Part 3: ‘Mistical’

Welcome to part 3 of an 8-part series on Lightroom presets and how they work. To go with this I’ve created 8 free Lightroom presets you can download right now.

  1. Click here for a Dropbox link to the presets.
  2. You don’t need to have a Dropbox account – just click the ‘Download’ button at the top right. Depending on your browser, the presets will download either as a folder, or as a zip file you have to unzip into a folder.
  3. Once you’ve done that, launch Lightroom, open an image in Develop mode and then right-click anywhere in the Presets panel and choose ‘New Folder’. Type in ‘Life after Photoshop’ and hit the ‘Create’ button.
  4. Now right-click on the new folder, select ‘Import’ and navigate to the folder where you’ve saved the downloaded presets. You can now select the presets, hit the ‘Import’ button and they’ll appear in the presets folder you’ve created.

How the ‘Mistical’ Lightroom preset works

‘Mistical’ is is an attempt to create a graduated mist/fog effect in Lightroom. It’s a bit of a long-shot because Lightroom doesn’t have the pixel-based editing tools you really need for this kind of thing, but it’s possible to get quite close with a couple of graduated filters and some creative use of the settings. Here’s a before-and-after:

Free Lightroom preset - Mistical

Most of the work is done with the upper graduated filter. Here’s a blow-up of the settings I’ve used, followed by a breakdown of what they do and why.

Free Lightroom preset - Mistical

Exposure: Mist and fog are bright, so the first thing to do was increase the exposure. +0.5Ev won’t achieve anything on its own – it will just make the top part of the picture lighter – but in conjunction with the other settings it has the desired effect.

Contrast: Mist and fog tend to blow out highlight detail, so a slight contrast increase helps move this along a little. It doesn’t have a huge effect in combination with the other settings, to be fair, so this adjustment isn’t critical.

Shadows: Pushing this value up to 100 plays a large part in this mist effect. On a misty day, the further away the object, the weaker the dark tones – right up to the point where they merge into the mist.

Dehaze: This is the other key adjustment. Without it, the mist effect is pretty weak, but with the Dehaze value pushed right down to its minimum you get a really soft, diffuse look that finishes off the effect nicely.

Saturation: Mist is pretty monochromatic, so a reduction in the saturation value is a pretty obvious step.

Adjusting the Mistical preset

Because of the way the Lightroom Dehaze tool works, this effect does start to go slightly wrong if you have large, dark objects like nearby treetrunks in the top part of the frame. Otherwise, it can be surprisingly convincing.

If you find the mist effect is coming down too far in the frame, just switch to the graduated filter tool, select the filter’s pin and drag it upwards. Alternatively, drag the lower boundary and drag it upwards to make the graduated blend narrower.

If you find dark objects towards the top of the picture are showing through too strongly, select the top gradient and increase the Exposure setting and/or reduce the contrast.

The lower graduated filter is simply there to add some ‘weight’ to the bottom of the picture and enhance the foreground contrast. If the effect is too strong you can remove it altogether or drag the lower boundary down to increase the width of the blend so that the darkening effect comes in more slowly.

Free Lightroom preset - Mistical


Next time: the ‘Moonlite’ preset

This one’s a bit crazy. It’s the old Hollywood trick of turning sunlight into moonlight with craft exposure and colour filtering … but this time with a ‘moon’ thrown in too!