaturated, etc.)?
  4. gryphon1911

    gryphon1911 Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Mar 13, 2014
    Central Ohio, USA
    You can get that kind of look quickly and easily with 2 different softwares I know of.

    VSCO and Nik. Both have a "fade" feature that puts that kind of effect on some images.
    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)
    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    Took this image today, came home and within 2 minutes had the bottom image. Used Nik Analog Effects, Classic Camera, Camera 3, modded to my preference.
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  5. DaveEP

    DaveEP Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 20, 2014
    Some general tips (I use Lightroom, but you can also do this in Photoshop raw converter and others too):

    1) Shoot raw. Once an image has been processed to JPEG it's much harder to do this with any precision

    2) Reduce contrast, significantly, my usualy starting point is about -80, then adjust as required. This has the effect off muting the colours (we can tweak them in later steps) and of increased perceptual dynamic range

    3) Lift / lower the blacks until nothing is pure black (unless it's somewhere that light isn't shining), but if there is black in the scene it does need to be 'near' black. Even black clothing isn't really black once light hits it, but it's close to it.

    4) Bring the highlights down so nothing is blown out (unless you want it to be).

    5) Use the shadow & White controllers to move the overall brightness (gamma) of the picture to your liking

    6) Adjust clarity, vibrance & saturation to taste

    7) If you want to add some colour cast, now is the time to do it.
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  6. bigboysdad

    bigboysdad Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 25, 2013
    Sydney/ London
    Regarding VSCO, I'd spend some time in Lightroom instead. From what I can see, VSCO doesn't give you anything you can't do yourself in Lightroom.
  7. hazwing

    hazwing Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Nov 25, 2012
    There are different types of mute look. If you post examples would be good. Some of the muted look can be achieve by using the tone curve in lightroom
  8. j-rad

    j-rad Mu-43 Regular

    May 20, 2015
    The first two links in my OP have some examples of the look I like. The third link is maybe a bit different of a look that I also like.
  9. hazwing

    hazwing Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Nov 25, 2012
    I can't say for sure, but the first two are most likely done with various presets/filters.
    Third maybe by using the tone curve (pushing up the blacks/shadows)
  10. nzdigital

    nzdigital Mu-43 Regular

    Oct 20, 2010
    New Zealand
    What camera do you use? It might be worth playing with some of the vintage art filter looks if you have them already built into your camera? Shoot RAW + Jpeg and you will get a 'clean' RAW file and an artsy vintage jpeg.
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  11. Luke

    Luke Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Jul 30, 2010
    Milwaukee, WI
    VCSO film has some free presets you can download and try. I have found that the Nik suite is a good value....lots of different software that all works similarly and fairly reasonably priced when you consider all the stuff you get
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  12. David A

    David A Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 30, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia
    I use Lightroom too and there's good advice here. Some additional comments:

    - the contrast slider in LR has an effect on saturation, increases in contrast increase saturation and decreases in contrast decrease saturation. The effect is smaller than you get from making a similar sized adjustment with the saturation slider so you can't, for example, completely desaturate an image with the contrast slider like you can with the saturation slider, but reducing contrast will reduce saturation so that helps achieve a muted look in 2 ways.

    - Vibrance and Saturation are similar, but the vibrance control is not as strong as the saturation slider and doesn't affect all tones equally. If you want to achieve a muted look, leave the saturation slider alone and just reduce Vibrance. You can't totally desaturate the image that way, and you have more control over how much you mute the colours in your image.

    - clarity is in part a mid-range contrast control so if you want to achieve a muted look, reduce clarity rather than increasing it. It's also part sharpening in a way so don't reduce it too much or you will end up introducing blurring rather than muting the image.

    - the highlights/shadows/whites/blacks sliders all have an impact on contrast and moving highlights and whites to the left, shadows and blacks to the right reduces contrast and will contribute to a muted look. The effect of reducing contrast is symmetrical, it lowers tones above the midpoints and raises tones below the mid point by about the same amount. You can use the highlights/shadows/whites/blacks sliders to make asymmetrical adjustments, i.e. a greater muting on the above mid-tone side of things or below mid-tone side of things. I would tend to be a bit more cautions about how much I lower contrast than Dave has suggested, and to use the highlights etc sliders to give more control over how I muted things than the contrast slider allows, but that's my preference and way of working.

    - you can also use the curves adjustment to mute things. Making the slope of the curve more horizontal reduces contrast and increases muting, making it more steeply vertical increases contrast and reduces muting. I wouldn't use curves instead of the sliders mentioned above, but I would use curves to fine tune the adjustments you make with the sliders even more if you need to. Basically in LR, try to work from top to bottom with the adjustment controls because they're designed to be used that way.
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  13. DaveEP

    DaveEP Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 20, 2014
    ...which is perfectly reasonable, since we all process differently.

    Higher contrast will blacken the blacks and whiten the whites, so highlights are lost more quickly and blacks are crushed more quickly. I rarely leave contrast at -80 on the finished image, but use it to see where the DR tops out. If you want to start higher on the scale then that's perfectly acceptable too. :) 

    The great thing about photography is it's not just about pressing the shutter button, it's about how we each process images differently. While two identical cameras could produce identical JPEGs shot at the same location at the time time, two people processing the raw files would likely come out with different results. Neither would necessarily be right or wrong, but processed to our own tastes and capabilities.

    Some people like high contrast, others more muted. Some like blown out, others like HDR. The choice we get for personal expression is limitless.
  14. Clint

    Clint Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Apr 22, 2013
    San Diego area, CA
    If you use Lightroom, there are default standard presets installed, try the Lightroom Color Presets.
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  15. GBarrington

    GBarrington Mu-43 Top Veteran

    To be honest though, I think that is a fad that has passed its expire date.
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  16. Ramsey

    Ramsey Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jan 9, 2013
    Zagreb, Croatia
    It is true that a lot of wedding photographers tend to use it. It gives that special vibe, and allows them to charge more, bcs it feels exclusive. Instagram helped spread it even more.

    Also to be honest, people say "it's a fad" at almost everything (no dissrespect against you). High contrast photography is a fad, HDR is a fad, shallow DOF is a fad, "muted" look is a fad etc etc. At one point, i presume many people said "Color photography is a fad".
    For all things stated above, i've seen good and bad examples. A filter/preset is not going to make a photo good just by itself.
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  17. GBarrington

    GBarrington Mu-43 Top Veteran

    But everything you mention WAS a fad! They have all had their day in the sun where 'everyone' was doing it, and now, not so much. Of all the things you mentioned, only HDR transcended its fad status and became a useful tool. But even IT had to abandon it's dark brooding skies, and weird pulsing colors and shapes. But make no mistake, it WAS a fad because after a bit 'everyone' gave a little groan when someone posted one more of those things. Now, not so much since people are now more frequently using it as originally intended.

    So too, is the faded 'old film' look the OP describes as muted.
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2015
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  18. amphibulous

    amphibulous Mu-43 Regular

    Dec 16, 2015
    You don't need to buy software to do something like this. Download Irfanview (because it's VERY easy to use) find the contrast and saturation sliders and play with them, turn up the brightness, play with the colour balance sliders. Irfanview makes all this easy; it's a good way to start before using more advanced tools.

    But I this guy is also shooting with a tight depth of field. The cheapest way of doing that is with adapter and a bright legacy 50mm lens. Or buy a modern m43 lens 45mm f1.7 ish lens if you're willing to spend more. Or if you're willing to spend a LOT more than 75 f1.7 or 45 f1.4. And shoot with the lens wide open. And even then you'll need to shoot in light similar to his.... Looks like she's using fill-in flash on some shots even though they're taken in very bright light, but let's not discuss those - simpler to stick to the main case.
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2015
  19. amphibulous

    amphibulous Mu-43 Regular

    Dec 16, 2015
    ...Or you could use RawTherapee and spend absolutely no money at all.
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  20. Nathanael

    Nathanael Mu-43 Veteran

    Oct 12, 2015
    Lightroom + VSCO
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