Photoshop lomo: a beginner's guide

Photoshop lomo: main image

The lomo bug has bitten deep in recent years, and entire communities have sprung up around it. Primarily, the movement uses dubious Russian cameras and cross-processing to create vibrant, highly saturated images, which often have imperfections that are said to add character to the photos.

The thing is, if you take a lomo shot, there’s no way of turning it into a clean image. You might also have images that you’d like to apply the effect to, but it’s now too late to do so. Ultimately, a decent compromise is to fake the lomo effect in Photoshop. Although this won’t provide random elements evident in a roll of shots taken with a real lomo camera, you’ll be able to rework any shot you choose and also control and fine-tune the outcome. Crucially, by using layers, you won’t need to amend your photo at all and can also rapidly slot new images into the effect.

It’s also worth noting that it’s the processing rather than the camera that produces most of the effect. By processing a slide film taken with any camera as a standard colour print film (something referred to as ‘cross processing’), the saturation and colour shifts evident in lomo should be achieved.

Photoshop lomo: step 1

1. Find a photo

Choose an image to work with. To work with the settings as defined here, image dimensions of approx 1,600x1,200 pixels are recommended (use Image > Image Size to resize your image, if required).

Photoshop lomo: step 2

2. Straighten the image

Unless you used a tripod when taking your photo, it’s probably a bit wonky. Ensure View > Rulers is checked and drag down a guide or two. Float your background layer (Alt/Option+click) and use Free Transform (Ctrl/Command+T) to rotate and straighten your image

Photoshop lomo: step 3

3. Crop and make corrections

If you’ve rotated your image, use Photoshop’s Crop tool to remove the transparent corner pieces. Make any other corrections that you deem necessary, such as correcting any colour casts, by using the various options within the Image > Adjustments sub-menu.

Photoshop lomo: step 4

4. Shift colours

Create a Color Balance adjustment layer using the Layers palette in Photoshop. Lomo cameras emphasise reds and greens, so use the sliders to increase these colours. We set the first two Color Levels values to +6 and zero in Shadows, +20 and +5 in Midtones and +15 and +5 in Highlights.

Photoshop lomo: step 5

5. Increase the colour saturation

As stated earlier, lomo cameras over-saturate colours. Therefore, create a Hue/ Saturation adjustment layer and drag the Saturation slider to a value of 20. Note that because we’re working with adjustment layers, all these settings can be edited later, if required.

Photoshop lomo: step 6

6. Increase the contrast

Create a third adjustment layer, this time choosing Brightness/Contrast from the menu. Move the Contrast slider to a value of +20. This will emphasise highlights and shadows. Note that the lomo effect tends to work well on images with plenty of existing contrast.

Photoshop lomo: step 7

7. Over-expose

To apply an over-exposed effect to your image press D to reset the toolbar colours and X to make the foreground colour white. Choose the Gradient tool and select Foreground to Background and Radial Gradient. On a new layer, drag a gradient from the centre to the right-hand edge.

Photoshop lomo: step 8

8. Change the mode

Change the mode of the layer created in step 7 to Overlay. This blends the layer into the image below, retaining the highlights and shadows of the base layer. You’ll see another marked boost in the image’s vibrancy at this point, and it already resembles some lomo images.

Photoshop lomo: step 9

9. Make a selection

We’re now going to create a vignette effect. Create a new layer and then select the Marquee tool. Set Feather to 200 pixels and then drag from the top-left to the bottom-right of the canvas. You should see a selection created with rounded edges, due to the Feather setting.

Photoshop lomo: step 10

10. Fill the selection

Invert the selection (Shift+Ctrl+I/ Shift+Command+I) and fill it with black. Change the layer’s mode to Overlay and this will continue to enhance the saturation and exposure effects. Although the effect isn’t as random or circular as the real-life effect, it works well enough.

Photoshop lomo: step 11

11. Emphasise the vignette effect

Repeat steps 9 and 10, but this time set the Feather value to 250 pixels. This will further emphasise the vignette effect and create more graduated colour from the centre of the image outwards.

Photoshop lomo: step 12

12. Edit opacity settings

The next few steps show how flexible the effect can be when it’s created in Photoshop. If, for example, you find the result from the three layers created between steps 7 and 11 too harsh, try reducing the Opacity setting of the over exposure layer to 50 per cent.

Photoshop lomo: step 13

13. Toggle layers

Adjustment layers have been used for a number of elements, so each can be toggled. For example, turn off the Color Balance 1 layer to see how the image looks now. You could also use layers to add variations of each of the adjustment layers to an overall lomo template.

Photoshop lomo: step 14

14. Black and white reduction with Photoshop

Lomo cameras tend to show white as off-white and black as a dark grey. To create this effect, make a Curves adjustment layer. Drag the left-hand handle to ‘Input: 0; Output: 25’ and the right-hand handle to ‘Input: 255; Output: 225’. Position this layer above the others.

Photoshop lomo: step 15

15. Contrast and saturation

If you feel the previous step has reduced the image’s edge too much, double-click Brightness/Contrast 1 and/or Hue/Saturation 1 and increase the settings. Don’t go over the top, though, or the image will appear garish and colour banding will become obvious.

Photoshop lomo: step 16

16. Add more photos

To see how the effect looks with other images, simply paste them above your photo layer, but below all of the adjustment layers and exposure/vignette layers. If you have many images, use Photoshop’s Layer Groups feature (Layer > New > Group) to sort them into sets.

Photoshop lomo: step 17

17. Add a radial blur

Ensure that you save your image as a .psd file, so you can edit it in the future. Flatten the image (Layer > Flatten Image), duplicate the Background layer and select the copy. Go to Filter > Blur > Radial Blur. Set Amount to 10, Blur Method to Zoom and Quality to Best.

Photoshop lomo: step 18

18. Add a layer mask

Click the Add layer mask button. Choose black as your toolbar’s foreground colour and select the Gradient tool. Choose Foreground to Transparent and Radial Blur. Drag a gradient from the image’s centre to the right-hand edge. Reduce the layer’s opacity to 50 per cent.

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