Here at Zenfolio, we love doing product reviews, especially when the reviewer is matched up with the perfect product for them. Portrait photographer Amanda Burse reviews Mastin Labs Presets that make your digital photos look like film. Read on to see why it was such an exciting match.
I have a confession, I hope my husband never reads this:. I have spent, what I would call, a less then appropriate amount of money on Photoshop Actions and Lightroom Presets over the years. Okay, if I have to be really honest, I have spent a ridiculous amount on them. Let’s face it though; they are easier to hide than the shoes I bought on Zappos last week (that I also don’t plan on telling my husband about).
So, when I was asked to review these Lightroom Presets from Mastin Labs, I was pretty much as excited as a girl can be. There is so much hope in a preset or action. You see your favorite photographer selling their actions (finally!) and you can’t help but to empty your PayPal account of all those “hidden” funds you have been saving for a rainy day or, maybe even the electric bill. Alas, after you click the buy button, install them, play with them for a few hours, almost desperate for a magical outcome, you may wind up on the disappointed side. Regret ensues as you contemplate your worth as an artist: you feel betrayed by your most favorite photographer. You vow to never buy another preset again, and then you decide to sell your own presets because clearly anyone can do it! It’s a cycle. You come back down to earth realizing that real art is in the photograph itself.
The look of film has really taken the photography industry by storm, and in the last three years or so, it seems as if everyone has their own film presets for sale. What I really liked about Kirk Mastin’s pledge in his product is that the presets themselves offer a subtle change to a digital photograph, but also an authentic film appearance. These presets are not going to make you Ansel Adams (darn it!), though. You have to have a good photograph first.
I am a natural light photographer shooting with a Canon 5D III. I most often use my 24-70 2.8L lens because I have four kids and who has time to change lenses when one of them is doing something cute? We are just getting over our winter here in Maine—not even kidding, there was snow in the yard up until last week, and it’s May)— therefore I shoot primarily inside in lower light conditions six to seven months out of the year. Luckily, my 3-year-old wouldn’t stop climbing my curtains and since I had to take them down for his own safety and my sanity, I have quite a fair amount of light.
This image of my 2-year-old daughter Willow was shot in bilateral window light a couple of mornings ago. The before shot is out of camera with no editing and the after is after applying the Porta 400 preset in Mastin’s Porta Pack. It isn’t how I would usually edit a picture, and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked the overall feel of it.
This photograph of my 3-year-old son William, was edited using Mastin’s Pan F Medium Format preset. I have to admit; I really struggled with Mastin’s black and white package at first. I am not a fan of heavy grain and even after dialing back the grain in the preset, I could never really get the graininess of the presets to work. This photograph was shot in extremely low light on a cloudy afternoon; it already had a texture to it anyway. This is my favorite preset of the bunch for these types of conditions and I have used it on a lot of images since.
(L) Before, (R) AfterWillow My favorite results of the presets were by far with any shots I took outside. This photo was taken on a cloudy evening in our field and edited using Mastin’s HP5 Medium Format preset. Again, I tend to lean towards less grain and I really liked how this preset accentuated the natural shadows in the grass and in her face.
(top) Before, (bottom) AfterWill This final image was on a beautiful summer night last year in July as the sun was just slipping behind the mountain. It was edited using the HP5 Medium Format preset again, but I added the Warmtone Paper, which is in Mastin’s black and white series.
So, what you really want to know is if this preset junkie finds these worth the money you have been stuffing in your sock drawer. My final verdit: don’t expect miracles, as with any preset or action. Expect it to be just what it promises—a subtle but authentic film look. In the end, there are very few presets out there (and yes, I have tried just about all of them) that will produce such a true-to-film look as the Mastin Series.
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Amanda Burse Amanda is a devoted wife and mom to four children between the ages of 2 and 12. She is part of the Zenfolio Customer Support Team and has been a professional photographer for eight years.