Ahhh, the controversial topic of presets. Some people love them, some people hate them, and some people have no idea what I’m talking about. Don’t worry, we’ll explain.
With the rise of Instagram and a filter culture, presets have been gaining a lot of popularity and notoriety. Perhaps you’ve seen your favourite photographers offer a set of presets to their fans. Perhaps you’ve noticed a few presets in your own Lightroom catalogue. Presets can be a powerful tool to help streamline your post-processing workflow but there are a few things you should know first before diving into the preset world.
Presets are essentially a group of photo editing settings that will quickly change the look of your photo with one click. It’s essentially Lightroom’s way of saving your editing settings so you can quickly copy that particular style onto another photo. If you’re familiar with Lightroom, you know that the editing is controlled by a series of sliders and if you are editing photos that all have the same look and feel, it may seem laborious to have to individually adjust each slider the exact same in every photo.
If you have a set of presets you’d like to use in Lightroom, you can easily install them with a few steps. First, open Lightroom and find the Preset tab on the left-hand side. Click the plus sign and select import presets. Find where your presets are currently saved and select them to import. Voila! You now have a nice set of presets ready to use!
Presets can be a great tool but you may have noticed that not everyone approves of the presets. For many photographers, post-processing is a part of a creative process that should be unique to each artist and photographer so presets can often be viewed as a blatant disregard for a key element of photography. However, just like most things, preset use in moderation can be a key asset to your photography.
Presets can be a good tool when you view them as a starting point for your editing. Each photo will be unique and different so it’s a good idea o keep the mindset that one preset will not be a good fit for every photo. Go ahead, apply presets to every photo if you want but it’s good practice to tweak and adjust further depending on the photo. For this reason, it’s a good idea to get familiar with the basics of Lightroom editing so you feel comfortable with quick adjustments.
Once you have uploaded your presets into Lightroom, you’ll be able to organize and find your presets over in the left-hand panel of Lightroom. You can organize them based on group and rename them to help you find your preset groups quicker.
Applying a preset is super simple. Just click on the preset you want and watch it transform your photo! From there, use the sliders in the right-hand panel to adjust. Depending on the preset, not all sliders will be adjusted once the preset is applied.
One thing to keep in mind is that once you apply the preset, it will overwrite all other adjustments and settings you’ve already made to the photo so whatever changes you made will be lost. Of course, you can always go back in your history to recover those settings if you accidentally overwrite them.
This answer to this question isn’t easy and it really comes down to personal preference. There are a lot of free presets and even more presets for purchase so when making the decision, think about a few factors. Ask yourself what exactly you like about the look of the presets, take into consideration the photographer who produced them, and most importantly, try to understand the elements of the preset you like and try to learn and create them on your own. Doing this will give you a better understanding of your own creative preference and will empower you to take more creative freedom in your own editing.
There’s nothing inherently wrong about paying for presets but just remember that anything you pay for you could recreate yourself for free with a bit of trial and error.
Of course, you don’t need to download other photographers' presets to start your preset collection. You can easily create your own grouping of presets for future use or to share with your friends. If you’d made an edit you’re happy with and want to save, go over to the left side panel where it says “Presets” and click the plus sign.
This will bring up a dialogue box that allows you to choose exactly which elements of the preset you’d like to save. If you made a bunch of local adjustments with the spot brush, maybe exclude that adjustment from your settings. If you’ve had to adjust the exposure a lot on your photo, it might be a good idea to also exclude Exposure adjustments from your preset.
There you have it, Presets 101! If you want to get started on experimenting with presets, you're in luck. We've created a set of presets that is perfect for winter photography. No more yellow snow, no more overexposure. Download our Winter Photography Presets below to start transforming your winter images!
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