How to Create a unique Cross Processed Effect in Lightroom

Photography is so much more than taking pictures. It’s a craft that requires a lot of knowledge and skill to capture the essence of beauty in a photograph. To make your images even better than they are already, you might want to learn how to create a cross-processed effect in lightroom. This effect should add a dash of intrigue to your pictures, as you will introduce shifts in colour, giving your photography another level of depth.

What is cross-processing?

Cross processing is considered to be part of alternative photography. It means processing a photographic film in a chemical solution that was intended for a different type of film. It is a little bit like putting a filter after you already took the picture, changing the colour scheme, and making your image unique. Cross processing started as a mistake of many photographers, but now it is the desired solution for picture editing. Fortunately, today you don’t have to mix chemicals any more. And to achieve this effect, all you need to have is full lightroom presets collection and a little bit of patience.

Why would you want to do it?

Well, the most crucial advantage of this effect is the element of surprise. You can also use colour to hide something or make a single part stand out. It is also a good way of impressing yourself. Taking pictures is all about what is your subject, but the way you edit is your signature. There are thousands of images of the same monuments and exciting people. You might want to make your photographs unique and show more than what an average photography amateur can do.

Cross processing curve

Let’s focus now on the process itself. Step one would be to upload your photo to your digital lightroom, like for example photoshop. Then you need to find in settings an option that allows you to create and manage curves. You will most probably find it in the presets menu. Create a new layer of curves. Choose this as your basic starting point for the picture.

Red adjustment

Next step towards a cross-processed effect is to make your picture less harsh looking. You might notice that adding another curve layer changed your view dramatically. It probably already looks better, but it may be too artificial to the eye now. You can quickly fix that by adjusting your RGB channels, starting with the red one. Go to the red channel and create another curve layer that will have a gentle letter “S” shape. But if you want to experiment a little bit, try different shapes as well.

Green adjustment

Add yet another curve adjustment layer, but this time make changes to the green channel. If your image is not very heavy on green, you can skip that step and go to another colour. However, if your photo is green heavy, lower your green input to your liking. Remember, that green is a colour of peace and hope, so you might not want to lower your green level too much.

Blue adjustment

Just as before, add a curves adjustment layer, creating the perfect blue effect on your screen. Lower or higher the input of blue to your picture. A pro tip for the photographs that include a pool of water, you might want to lower the input if you wish for your waterfall or lake to pop.

Burn-in overexposed features

Now, that all colour adjustments are made, it is time to take care of overexposed areas of your image. Even though, exposure is something you want to achieve with cross-processing, as with everything you don’t want it to be too much. To expose just enough, use a burn tool and make sure to darken specific areas of your photo. You might want to opt for a large brush and gently balance your picture in places that need a little burning. But don’t burn too much, you are looking for uniqueness, and you do not want to risk altering the colour cast of your photograph.

Overlay layer

After you are done with colour alterations, let’s add an overlay layer. Copy and paste your entire picture to make a new layer. Then, change your layer blending mode to Overlay, and move to the next step.

The opacity change

You must have noticed that by adding an overlay layer, you added a little bit of depth and shine to your photo. Next natural step is to reduce both the fill and opacity coverage by half, to give your image more subtleness.

Make it flat

The final step on your lightroom edit journey is to flatten your picture. Once you do it, you are all done. And in front of you, there is a beautiful picture with a unique cross-processed effect.

Cross processing might seem like a complicated process. But when you follow the steps listed here, you will end up with a colourful, bright photo with a little bit of surreal touch. Going through this process is the essence of creativity in photography. Also, your speed in editing will rapidly increase with more experience. So put some time in, and have fun inside your digital lightroom. And there is no chance that you will repeat the exact same effect. The cross-processed effect has the advantage of being unique for every picture, once you play with it a little bit. This is a step towards becoming a photography pro, take it.

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