The Lomo Kompakt Automat, or the Lomo LC-A as it is more commonly known, is a Russian point and shoot camera built in the eighties. It has a fixed focal length lens of 32mm and used 35mm film. Truth be told, it wasn’t exactly the best film camera on the market but it was responsible for kickstarting a whole new style of photography known as Lomography.
The original LC-A and the newer LC-A+ produce contrasty, saturated images. It was prone to light leaks and images were heavily vignetted. However, over time, people actually sought out this look and actively tried to emulate it. It has become a very popular form of photography. Now we can create our own lomo images right here in Photoshop.
Step 1 – We start with our base image of an old truck. It has lots of detail and some interesting grungy surfaces and textures, a brooding sky and some nice greenery.
Step 2 – This sample image is 2500 pixels square and our settings are based on an image of this size. If you’re using a different size image, some of your settings may need to alter appropriately.
Step 3 – Press Cmd + J to duplicate the image and name it ‘blur’. Then go to Image > Adjustments > Levels (Cmd + L). We are going to use this layer as our dark vignette.
Step 4 – Move the Midtone slider to the right to darken the image and also move the Output Levels sliders toward the middle to reduce contrast. Set Shadow Output to 21 and Highlight Output to 125. Click OK to proceed. The ‘blur’ image is now much darker.
Step 5 – With the ‘blur’ layer still active, go to Filter > Blur > Lens Blur and make the Radius 50. This results in a dark, blurred version of the original background image. Click OK to move on to the next step.
Step 6 – Keep the ‘blur’ layer active and click on the Add Layer Mask button. A mask will be added to the ‘blur’ layer. Now we need to reveal some of the original truck image in the layer below.
Step 7 – Click on the ‘blur’ layer mask thumbnail to make it active (you will see the layer mask thumbnail highlighted, not the actual image thumbnail) and then go to your toolbar and select the Brush Tool (B).
Step 8 – Make the brush about 1000 pixels and set the style to Soft Round. Make your foreground colour black (press X) and then dab your black brush onto the image where you want the original ‘Background’ image to show through.
Step 9 – The effect you’re looking for is to have the centre of the image show through, but leave dark, blurred parts around the outside of the image. You can Alt + left-click on the layer mask to view it in isolation.
Step 10 – Alt + left-click the layer mask thumbnail again to return to the normal view. Go to the Layer Mask Properties and set the Feather value to 135 pixels to soften your brush strokes a little.
Step 11 – Click on the Create New Adjustment Layer button and select Levels from the menu. this will add a non-destructive Levels Adjustment at the top of the layer stack.
Step 12 – Adjust the Levels Properties to add a little contrast by moving the Highlight and Midtone sliders to the left. Also make the Shadow Output Level about 15.
Step 13 – Now we can shift the colours to get the look we’re after. Click on the Create New Adjustment Layer button again and click on Curves. Make sure the new Curves adjustment is at the top of the layer stack.
Step 14 – In the Curves Properties panel, click the RGB button and select Red. Add two control points to the red line and move them to create a shallow upward curve as shown. The image will take on a pink hue.
Step 15 – Now choose Green from the RGB button and add control points to the green line and make a more aggressive curve as shown in the example.
Step 16 – Finally, click on Blue in the RGB panel and add two control points and make a shallow downward curve.
Step 17 – You can add further colour tweaks by adding a Color Balance adjustment and under the Colour Balance Properties, push the Cyan/Red to -55 and Magenta/Green sliders to -15.
Step 18 – Click on the Create New Adjustment Layer button once more and add a Hue/Saturation adjustment to the top of the layer stack.
Step 19 – Because LC-A cameras are characterised by their contrasty and saturated images, we can push the Saturation value to about +40 in the Hue/Saturation properties panel.
Step 20 – Next, go and add a new layer to the top of the stack. Call this layer ‘light leaks’. This is where we can reproduce the classic look of light bleeding onto the film while in the camera.
Step 21 – Click on your foreground colour swatch to activate the Colour Picker Tool and choose a pale beige colour, similar to the colour of the bonnet of the truck. Click OK when you have a colour you like.
Step 22 – Press B to activate your brush tool and using a large, soft brush, paint daubs of the pale beige colour, on the ‘light leaks’ layer at random places around the outside of the image.
Step 23 – Click on the Blend Mode button at the top of the layers palette and choose Soft Light from the menu. The daubs of beige will blend into the image. Duplicate this layer if you want the effect to be stronger.
Step 24 – Your lomo effect is complete. You have taken your original image and now added the classic look of an old Russian camera that, even though it is flawed, is beloved by so many photographers.