The Lowdown On Lomo In Adobe Photoshop

The Lowdown On Lomo In Adobe Photoshop

The image on the left is the original image of the yellow car. The one on the right is the finished product.
"Lomo" images are characterized by oversaturated colours, distortions, artifacts, dark vignettes, high contrast.

There seems to be a resurgence in the popularity of Lomography or “Lomo-style” photos. If you are unfamiliar with the term, it truly is one of those “I will know it when I see it” sort of things. They are images characterized by oversaturated colours, distortions, artifacts, dark vignettes, high contrast and , basically, those things in a photo a professional photographer will avoid or fix in the dark room. When Photoshop became a standard imaging application, it rapidly became a rather interesting technique when a photo really needed to be noticed.

The interesting thing about techniques such as this, is one needs to resist the temptation to overdo it. It is all too easy to to slather on the effects because it “looks cool”. As I tell my students, this is not the case. It is the creator of the image telling the viewer: “Aren’t I clever?”.

In this “How To …” we are going to avoid “being clever” and create the “lomo” effect in Photoshop by playing with Adjustment Layers, Curves and Blend modes. Let’s get started …

You Start With A Vignette In Adobe Photoshop

The Gradient Fill options are shown.
You start the process by creating a Gradient Fill to act as the vignette.

One of the hallmarks of the “lomo” technique is the the vignette. What it does is to soften off and darken the corners of the image. In this case I selected the image and, in the Layers panel, created a new Gradient Fill Adjustment Layer.

The default is a Linear Gradient but I wanted the grill and hood of the car to stand out.

To achieve this, I used these settings:

  • Style: Radial
  • Angle:  120 degrees
  • Scale: 100%
  • Reverse: Selected.

By reversing the gradient I moved the vignette to the corners of the image. I clicked OK to accept the change and, with the Adjustment Layer selected, I set the Blend Mode to Soft Light which brought up some detail in the dark areas.

Add A Gradient Overlay In Photoshop

The Gradient Overlay Adjustment Layer dialog box is shown.
The Vignette is added through the use of a Gradient Overlay Adjustment Layer.

I wanted the yellow in the car to really “pop” and to draw the viewers’ attention to the center of the photo. The solution is the addition of a Gradient Overlay Adjustment Layer.

To add the Gradient Overlay, I selected the Adjustment Layer and selected Gradient Overlay for the fx pop up menu at the bottom of the Layers panel. When the dialogue box opened I used these settings:

  • Blend Mode: Overlay
  • Opacity: 45%
  • Reverse: Selected
  • Style: Radial
  • Angle: 127 degrees
  • Scale:  120 %

By using the Overlay Blend mode with 45% opacity I was able to bring back the vibrant yellow of the car’s paint job. I selected Reverse because I wanted the dark edges of the vignette on the corners of the image, not over the car.

The angle setting of 120 degrees affects the “look” of the overlay regarding how the overlay interacts with the colours in the image. The Scale setting affects the start and end points of the gradient. In this case I wanted to include the fenders which meant the scale had to increase.

When finished, I clicked OK.

Add A Little “Cross Processing” With Curves In Adobe Photoshop

The colours in the image are changed by using Curves to play with the Red, Green and Blue tones in the image.
The colours in the image are changed by using Curves to play with the Red, Green and Blue channels in the image.

One of the hallmarks of a “lomo” image is colours that are oversaturated. When used in traditional dark room processing , the lomo effect is achieved by developing  the color film in a chemical that was not intended for that particular roll of film. The end result is rather “unusual” colouring. In Photoshop you can do the same thing, by “playing” with the image’s colour channels.

To start I selected Curves from the Adjustment Layers pop up. Now the fun starts.

Curves work with tonality and each square in the curve represents a quarter tone.  This means I can adjust the tonality of each of the Red, Green and Blue Chanels in the RGB image.

 By selecting a Channel from the RGB pop down I can lighten or darken or even change the saturation of a quarter tone by simply clicking once on the curve and moving the point around on the grid.  For example, I created an inverted S in the Red channel which brought up the red in the bricks but also added a hint of red to the yellow paint.

By “playing” with the quarter tones in the Blue and Green channels I was able to change the grass to a different colour, darken the blue sky and add a bit of a bluish tint to the chrome around the windshield.

Editor’s Note:

If you have never used a Curves Adjustment in Photoshop I highly recommend you spend some time thoroughly reviewing this Help Document from Adobe.

Add A Blur To The Edges In Adobe Photoshop

The lens Blur Dialog Box is shown.
Add a Lens Blur to a copy of the image.

Another hallmark of the lomo effect is the blurring in the image. Though there are a number of ways of accomplishing this, here’s what I did.

The first step was to select Select>Select All. This selected all of the layers in the image. I then selected Edit>Copy Merged. What this does is copy everything you see on the screen to the clipboard. Then I pasted the contents of the clipboard into the image.

The new image was added to a new layer. This means, I can apply a Lens Blur to the that Layer. To accomplish this I selected Filter>Blur> Lens Blur. This opened the Lens Blur Filter pane. There is a lot here but my main concern was the amount of blur which I changed by using the slider in  the Radius area. With the Lens Blur set, I clicked OK to close the panel.

Bringing The Effect Into Focus With A Layer Mask In Adobe Photoshop

A mask is used to bring the subject area of the car - the grill- into focus.
Layer Masks allow you to bring an area of the image into focus.

Obviously an out of focus image is not what we are aiming for.

To finish up I added a Layer mask to the new layer, sitched the Foreground and Background colours to Black and white and selected the Paintbrush tool. I then increased the size of the Paintbrush by tapping the ]-key a few times and started painting over the grill of the car to reveal the image  detail from the bottom layer.

One trick I use when painting a mask is to press the \-key. This shows me the mask I am painting in red.

When finished, I press the \-key to turn off the red mask colour and saved the image.