People love lomography, as evident in the the flickr groups for the real LOMO, or the fake LOMO. If you are not sure whether or not you want to pick up one of the real LOMO analog cameras, you can fake the effect using digital photography techniques. I have seen at least half a dozen Photoshop tutorials on how to do this. Here I am going to show you how to create the similar effect in Nikon Capture NX.

Before we start

There are no strict specifications for the LOMO style. According to Wikipedia, the lomography emphasizes casual, snapshot photography. Characteristics such as over-saturated colors, off-kilter exposure, blurring, “happy accidents,” and alternative film processing are often considered part of the “Lomographic Technique”. From what I have seen, most LOMO photos have the above characteristics and dark corners (vignette).

If you are more comfortable with Adobe Photoshop (or GIMP), you may find the following links useful.

Let’s get started

For illustration purpose I chose a photo I took at a local street fair (same fair as the crystal ball photo I used for the selection brush tutorial). It is a casual snapshot of pumpkin, scarecrows, and other farm-related crafts. I think it could be suitable for the LOMO style.

Original Photo

Step 1: Increase the contrast

To increase the contrast, you may use the Contrast / Brightness adjustment (Adjust->Light->Contrast/Brightness…” but I found Levels & Curves works better for preserving details. You can access the Levels & Curves adjustment via “Adjust->Lgith->Levels & Curves…”, or Ctrl-L, as shown in the following screenshot.

Level and Curves adjustment

Click to create anchor point and drag to bend the curve to create the following S-shaped curve. Higher contrast simply means brighter highlights and darker shadows. That’s what this s-curve does.

Level and Curves adjustment settings

Once satisfied with the result, click OK to continue. If you want more contrast, you can also change the blending mode to Overlay in the opacity settings of the Level & Curves editing step as shown in the following screenshot. You may also lower the opacity if the contrast is too strong.

Level and Curves adjustment opacity mode

Step 2: Boost the color saturation

Select “Adjust->Color->Saturation/Warmth…” as shown in the following screenshot.

Saturation and warmth

Experiment with the saturation slider to obtain the desired saturation level. Click OK to continue.

Saturation and warmth settings

Now you should have the following in the Edit List. If the content of the last step is shown, hide it by clicking on the triangle on the left so it looks like the following.

Edit list

Step 3: Darken the corners

We want to darken the corners to create the vignette effect. There are many ways to do this. I am going to use the Selection Gradient tool as circled in red below. Double click on the Selection Gradient icon to open the gradient options dialog box. The numbers in the boxes represent the percent of opacity, or how strongly the effect will be at the starting, midpoint and end points of the gradient. Please note the slider does not seem to work in the same manner as in Photoshop and you cannot have more than three anchor points either. For this tutorial, I want to have a gradient that fades quickly so I put the midpoint opacity value to 10%. If this doesn’t work well to your taste, feel free to use other values.

Gradient selection options

After clicking OK on the Gradient Options dialog box, click on a spot near one of the corners of the image and drag the mouse toward the center of the image. Make sure to use the “+” mode of the Selction Gradient. After releasing the mouse button you will see an orange overlay appears at the corner. The orange color almost completely disappears at about the midpoint of the gradient. This is expected since I set the midpoint opacity to 10%.

Selection gradient

However the orange color overlay is not what we want. The reason you see that is because the default enhancement effect, colorize, is used. You will notice that if you look at the Edit List. This happens when you make a selection without first selecting a previous adjustment or effect (remember all the edit list contents were hidden?). Don’t worry about this for now since we can easily change the effect for our purpose later. For now, the orange overlay marks the selection gradient clearly and it is actually helpful as a guide for applying the selection gradients.

Edit List

There is no radial gradient in Capture NX. To create the vignette effect, you will have to use multiple gradients to make the end result look like a radial gradient. You can do this by clicking and dragging from corners and edges toward the center of the image multiple times. Although Capture NX allows multiple gradients, you can no longer access the anchor points of the previous gradient as soon as you add an additional gradient. You could always undo, or switch to the negative Selection Gradient to subtract the previous selection using positive gradient.

At the end, you should have something like the following.

All selection gradient applied

Now it is time to change the colorize effect to what we really want. Basically we want to lower the brightness at the edges to make them looks like lens vignette. The selection gradients we created will make the transition smooth and natural. To change the effect, click on the drop down box in the Edit List as shown below, and choose “Light->Contrast/Brightness…”.

Change the effect in edit list

After selecting the “Contrast/Brightness…” adjustment, the orange colorize effect will disappear and the Brightness & Contrast settings dialog box will pop up automatically. By default, both contrast and brightness slider will be at their default value: 0, which is the reason you don’t see anything happen to the photo until you make some adjustments. To darken the corners, we simply reduce the brightness.

Main Edit Window

Drag the Brightness slider to the left until the corners and edges (where the selection gradients are) are dark enough. The image below shows what I got from the brightness setting above (-75%).

With dark edge and corners

You can add some blurs to the edge as well. With the last edit step expanded and selected, hold down the SHIFT key and open “Adjust->Focus->Gaussian Blur…” dialog box from menu. The selection gradients will be applied to both the Brightness&Contrast and the Gaussian Blur effects.

The following is the final Edit List. Note the selection in the final step is “Partially Selected”.

Final Edit List

The final result

Here is the screenshot of the final result from the editing steps above. To view the final result without the clutter, simple scroll back up to the title photo.

With dark and blurry edge and corners

Do more with save/load settings

By saving a settings file you can easily apply the same editing steps on others photos or batch-process many photos using the same settings file. Setting file is the equivalent of Photoshop Action for Capture NX. Some tips for doing this:

The result may look strange when you apply a saved setting (with the selections) on a file with different size or orientation.

Photos may also have completely different tone range and tone distribution. It is sometimes necessary to tweak the curves, saturation, and brightness settings if the effect appears to be too drastic or not enough.

You can create several settings files for specific photo size and orientation, with different degrees of contrast, saturation, and brightness adjustments.

The final words

I hope you enjoy reading this tutorial on how to achieve the fake LOMO effect in Nikon Capture NX. If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to use the comment box below. If you are interested in other tutorials on Capture NX, please follow this link.

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