Core | Color Lightroom Presets


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These are not gimmicks, these were not rushed to make money. These are the looks I designed for myself after being totally happy with all the other film simulations out there. After constant requests by readers and followers, I’ve taken a great deal of time to package these looks up into something that can be incredibly powerful and useful in every situation for any style of photography.

This is a product I am very excited about and it has dramatically changed the way I edit. It has made me faster and I’ve also learned a great deal about tone control, color harmony, and grain while making these, and I think you can learn a great deal from these presets as well by opening them up and seeing how they work.

Since these are my regularly used looks they do change over the years and I will roll out updates regularly for those that have purchased them.


30+ Total Color Presets

The Core color preset package took over two years to create with each color meticulously designed, tuned, and tweaked on various camera systems to produce a unique analog film look.

The goal was to build enough presets and tools to provide versatility so that the looks are useful in any situation, from traditional landscape, street, and portraits, to faded Instagram look with complementary split tones.

Color harmony played a very important role in the designs and the colors are tuned and shifted to create a more pleasant balance between tones.

Some looks are inspired by popular film looks like Kodak Gold, Kodak Ektar, or Fujifilm 400H, and several of the looks are designed for night shooting in mixed lighting conditions.

Each look has been tuned with alternate variations using different contrast and color so they are useful for all styles of photography and in all lighting conditions.


As a whole, this pack is designed for high contrast and punchy colors, but you can always turn the contrast down for a softer film look.


7 Core Looks

Each look has a base look with variations, an aged look, and some have alternate looks for better compatibility with different camera systems.


Core Looks I – IV

Designed primarily to produce nice skin tones no matter the camera brand and two variations were produced to help with this. C1 and C2.

If you’re shooting on Sony, Canon, Nikon, Sigma, Panasonic, or Fujifilm, between the C1 and C2 looks with the different versions of each look, you should be able to find looks that work for your camera without any problem.

But because cameras handle their white balance differently, you may need to do a WB adjustment as your first step after applying a look.

Variations – Each look has at least two variations, some up to three. These keep the same core look, but they have been altered for different lighting and environmental condition.


Core Looks V-VII

Designed without protecting skin tones so the reds and yellows can shift a bit more. This is useful in environments without people or in strong lighting conditions.

These are primarily what I use for street photography, especially at night. For those that follow my Instagram, Core VII is mostly what I use for my night street photos.



Each color set has a Core look and an Aged Look built-in as options.


5 Different Grain Styles

Light, Medium Crisp, Medium Soft, Heavy Crisp, and Heavy Soft.

Crisp was designed to protect the edge sharpness and details in the photos. This is great for photographers that want to preserve sharpness at all cost, while still adding a slightly dithered feel to the image. The Crisp grain setting is also very useful at high ISO values where the image has already lost detail from digital noise. Noise reduction only removes so much of this digital noise so a Crisp grain pattern on top will help mask any artifacts without reducing the details further.


Soft is designed to soften the edge sharpness. For photographers that want a more natural analog grain pattern. The Soft grain setting is much closer to the real thing.


4 Split Tone Sets

Split-tone effects add complementary colors to further style or age the images.


Use the Split-Tone effects with the Aged looks while shooting with an on-camera flash for an 80s retro look. A slightly slow shutter of about 1/15 helps this when using a flash.



The Core Look

The base Core looks have a higher contrast with deeper blacks and colors.


The Aged Looks

The Aged looks are slightly faded and some of the colors are shifted to simulate a mild old or expired film look, but without losing contrast and saturation.



The Challenges

The challenge was to create presets that looked great on any of the different camera brands.

Sony, Panasonic, and Fujifilm both take a more natural realistic approach to their RAW colors while Canon and Nikon are more styled. While the presets work great on any camera, some have been given alternate looks to work with the different systems which are labeled C1 or C2.

The curves, both the luma curve and the RGB curves, needed to be tuned to produce more depth and tonality to the colors for a more analog, less digital look.

The color curves were heavily manipulated to add some stronger colors in the different tonal ranges. Some looks, like the Core II have cooler colors in the shadows with more warm colors in the highlights which is a popular look in cinema.

To add the final touches, even the grain presets have been meticulously designed to give as much of an analog look as possible. There are several different ways of tuning the grain by adjusting the roughness, the size, and the amount and different formulas produce dramatically different results.


Different Lenses

If you’re using modern lenses, the looks come set with pretty high contrast and saturation by default because they have been designed around older retro lenses or less expensive lenses that tend to not have a lot of contrast or saturation. If you’re using very high-end lenses that produce a lot of contrast & saturation, you may find that you need to reduce the contrast or saturation sometimes.

Right now the contrast and saturation are set to be more versatile so they also work well with JPG shooters. I personally would like to make them even punchier, but then they would lose their versatility. So if you like punchier images, increase the Contrast and Sat by 5 or 10 points.


Naming Convention

The letters and numbers are used to organize the looks.

Core I – Core VII have different base formulas with some alternate tunings for different environments and lightings.

Aged – Aged looks have lifted blacks and often have a little extra red added into the shadows.

C1, C2 – Colors are tuned to find a happy medium between the different camera brands. This allows photographers that shoot on different cameras to still find looks that work for them. It’s possible these will be expanded in the future, but so far they are working very well on the different brands of cameras. Only some of the Core colors needed these.

+R – Extra Red was added to the image.

Warmer – The image is colored slightly warmer. This only happens once on the Core III set. Core III set is inspired by Kodak Ektar and this was an alternate take at mimicking the film stock with creative liberties taken.

Streets – This look only works on the Core VI.1 preset for now. It adds clarity for a punchier look. This is somewhat experimental, but a lot of street photographers use a lot of clarity in their images so it’s left in as a reminder of an alternate look that can be achieved by pumping up the clarity.



New Sepia Looks

I spent a great deal of the summer of 2020 trying to get a new sepia look. I felt like something like this was missing from the presets and there needed to be a few looks that weren’t just film-like simulations.

So I took a few of my favorite looks and made a Sepia variant. These basically strip out a lot of colors leaving only the warmer colors, and there are some color grading filters that push things into a bit of a Sepia feel.

Because these are new, they do come in with a bit of high contrast, and some pretty aggressive tinting. You can always back off the tint with the Color Grading tool, and adjust WB to get the right feel. I’ll probably continue to refine these in future updates but they are working well right now.

ISo 100, f1.8, 1/640


Important Tips

Because these looks have some pretty aggressive color curves, it’s pretty important to get the WB adjustments right especially when dealing with skin tones. These are mostly calibrated to the people in my life which are Asians and Caucasian skin tones and I shoot on various cameras that all do WB slightly differently. The first thing I almost always do is a minor adjustment to WB, especially with Nikon.

Also, the colors will be shaped and work differently depending on the exposure. There is a bit more color contrast in the shadows than in the highlights, so brighter images will often have a slightly calmer feel, darker images might have a bit more punch.

When dealing with in-camera profiles, these do stack very well with some profiles but they can dramatically change skin tones, so again just adjust WB to get it right.

I often use these on top of Classic Chrome set in Lightroom when shooting RAW and sometimes even on top of Classic Chrome as JPGs.

For Nikon, I sometimes like them stacked with the Portrait look, and if I’m doing landscape the Neutral looks work well.

But for years, and almost all the samples above, I’ve been using them with either Adobe Color or Adobe Standard. But you can just experiment, to build your own workflow.


What Looks work well in what situations?

The first half of the pack I designed to work well with people and casual situations Core I – Core III.

I only build Core V – Core VII when I started shooting a lot more street photography especially street photography at night. For night street shooting I often jump straight to those later looks first.

But, some of the early looks work very good stacked with some in-camera profiles. Like Core, III works great with the Portrait profile on Nikons even at night.

So experiment. These are just templates you can build off of to do your own thing depending on your style and what you like. I’m constantly trying new things with these to refine styles.

One last thing. I designed these to have slightly lighter contrast and color saturation. Sometimes you may want to add a bit of contrast and saturation if you like punchier-looking images. I just don’t do that as the default setting because then they would be too harsh for JPG shooters or when using really high contrast lenses.



Current version: v1.10

Those who purchase presets will be automatically added to an email newsletter where they will receive updates when changes occur. These looks will continuously change with updates and tweaks as cameras and technology change.


2a – Film – Core I.1 C1 – Desaturated red primaries slightly
2a – Film – Core I.2 – Aged C1 – small tweaks
2a – Film – Core I.2 – Aged C2 – small tweaks
2b – Film – Core II.1 C3 – Added for now as a work in progress as a possible replacement for C2.
2b – Film – Core II.1 C3 – Small tweaks
2b – Film – Core II.2 C3 – Small tweaks
2b – Film – Core II.2 Sepia – New Look
2c – Film – Core III.1 – C3 – Shifted Blue Primary
2c – Film – Core III.4 Sepia – New Look
2d – Film – Core IV.1 – Desaturated blues, lowered contrast overall.
2d – Film – Core IV.3 Aged – Small Tweaks
2e – Film – Core IV.4 – Sepia – New Look
2e – Film – Core V.1 – Alt – Small Tweaks
2e – Film – Core V.1 – Warmer – Small Tweaks
2e – Film – Core V.1 – Small Tweaks
2f – Film – Core VI.1 – Alt – Small Tweaks
2f – Film – Core VI.3 – Sepia – New Look
2g – Film – Core VII.1 – Small Tweaks

Elements Reworked

All the Split Toned Elements have been reworked for the major update that came with Lightroom in 2020.

If you are working on an older version of LR, some of these updates will not work correctly for you and you should stick with V1.00.


How To Install

Unzip file. Right-click in the preset panel in Lightroom. Click Import.

V1 will work on older versions of Lightroom that use lrtemplate files. If you are on an older version, email me and I can send those to you.

The latest V1.10 update will not work with the older Lightroom versions because I use new Color Grading tools.


How To Update

Download the new presets. Delete your old ones and right click in your preset window and import new ones. You can click directly on the new zip file when importing. If you don’t delete the old presets, it will only load the new presets that have changed.