I love Lightroom and its speed when I’m working with hundreds or thousands of image projects at a time. It definitely has that edge over RAW converters, especially if you’re using excellent presets along the way. Adobe Lightroom Presets are a one-click feature that applies a certain type of styling over any number of selected photos.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll show you how to create and install your very own presets, save your favorites, and organize them for a smoother, more efficient batch workflow. We’ll also teach you how to update your existing presets and remove some of the things you won’t need.
Why Should You Use Presets?
Imagine having to do up to 3 actions to get to the certain image style that you need. Now, imagine just clicking on one of the presets you have stored in Lightroom to achieve the same effect. The tedious task of setting up the same styling has now become easier, thanks to presets.
Adobe may have designed their software for maximum efficiency, but the problem is that there are simply too many settings to choose from. On the plus side, you’ll have access to a wide variety of photo effects for your images. On the downside, it could be too much to memorize the exact tickboxes should you want to achieve one particular effect. This is why presets were made.
Presets are Lightroom files that have specific stylings for images that you can call upon. For example, you can have a preset that changes the image temperature to that of 7300k degrees. You can have one that would adjust the Exposure to a +1,15. These are just some of the most basic preset functions one can create. If you wish, you can have a preset that changes one or more photo effect such as Color Luminance, Tone Curve, Blacks, Vibrance, Highlights, Temperature, Grain and Vignetting. And that’s just the tip of the whole Lightroom iceberg!
Presets can do all of that with just one click of the mouse. You can be efficient and spend the time on more important matters instead of having to manually create the stylings you want for your photos.
How Do I Create Presets?
Adobe Lightroom has become the go-to software for editing images that the internet is simply flooded with user-made presets. These presets can be downloaded and saved on your computer for later use. There are free presets and preset packs that can be bought. You’d be surprised at the huge number of available presets out on the web! For Lightroom users looking for professional colored or black & white presets, there’s the pro-made preset that you can buy for a fee. The price ranges from a few dollars to a hundred or so for the more comprehensive ones.
So how do you know when to buy or save presets? It’s a matter of personal preference. If you have the know-how to create presets that perfectly suit your needs, then you won’t have to download or buy presets off the web. If you’re pressed for time and have come across a great presets package that gives you all you need, then it may be wiser to buy it than having to recreate each one on your own. A pack or two of the best presets can save you precious time, and is worth the investment in the long run.
When buying presets, it would be best to inspect the sample photos shown by the author. From there, you can decide if the presets are still worth it or not. Then, you’d want to see if the presets are compatible with your version of Lightroom. Buying Lightroom 3 presets for a Lightroom 4 version won’t do you good.
You can strike the perfect balance when you create your preferred presets as you have spare time, then buying or downloading the ones you need for a particular project. Some of these presets are really advanced and it would take a while to make them. The more expensive presets are priced for a reason- it’s hard to capture the look without having to do a lot of research and spend a good deal of time.
Which Settings Can Be Saved Into Presets?
Here’s a list of settings you can tweak to save to a preset:
- Basic tone – Adobe will ask you if you want to adjust Contrast, Shadows, Black or White Clipping, Exposure or all of them at once. If for example you put in Shadows at 0 and create a preset from it, then apply it to an edited image with a Shadow at 1, then the preset of Shadow 0 will override what you did in the initial editing.
- Clarity – You’ll have the option to slide to a preferred value when you adjust the Clarity settings.
- Graduated Filters – In this option you can choose whether to apply any Graduated Filter information to the images you selected. If the edited photo has Graduated Filter but the preset doesn’t have it, then the filters will not be removed before the preset is applied. If you check Graduated Filters on the preset and a different one was applied to the edited image, then the subsequent filter will be replaced by the Graduated Filter specified in the preset.
- Effects – Here you can choose whether you want to apply Grain or Vignettes, or both to your selected images.
- Calibration – Enabling this setting will change the Profile set in the Calibration tab. If unticked, then the standard profile will be used unless you change it before applying presets.
- Auto Tone – Lightroom will apply Auto Tone to the selected images if you have this ticked on. Whites and Blacks, Shadows, Highlights, Contrast and Exposure will be updated.
- Tone Curve – Changing this setting will apply the specified tone curve to the selected photos.
- Sharpening – You get to slide the Sharpening setting to a preferred value. This can be found on the Basic tab.
- Color – The Basic tab will show you how you can change Vibrance and/or Saturation settings. You can see Color Adjustments in the Color/HSL/B&W tab. You can change one or all of them as you wish.
- Noise Reduction – Ticking this box will adjust the Color and/or Luminance noise reduction. You can check this setting and leave it at default, which will change the final image and overwrite any styling you may have done with it.
- Process Version – You can choose from different Process Versions that Lightroom has to offer. Tick the box to choose a specific Process Version to include in your presets. If unchecked, the default Process Version takes over if any other preset wasn’t applied. Keep in mind that Lightroom 3 has the 2010 Process Version at default and it’s not compatible with 2012, and Lightroom 4 has the 2012 Process Version that is compatible with 2003 and 2010.
- White Balance – Change the Tint and Temperature of your photo with this setting.
- Treatment – If you adjust this setting, then any image that was edited for Black and White or Color will be set to the preset setting when you apply the preset.
- Split Toning – Here you can set the value to 0 to remove custom image toning. You can also change it to a specific styling.
- Lens Correction – Adobe Lightroom will let you choose if you wish to set information regarding Lens Profile Corrections, Chromatic Aberration, Transform, Lens Vignetting or Transform. You can also change all of them as desired. Lens Correction is an excellent way to correct any lens imperfection with just a mouse click. Keep in mind that you should apply a different preset for each lens you want to change.
Saving and Removing Presets
So you’ve got an excellent preset you want to save to your computer, but don’t know how to do it. First, you’ll need to actually apply this preset on to a selected image. Do a quick scan of the tick boxes you used for the settings so you won’t have to do them again. The process of stacking presets can be quite tricky, especially if you have conflicting settings or if you can’t remember whether you put in default values or not.
Once you’re happy with the stylings, simply press the “Create New Preset” option found at the left part of your screen, where the Presets Tab is found. Don’t just put in any name for the new preset- it should contain specific information about what it does. The shorter and more recognizable, the better. Your preset library will definitely grow the more you use Lightroom and tackle different projects. Finally, put the presets in a folder you want to apply it to and click on “Create”. You’re done!
It’s easy to remove any existing preset. Just right click on the Presets menu and hover to the “Delete” option. Click on it and the preset will be removed.
Need to change one setting in your preset? Relax. Doing it is just as easy as creating a brand new preset.
First, you’ll need to use the preset on an image. Then, adjust the settings as necessary. This will be the new settings you want for the updated preset. Adobe Lightroom users can also go the route of creating new presets and adjust from default settings if it’s easier that way.
When you’re happy with the edited preset and want to save it, go ahead and right click on the preset and choose “Update With Current Settings”. Confirm it, and voila! You’re done.
Organizing Your Adobe Lightroom Presets
It’s tough to handle thousands of photographs at once. This problem applies to all things, even presets! So just like any other type of mess, it’s best to organize your presets in order to be efficient with them. Otherwise, you’ll be scrambling all over the place trying to find the right preset among hundreds of others.
You’ll be using particular presets more than others, and other presets that you commonly use may not be used at all one, two months later. It would be best to organize your presets accordingly to get the most out of them. The good thing is that the Adobe Lightroom devs have thought about this and they have presented options that allow users to organize their presets and store them in different folders.
Start off by executing a right click anywhere on the Presets tab and choosing “New Folder”. Rename it to something appropriate and recognizable. Then, drag the presets you want to organize into this folder using your mouse. Keep the names logical and as specific as possible. For example, you’d want to have a B&W folder for the classic Black & White presets, a Details folder for the sharpening and noise reduction presets, and an Effects folder for Grain and Vignette settings. For some of the settings that you often use, i.e., vignetting preset, black and white look, sharpness preset and color look preset, you’d want to label one folder to put them all in- let’s say Current or Weddings. You’ll find this a welcome option when you’re faced with the task of editing thousands of photos!
Stacking One or More Presets At A Time
Is it possible to stack presets on top of one another? The short answer is yes, you can. In fact, stacking can present some versatile opportunities to style your images as needed. Keep in mind that some settings do overwrite each other, so untick the box on the settings that clash.
Lightroom 3 And 4 Preset Compatibility
You’d quickly find that some of your presets aren’t working as intended when you make the move from Lightroom 3 to Lightroom 4. Is there any way to bring them back to order?
Presets created in Lightroom 3 may be used in Lightroom 4, but doing so will change the Process Version back to 2010, which can make your Lightroom act like version 3 instead of version 4. Don’t panic yet, because Lightroom will give you the option to update the Process Version back to the latest one. Look for the “!” symbol located in the lower right part of your screen. A popup will ask you if you wish to update that one image or all Filmstrip images. There’s a warning stating that the image will not be the same as the old version, but you can safely ignore that for now. You can bring it back easily if you find it’s not to your liking.
Once you’ve updated your Lightroom to Process 2012, then the next natural step should be updating all of your Lightroom 3 presets with the new version Adobe Lightroom presets.