5 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Lightroom Presets

Some people consider the use of Lightroom Presets to be the equivalent of cheating. 

Those people are wrong. 

Just because it’s an automated way to instantly edit or post-process hundreds of images instead of manual editing each, doesn’t make it any less valid or less valuable to the top professional photographers in the world. Presets are a fantastic way to not just apply a certain set of changes to images, but it’s a fast way to work, a way to learn and a way to store your settings.

Presets were initially intended to store your own premade edits and apply them to future images. Now there are thousands of Lightroom Presets for all types of images, from portraits to landscapes and everything in between. If you need to edit 1000+ images and apply specific changes, then a preset is such a powerful tool for both time-saving and workflow. 

Just slapping an off-the-shelf paid for preset on a bunch of images without consequence is a bad way to work, but if you work in a methodical way, Presets are not just timesavers, but a great way to learn the ropes within Lightroom. Presets are also integrated across the board in Lightroom. The obvious area of use is in the Develop module, but they can also be found for local adjustments, importing and exporting, metadata and watermarking. So, here we go with five tips which will get you on your way to get the most out of Lightroom presets.

Tip 1 – Learning From Others

Installing a bunch of presets from a third party provider is a great way to learn. After applying a preset to an image, work your way down the right-hand side settings in the Develop module, from ‘Basic’ to ‘Camera Calibration’ to see how each slider has been tweaked to create the look for each preset. This is also a rough and ready way to apply a general look to an image to get in the ballpark and then tweak to your liking.

If you need help in learning the ins and outs of each section of Lightroom along with the presets, then a systematic way of learning will get you going. There are so many free online courses from the likes of popular YouTube channels like PHLEARN that can get you up to speed with the basics to advanced, from which you can start to tweak your own presets. 

Tip 2 – There Are More Than One Type

Lightroom isn’t just about Develop presets, each area of the software has its own settings from Import to Export presets. Setting up regular tasks with all your normal settings in a preset is a great time saver for automating common processes you repeat over and over. Export presets are very popular among event photographers (weddings, parties, conferences, etc…) because they allow you to bulk process hundreds of images at a time and deliver them in a specific format for the client. 

Tip 3 – Learning From Premade Presets

It can be very tempting to apply a premade preset to an image and think the job is done. This may work for certain images, but will cause problems in the long run. Hover over each preset in the presets panel, choose one which is to your liking from the preview image, then work your way through the sliders to see which elements have been changed and by how much. 

You will then start to figure out what elements have been changed to create a certain look in the image and then you can save a new copy of that premade preset that is specific to your taste. Do that enough over time and you will start to instantly know what sliders to tweak to get the look you want. 

Tip 4 – Keep Them Organized

Once you start collecting presets, they can soon turn into a jumbled list with obscure names, like ‘muted grunge’ or ‘crispy crunch.’ You can create Virtual Copies of images and then apply a preset to those copies. You can then use the Survey mode to select each image and perform finer adjustments.

Tip 5 – Local Adjustment Presets

The develop module isn’t just about global presets. Local adjustments are a powerful way to edit small parts of an image which range from the Adjustment Brush, Graduated Filter, spot removal and Radial Filter. If you need to smooth out some skin, whiten teeth, darkened the sky, then these are the tools for the job. All these tools can have their settings made into a preset for future use. Many off-the-shelf preset packs include presets for things like the Adjustment brush for anything from hair highlights to skin softening. Learn which sliders have been tweaked for each preset, then cook up your own for your individual needs.

Lightroom presets are a powerful and time efficient way to streamline your workflow and to learn the ins and outs of the software. Presets shouldn’t be applied without any consequence, but a way to learn how to achieve a certain look and a start point for your own edits. If you want to dig in further to the power of Lightroom, then check out Adobe’s website for further information or if you wanted a very slimmed down version to work on a smartphone, then there is an Adobe Lightroom CC app. The app doesn’t have the power of the full-blown version, but it does have some basic precepts to get you up and running. either way, If you haven’t already start to learn the power of Lightroom Presets and how to make your own.

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