I really love Lightroom. I have been using it since I first started way back with LR2, and have used every version since then. I am now on version 5, and loving it. One of the best time saving features are Lightroom presets. Mostly when people talk about presets, they are talking about presets for the develop module. There are other kinds of presets, I’ll talk about those below.
I wanted to clear up a few things about develop presets:
They are not the same as actions in Photoshop. They work differently. They set certain sliders to an exact setting. (Hence the name “preset”) With actions, you could run them multiple times and compound the effect. With presets, not matter how many times you apply the preset, it’s always going to set that slider (or sliders) to the same setting. Also, since Lightroom doesn’t work in layers, you cannot change the opacity of a preset.
I use presets in a lot of different ways. I have created an import preset that I like. It is just an ordinary develop preset that includes the adjustments that I found myself making to pretty much every photo. It does a few basic things to each image as it moves the images from my card to my external hard drive. Makes the import a wee bit longer, probably, but I tend to walk away while something imports. Just this morning I got images from a birth started importing and then went to take a shower. When I came back, I was ready to cull.
Making Presets: Making presets is EASY. Start with an image that is a great one right out of the camera. Not one that needs “fixing”. Just edit the image the way you like it. Do your favorite B&W conversion, or a nice subtle color pop. Whatever you like. Then go over to the right hand side where it says “presets” and click the plus button. You’ll get a popup asking you which things you want included in the preset. You can choose to include all of them, but I recommend you only choose the ones that are key to the edits you just did. Remember how I told you to start with an image that needed no fixing? If you include exposure in your preset, every time you apply the preset it will set exposure to zero. If you are using the preset on an image you had to fix the exposure, it will undo that fix. So if exposure is not key to your edit, don’t include it in your preset. Same goes for all other sliders. I recommend you click “uncheck all” and then only select the important ones you used in your edit.
Editing Presets Pretty much as easy as creating them! First, apply the preset. Make any changes to the image that you want to make, then right click on the preset and choose “Update to current settings”. You’ll get that same box pictured above and you can add or uncheck any sliders you want and then save the edits to the preset. I do this often when I get a preset that someone left everything checked! I just go in and uncheck whatever I think should not have been included. (Lens correction, exposure, and vingettes are the ones I take off most commonly.)
Buying presets: My first piece of advice is this: If you don’t know what you want in a preset, don’t buy any. And you need to be more specific than “I want some that will make my images look good” – if you know you’re looking for a good clean high contrast B&W, or a nice golden one for backlighting, etc. then you are ready to shop.
Personally, I really dislike presets that are single setting ones. They’re usually advertised as “stackable”. But really, if you want to edit like that, you have to have a million presets. Think about it; which takes longer:
– Adjusting the exposure slider manually?
– Searching through all your exposure presets (-2, -1 2/3, -1 1/3, -1, -2/3, -1/3, reset to zero, + 1/3, +2/3, +1, +1 1/3, + 1 2/3, +2 etc.) to find the one that has the exact adjustment you want?
Multiply that by the multitude of sliders you might want to use for editing and it gets real bulky real fast. Plus, if you want to edit like that, take an hour, make your own and save yourself some money!
GOOD presets will be the “whole package” for a creative effect. A black and white preset will have adjustments to contrast, the HSL panel, the curves panel, and maybe some grain and vignette. You won’t have to “stack” a bunch of presets to get that effect.
Instructions for installing the presets should come with any presets you buy. If not, Matt Kloskowski over at Lightroom Killer Tips has a great video on installing presets.
Organizing Presets: You can get so many presets that you get bogged down finding them. Here’s how to fix that. Go under “Edit” and choose “Preferences”. Go to the presets tab and you’ll see a button “Show Lightroom Presets Folder”. Click that and it will open a Finder or Explorer window where you can see your presets. Create folders and sort them. I have a folder called 1-Favorites where I keep my most used presets. I have another called 1-tryout where I put new presets I have created or gotten to see if I like them. Then I have folders for B&W, color, vintage, special effect, and workflow helpers. You can do it however makes the most sense to you and makes things easiest to find. You may need to restart LR to see this organization take effect.
Backing up presets: The last thing you want is to lose the presets you created or paid good money for! I use Crashplan as a backup service, and I made sure that I added the folder that has my LR presets in it to my automatic backup. Alternatively, you can backup your presets manually to a thumb drive or CD. Just do a search of your drive for *.lrtemplate and it will pull up all your presets. Copy to the other media and you are done!
Presets can be a great help in speeding up your LR workflow, and the more you understand how to work with them, the faster you will be!
Have a favorite preset you use for processing births? Share it in the comments!