How to Create Instagram Filters for Lightroom Free in 2024

Welcome to a quick guide on how to create custom Instagram filters in Lightroom. We’ll dive into how to use Lightroom to create exquisite custom filters that perfectly match your aesthetic!

In our digital age, photography has shifted from traditional prints to a social media-driven showcase. Now, it’s all about garnering likes and shares. Creating your own Instagram Filters for Lightroom can immensely enhance the creativity and appeal of your work.
While digital photography is often about chasing higher resolution and more megapixels, the reality is that a great deal of our photography ends up heavily compressed and posted online. Instagram, for instance, has been a significant player in this photography transformation.

Instagram and apps like the original Hipstamatic brought the use of filters in photography into the mainstream. These filters began as a way to mimic a “retro” film look. But today, it’s a rare find to come across a camera app that doesn’t offer filters.

The washed-out, “vintage” look has swiftly gained popularity in recent years. It’s a staple in many top-tier Instagram feeds, including mine.

If you’re finding Lightroom a bit overwhelming or not ready to make the investment, but still want to create filters, consider trying Luminar NEO as a potential Lightroom alternative.

In this guide, we’ll delve into the origins of this look and explain how to manually create it in Lightroom. I’ve also prepared a set of Lightroom presets during the making of this tutorial that you can download for free using this link, saving you the effort of moving all the sliders. If you’re feeling confident, you can even create and sell Lightroom presets on stock photography sites.

instagram filters

By the way, don’t forget to check out our post on how to upload photos to Instagram to get your quality photos out there for the world to see!

The Aesthetics of Film

These filters replicate the unique aesthetics of different types of 35mm film shot on a film camera. This created a sense of loyalty among photographers for different makes and speeds of film. The filters have expanded on this “film look” to push it a little further. But, as the saying goes, “you can’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been,” so let’s explore a bit of the history behind this look.

Film Simulation Examples

To illustrate, here are some examples of different film simulations when applied to the same image in Lightroom. VSCO has some of the most accurate film simulation software on the market. To see real-life examples of the best 35mm film available, check out this post. Note that no other post-processing has taken place in these examples:

Agfa Vista 400

Agfa Vista 400

Fuji Provia 400

Fuji Provia 400

Fuji Superia 400

Fuji Superia 400

Fuji Velvia 100

Fuji Velvia 100

Kodak Portra 400

Kodak Portra 400

Ilford HP5

Ilford HP5

Kodak TRI-X 400

Kodak TRI-X 400

Creating Instagram Filters in Lightroom

Before we kick things off, it’s crucial to follow a proper photography backup workflow. Losing images can be a real heartbreaker, trust me.

Start by shooting in Raw format. I usually opt for Raw + Small JPEG. This way, you have all the image data in the Raw image but also a quick JPEG to share on social media. Raw files are unprocessed and not ready to be printed or edited, so sometimes it can take weeks to edit a photoshoot to post up on the blog. Having a small JPG to share with clients or friends in the meantime is always handy.

Now, let’s take a Raw image and open it up in Lightroom. For this tutorial, I chose this photo:

Start by checking the boxes for lens correction and to remove chromatic aberrations. This might not have been possible in the past, but it’s a good practice to adopt today. Just because we’re mimicking a retro look doesn’t mean we need to completely disregard modern technology!

Follow along with these steps to create a unique look for your photo:

– Increase the contrast by + 20 points

– Decrease the highlights by – 20 points

– Increase the shadows by + 10 points

– Decrease the whites by – 20 points

– Increase the blacks by + 25 points

Next, we move on to the most important part of the procedure: the curve tool. Click the small picture of the curve tool in the bottom right below the curve itself. Then, click a point on the curve about 1/4 the way up the curve from the bottom left (shadows). Grab the point at the very bottom left of the curve and drag the slider up until you achieve the look that you desire.

From here, you can make any other small adjustments to the image as you see fit. I like to add a bit of clarity, saturation, and vibrance to help the image pop. Feel free to tweak it in any way you like. Sometimes cooling or warming the image can make all the difference.

Lastly, we can prepare the edit for final export by sharpening the image. Start by dragging the sharpening slider to around + 20-30. The most important part of sharpening is to mask the sharpening. Sharpening the whole image will lead to noise. If you’re struggling with noise in your images, check out our Topaz Denoise Review where you can remove it all in one click! Hold the option key on a mac (alt on windows) and drag the masking slider until only the edges are sharpened. If required, you can then reduce the noise with the luminance slider but take it easy around + 20.

Just remember, when editing an image, less is more. It’s tempting to go overboard and make an image look wild. While this might catch people’s eyes initially, it’s unlikely to win you any awards. In fact, it could potentially turn people away from your photography altogether.

Once you’ve achieved your desired look, make a preset. Use this preset on some of your images to see how it works. Notice how the blacks become “washed out”. Experiment by playing with the curve to explore different image aesthetics.

Once you’ve created the most “hip” image possible, post it up on an image-sharing platform like Imgur and share a link to it in the comments below.

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Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to share a link to some of your work in the comments below.

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