Edit Like Sam Dameshek: Matte Lightroom Tutorial

*Edit Like Sam Dameshek - FilterGrade

Do you ever wonder how a certain photographer makes their image come to life?

We do too.

We wonder about this all the time and we have become more and more aware of how these amazing photographers create their edits. To help you edit with more of a strategy and style, we sat down and dove into Sam Dameshek‘s editing style and his custom Lightroom Presets, and picked them apart to try and find out his tricks!

Today we’re going to be taking a deeper look at Sam Dameshek’s editing style, and how he creates such insane matte effects. Let’s get started!

Edit Like Sam Dameshek - FilterGrade

Edit Like Sam Dameshek

Starting out, if you want to edit like Sam, you’ll first need to get out, take some photos with your friends and capture something compelling so that you have some photos worth editing. Once you have your shots, you’re going to want to evaluate your images and plan out how they are going to look.

With Sam’s presets, you’ll be starting off with a great base, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make some custom corrections so that your specific photo will look perfect.

Basic Adjustments

First, you’re going to want to adjust your exposure and your white balance. This is a factor that varies from image to image so setting this beforehand will help a great deal to calibrate the settings. Once your base is set then you’re going to begin creating that Matte edit that Sam is known for.

Basic Edit Like Sam Dameshek - FilterGrade

Above you can see the raw image with some small adjustments to set the base. From here you’re going to start with the contrast slider. Bump the contrast down from 0 to -13. This will make your image more flat, taking out some of the details in the background, but also decreasing the shadows to make the image appear softer and on the same field.

Next, you’re going to want to adjust the other basic settings. Starting with temperature and tint, adjust the sliders to correctly present the mood that you are looking for. Remember, just because Sam has the temperature/tint set to a certain range in his presets does not mean you need to keep it this way. This is how he created the preset to best work during a certain circumstance, but you, the photographer, will know what it needs to look like for a specific image.

So go with your gut on the temperature and tint, because you are going to know better than anyone else what tone your image should have. Once you have made the adjustment, move onto the main basic settings.

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From here you’ll want to begin working on your highlights, shadows, whites, and blacks. Although these are just the ‘basic’ settings, they are quite important and very useful. To create his matte effect, Sam starts by decreasing the highlights to help bring out flat colors, rather than bright and popping colors. From here, he increases the shadow to help counteract for the loss of shadow when we decreased the contrast. Doing this will allow you to keep that flat look while still obtaining some of the shadow detail.

The next step would be to adjust the whites and the blacks. While creating matte looks Sam tends to decrease his whites to about -15 and increase his blacks to +5. When he does this, he knows that taking some of the whites out will give you an even more flat look.

This seems to be a recurring theme throughout the article – flatness. One thing you will learn is that when you try to make matte, go flat. This is key because matte effects always have flat colors or flat looks, that is the wow factor behind a matte image.

Contrast - Edit Like Sam Dameshek - FilterGrade

Next Sam will decrease the clarity of his image to help everything become more subtle, rather than popping out at you. He will also lower the saturation in order to bring down those bright colors, giving the photo an even flatter look. At this point, you may be wondering – why so flat? and why do the colors become so… dull?

Those are great questions and definitely reasonable, because your image may not look like you had expected to. No need to worry, we’re not done yet. Sam’s next trick comes from the tone curves.

Tone Curves - Edit Like Sam Dameshek - FilterGrade

Tone Curves

On the tone curve, Sam begins by bumping his shadows up and then darkening his image making the dark colors even darker, but with a ghostly grayish color on top. You should not have too much of this gray on top of the dark colors, but this is the beginning to your matte effect.

Color Grading

Now that the image has been put together for the most part, you’ll need to get all of your colors corrected. Sam works his magic in the HSL Color Tab and the Camera Calibration Tab.

Obviously every image is going to have different color patterns so this will be based on your image; however, regardless of the color scheme, here is one thing to remember – when you try to make matte, go flat. While reading this from a photo editor’s standpoint, think about what that means. What would need to happen for me to adjust colors, but also stay flat?

Your answer- don’t turn the colors up, unless you need to. You’re probably thinking – ‘what?! don’t turn them up?!’

If you think about it, this makes sense for the matte effect. On most photos, if you’re not going for a matte look, if you want more of a certain color you’ll just turn it up. However, if you are trying to create a matte filter, increasing colors will make the image appear more robust and vibrant, which is not what you are looking for.

HSL Color - Edit Like Sam Dameshek - FilterGrade

So let’s take a look at Sam’s coloring techniques above. In order to make certain colors pop, rather than adding in color, Sam will take opposing colors out. This means the colors he wants to show the most will appear flat and stable, just like he had made them up until now, but the colors he doesn’t want will appear even less noticeable. Now he has taken his photo from flat to matte with almost perfect coloring.

Finally, the last steps to Sam’s matte editing technique are to configure the camera calibration. Here is the one part of the editing process where Sam will add in some color… kind of.

HSL Color - Edit Like Sam Dameshek - FilterGrade

Beginning with the Red/Green/Blue primary adjusters, Sam will individually adjust each color to where he best sees fit, but he isn’t just adjusting the Hues to add in the color. He’s also decreasing saturation almost to counteract the color he just added in. However, he doesn’t fully counteract his edit so that you can’t see the new adjustment, he just brings it down a bit so that the color is not overwhelming. This is a great trick to help add color into your image in a subtle way.

Edit Like Sam Dameshek - FilterGrade

That’s how Sam Dameshek creates his matte effect in Adobe Lightroom, hopefully you’ll be able to create an awesome matte look now too!

We hope you enjoyed this tutorial and learned a lot. For more on Sam Dameshek check out his Instagram, YouTube, and custom Lightroom Presets!


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