There are lots of really fun things that you can do with Panasonic cameras to make your images look more cinematic. To start, there are lots of great lenses that you can use. Then there’s also Panasonic’s color — which comes from the company’s photo profiles and much more. But one of the coolest features has to do with Real Time LUTs. If you’re a photographer that doesn’t know about LUTs, they’re look up tables. You might better know them as presets or styles, though not exactly. And you’re about to have so much fun. Here’s how to shoot cinematic-looking photos with Panasonic cameras.
This article is presented in partnership with Panasonic. The Panasonic GH6 and Panasonic S5 II are fantastic Panasonic cameras for any multimedia creative. Photographers will be delighted with the looks that it can deliver, as well as a few of the features that make capturing moments very fast. Video shooters will love the lightweight, selection of lenses and award-winning quality that these cameras can make.
Panasonic Lens Choices
If you’re looking for really cinematic-looking photos, then you’re going to be shooting with normal and telephoto lenses. Most movie sets use longer lenses because they’re great at separating out the subjects from the background. But more recently, a few semi-wide angle lenses have been used in movies and cinema. If you’re going for a more documentary-style look, then you can surely use wider-angle lenses. The important thing here, though is the separation of your subject from the background. Here are some of our favorites to choose from:
Most cinema follows two different styles of white balance. If you’re shooting film the way that Tarantino does, then you’re probably going to light the scene to cater to lower film ISO settings. Your lights will also be gelled and colored accordingly. Most film these days is balanced to daylight, which is around 5500K. Otherwise, you can use 3200K, which is Tungsten. The movie Blade Runner famously used Tungsten colored film with Daylight lighting to get its very signature look.
Lots of other cinema also embraces a more digital workflow, which basically means just white-balancing the scene to whatever you want it to be. A trained imaging specialist can typically tell the difference. For example, a show from the CW will look much different than, say, Netflix’s Master of None. It’s also a big difference between Christopher Nolan’s Inception and a Marvel Movie.
Getting your white balance to exactly what you want in camera is pretty important when it comes to the next part. Of course, you can always keep your RAW files. But we’re now going to get into shooting for the JPEG. Surely, this means that you’re not always going to shoot in Tungsten or Daylight. But they’re good starting points for you to figure out where you want to go. And at times, it means that you’ll be fiddling around with settings and things like white balance bracketing. However, you’ll be much happier in the end.
Here’s a pro tip: when you’re going through the photos on the LCD, add a star rating to the images. And make sure that you’re playing the photos back from the right card. When you add a star rating, you’ll be able to import the images and then sort immediately by whatever has a rating. This will make the culling process so much faster. It will also mean that you know exactly what you want if you’re porting the images to your phone to blast onto social platforms instead.
LUTs and Photo Styles: A Great Addition to Panasonic Cameras
For photography, I really like playing with a few specific photo styles. To access these, press the Q-button on the back of your camera and then choose the styles. I really like the CineLike V2 and D2 profiles. But these also don’t let you get the largest dynamic range from the camera. L Classic Neo is also designed to look like old school film. And in the right settings, it can deliver the look of something akin to a World War II movie.
These, of course, should be combined with an according white balance and off-camera lights to make them really shine.
Then there’s the Real Time LUT feature that Panasonic does. The company has a bunch of them available for free on their website, but you can also add a bunch of your own. Since my background is in film photography, I’ve searched around for a bunch that looks like film. My inspiration came from classic National Geographic magazines as well as some of my own work that I’ve done with medium-format film. Typically what I personally do is use a Panasonic lens, the S5 II, and some sort of lens filter to get the look I want. If I want the skin to look softer, then I’ll use some sort of haze filter. Or if I want some halation, I’ll use a filter accordingly while also removing the lens hood from my Panasonic lenses.
This gets even better if you’re using vintage lenses, though you’re, of course, losing all the benefits that Panasonic Lumix S lenses give you, like weather resistance and precision autofocus. But if you’re in a controlled environment like a photo studio, it can give you a lot less work in post-production. Always remember: the weather resistance is only complete when you’re using equally weather resistant imaging devices, like the fine Panasonic cameras available to full frame shooters.
Real-Time LUT is applied to the JPEG. So I tend to shoot in RAW and JPEG to get the look I want. And if I don’t get it in the JPEG, then I’ll mess with it later on in post-production. But I really try to not edit my photos since I have a photojournalism and analog film background. Running this website means that I need to work fast and that I sometimes don’t have the luxury to play around with an image for a really long time when we need to produce articles.
This is an answer to what many photographers have wanted for a while now. Many of us know how to use white balance well, and we can use features like Exposure Preview to get exactly what we want. So when you apply the LUT, you don’t typically need to shoot for the editing process.
All that stuff about histograms? Throw it away. Instead, this is the tech that so many photographers have been clamoring for for years. All those old guys that told us to get it right in-camera are finally getting what they want. And those of us who are younger now don’t need to spend so much time in front of a computer. Instead, we can spend more time shooting!
Seriously though, I’d only do this when you’re going about the JPEG-only mentality. Panasonic cameras are great for those types of shooters! Later on, you can apply your own presets in Lightroom or Capture One. And there’s a reason for that! We talked to Matt Frazer, Business Development Manager for Lumix. “…several are choosing to shoot photos in V-LOG and bake the LUT in while maintaining a RAW version of the file for post flexibility,” he states. “The problem with this workflow is that the RAW file is now completely different due to the OETF used for LOG, and they lose Dynamic Range in the RAW file.” Essentially, applying it to the JPEG and not touching Panasonic’s RAW files makes so much more sense.
To apply these LUTs, just switch them using the Real Time Lut Photo Profile option or select them from the My Photo Styles Option. Again, really make sure that you’re shooting in RAW and JPEG to get this to just the right place that you’re looking for.