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The Presets panel (found in the left-hand panels in the Develop module) is one of the most useful in Lightroom. The most obvious benefit of Develop Presets is that they can save you time, which is always a good thing. But they do more than that, including help you maintain a consistent approach to post-processing and using creative effects.
Develop Presets tend to fall into one of two categories. The first are what you might call one-shot presets, which seem to work well on one or two images but not many others. A good example is Develop Presets intended to create a vintage or cross-processed look. They tend to improve some photos, but look horrible on most others.
The second category is what you could call genuinely useful presets. They are a bit better thought out, and designed to make post-processing an easier and quicker task. Usually they are created by a photographer that has put them to use over a long period of time and tweaked them until they work well. I will give you some examples of these at the end of the article.
In this guide to Lightroom Develop Presets we’ll go over some your options.
If you haven’t used Develop Presets before then you likely don’t have many to play with. There are some included already with Lightroom, but there are also plenty of websites where you can download good Develop Presets for free. The problem is, as with anything free, sorting out the rubbish, especially as most of these fall into the first category of Develop Presets. We can save you some time by making some recommendations:
Develop presets are easy to install, follow these steps:
Develop Presets are easy to use:
You can’t always tell much from the thumbnail in the Navigator panel as it’s so small. You’ll get a better view if you click on the Before/After View icon (#1 below) - the backslash key “\” is the keyboard shortcut, and will toggle before/after on the entire image by turning it off and on. Set the Zoom slider to Fit to show the entire image on the screen (see #2 below).
When you click on a Develop Preset to apply it to your image you will see the original photo and the new version displayed side by side. If you don’t like the result, Undo it using the Cmd+Z (Mac) or Ctrl+Z (PC) keyboard shortcut.
For a close-up look at the effect the Develop Preset has had on your photo, set the Zoom slider to 1:1 (below). Make sure you check important parts of the photo, such as the model’s face in this portrait, to make sure that the newly applied preset hasn’t created any undesirable effects. Some presets do go a little over the top with settings such as Clarity, so it’s wise to double check. You can make adjustments to the appropriate sliders if required.
One of the interesting things about Develop Presets you download from other sources is that you can look at how the settings have changed after you have applied the new preset to see how the effect is achieved. It’s an easy way to learn new processing techniques.
In the example above (the Gritty-Medium preset from OnOne Software), the Develop Preset made all the changes in the Basic Panel. It boosted the contrast by moving the Contrast and Clarity sliders to the right, then negated that effect somewhat in the mid-tones by moving the Highlights slider left and the Shadows slider right (see screenshot below). It also reduced Vibrance and Saturation. The end result is gritty and dramatic, but not so harsh that it’s unsuitable for portraits.
It’s very easy to create your own Develop Presets:
Here is a list of other Develop Presets you may find useful. These are different from the ones listed above as they are not free. If you have any recommendations yourself, please leave them in the comments.
The first two are from the Craft & Vision website
The next one is from SLR Lounge
My latest ebook Mastering Lightroom Book One: The Library Module is a complete guide to using Lightroom’s Library module to import, organise and search your photo files. You’ll learn how to tame your growing photo collection using Collections and Collection Sets, and how to save time so you can spend more time in the Develop module processing your photos.