This article covers the key features in Lightroom to create and manage presets. Presets are a great way to optimize your digital darkroom workflow. Regardless of what genre of photography you shoot in, there are highly likely to be a number of processes that you consistently apply to an image. Saving these as presets is therefore a great way of saving you time. Presets are always available to you at the touch of a button.
Also, it’s worth remembering, just because you apply a preset to an image, you still have the option of refining the processing. In fact, this is actively encouraged. When you save a preset, you are essentially saving the specific settings that worked for a particular image. Therefore, whilst a preset may get you 90% towards an optimized image, there is normally room for subtle changes.
Lightroom Managing Presets
Before creating a preset, you need to process an image. So, the easiest way to demonstrate the functionality is to jump into an example workflow.
Before we do, it’s worth mentioning the other great thing about presets. This is particularly true for anyone that shoots in RAW. Very often, when you get back from a shoot, you invariably end up performing some sort of processing; even when you are going about the business of selecting and rejecting images that work. This is because you need to balance the Whites, Blacks, Highlights, Shadows, & White Balance; just in order to be able to decide whether a photo is good or not. It is with this principle in mind, that brings us to our first worked example.
Nature Photography – Worked Example
This is a preset I personally use in my nature photography to help me quickly weed out the good shots from the bad. I work in RAW, and I work a lot around water, so to avoid over-exposing highlights due to bouncing sunlight, I tend to slightly under-expose my shots and then pull them back in Lightroom.
This preset then is purely for this purpose. Here is the example file, a photo of a wild otter.
Applying Develop Settings:
Firstly, I set the color Profile to Adobe Vivid. Then, Auto the White Balance & Auto the Tone. I then move onto the Profile panel and click the Remove Chromatic Aberration radio button, and the radio button for Enable Profile Corrections.
That is basically it for my baseline! In fact, oftentimes, I find I don’t need to do much more than this on an image period! The Auto Tone modes do a great job, I sometimes need to tweak the shadows up to balance darker subjects on light backgrounds. I do normally add sharpening and noise reduction, but this is specific to each image, and for nature photography, I normally do this outside of Lightroom.
Creating A Preset:
To create a new preset, you go to the Presets area in the left-hand side panel, where all the other presets are. You then select the + symbol and Create Preset.
You are then presented with a new pop-up window.
At the very top of the window is a Present Name prompt. As its name suggests, this is where you decide on a name for your new preset. In this case, I called it Nature Baseline.
Next down the panel is another prompt called Group. Again, as its name suggests, this allows you to create groups of presets. So in other words, you might choose to have a group for golden hour presets, or a group for black and white presets etc. If you already set up a group of presets, you can also select it using the pull-down menu. For this example, I used my existing Nature Photography group.
The rest of the panel is made up of radio buttons and allows you to select whether to include or exclude the various Develop Module effects with your preset. Most of these are checked by default. One notable exception is Auto Settings, which for the example I checked; as the processing used these. The other is Transform, which, from experience transform settings do not transfer very well from one image to another.
After you have made your radio button selections, you press Create, and bingo, you now have a new preset available in the left-hand menu area of the Develop Module.
Applying A Preset
Here is a before and after of the preset applied to a different image.
Applying your new preset is now as simple as selecting it from the Presets panel within the Develop Module. You can see from the next image, that, the preset is stored as we expected in a group called Nature Photography, and is called Nature Baseline.
TOP TIP: If you want to rename your preset, you can do so by right-clicking it and selecting Rename from the pop-up menu.
TOP TIP 2: If you have a generic preset like the one in our example that you pretty much use all the time, then you can apply it as standard every time you import an image. To do this, right-click the preset and select Apply on Import.
You can also reverse that selection in the same way if you ever need to.
Note: You can see presets in the preset panel which are being applied during your photo import. The name of the preset is appended with a little ‘+’ symbol.
Importing Lightroom Preset Into Your Library
Recognizing that the web is full of Lightroom Presets for you to purchase or obtain freely, no article on managing presets would be complete without covering how to load these into Lightroom. The process though is extremely simple.
The pre-requisite for importing Lightroom presets into your library, is that you have downloaded a set of presets onto your harddrive. Once this is done, from the Presents panel in the Develop module, you select the ‘+‘ symbol and then ‘Import Presets…‘.
This brings up a Finder window on MAC or Explorer window if you are on PC. You browse to the folder the presets are contained within and select Import. The new preset will then appear in your library.
TOP TIP: If you ever need to delete a preset, right-click it, and select Delete from the pop-up menu.
Lightroom Presets – Conclusions
The example used in this article on how to create a preset was intentionally very simple. In practice, there is no limit to the number of effects you can apply to an image. The power of presets in Lightroom is the ability to save time in your digital darkroom workflow. Further, building your own preset library is a great way to start to develop consistency in your processing style.
If you enjoyed this article, please check out some more of our Lightroom Ultimate Guide. Here are a couple of articles that may interest you:
Understanding the Lightroom Histogram forms the foundation of all post-processing you will ever do in Lightroom
The HSL & Color Panels allow you to perform targeted adjustments to specific areas in your photograph for Hue, Saturation & Color optimisation.
The Color Grading panel is a great tool to perform targeted hue adjustments to Highlights, Shadows and Midtones.
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Specialising in landscape and wildlife photography, David is a semi-professional photographer based in Scotland, with an established fine art and stock photography portfolio; which includes published photography with the New York Post, Huffington Post, as well as various travel and tourism companies worldwide.