5 Ways To Make Your Photos Look Like a Film

Are you trying to make your photos look like a real film, but had no idea how ? In this tutorial, I’m going to show you the 5 simple ways you can do with your own digital camera to achieve that dreamy film look !




How to get film look ?

I guess that you’ve seen those sick photos on Instagram before, and you were thinking: how the hack did they do that ? what camera are they using ? Why my photos didn’t have that film look ? Well… don’t blame your camera ! It all has to do with your camera lenses, settings and color grading technique. In the next few minutes, I’m going to show you 5 best ways that will instantly make your photographs look like a real Hollywood film !



1. Use longer focal length

The focal length on your camera lens will decide how your photos look like. To achieve film look on your photos, we will normally shoot with a longer focal length such as 50mm, 85mm. A longer focal length will make your background much narrower, which will emphasize your subject. Most of the films we’ve seen are using this technique as well.

If you’re currently shooting on a crop sensor DSLR then a 35mm or 50mm lens will be perfect for emphasizing your topic. As the photo below, it was shot on a Canon 80D with a 50mm lens, the background is much narrower than usual. Have you ever seen a movie that is shot on a super wide-angle ? I don’t think so ! So we will normally shoot our photos with lenses that are longer than 24mm(for crop sensor camera).

The crop sensor camera will produce 1.6x narrower field-of-view than the full frame camera. In order to get tighter footage on a full frame camera, we have to use longer focal length such as 50mm, 85mm (on a crop sensor camera: 50mm=31mm, 85mm=53mm. you get that idea !)


50mm  vs  17mm.




2. Shadow depth-of-field

Oh ! I forgot to tell you that another benefit of using long focal length is its “depth-of-field” The longer focal length you have, the more shadow depth-of-field you will get ! This also has to do with the value of aperture. As you can see, the wider aperture will give you a nicely out of focus background. Most of my photos are also shot at aperture f/1.8 ~ f/5.6. I personally don’t use aperture that is higher than f/5.6. Because it just doesn’t look like a film at all if everything is in focus !





3. Add some contrast

If you’re a photographer, then you must know what “contrast” is. Adding some contrast will definitely make your photos look a lot more stereoscopic. It can be done easily in editing software like Adobe Lightroom. I think this is also the first step you’d want to do when it comes to the color grading. Normally, I will set my contrast to 5 ~ 40 depending on different scenes.





4. Add some Teal or green in the shadows

Okay, this is the most exiting part !! When it comes to color grading, it has to do with the science of color. In general, we’d want to use contrast color to emphasize our subject. Colors from different segments of the color wheel are contrasting colors. You can think of it as “opposite color” The reason why we use teal or green for the shadow areas is because our skin tones are in the orange section. To make the subject and the background pop, we have to use opposite color, which is basically teal or green. Most films we’ve seen also use this color grading technique !

  Background – teal, Skin tone – orange


  Looks like a thriller film 🙂

Just remember this: use orange for the highlights(subject) and teal/green for the shadows(background)




5. Use side light

If you’re shooting portrait, then it’s really necessary to use side light because placing a single light to the side of the subject can create mystery. Don’t worry it doesn’t require a professional lighting equipment ! You can simply use the light source from a window. This can create a really good effect in photography as it can make photos look more cinematic. I could guarantee that you’ve seen this effect in the movies !


Half of my face is in shadow !




That’s it !

Those are the five simple ways you can do to get that dreamy film look you’ve always wanted ! I hope this tutorial can help you out ! If you find this post helpful, don’t forget to share with your friends ! By the way, what is your best tip and trick to get film look ? Leave a common below 🙂





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