How to Boost Your Creativity with Lightroom Presets

How to Boost Your Creativity with Lightroom Presets


1 - How to Boost Your Creativity with Lightroom Presets

There are many divisive points in the photography world – brand versus brand, film versus digital, and minimal editing versus Photoshop. The one that seems to have a fervent dislike is the use of Presets in Lightroom. Find any post on presets and people line up in the comments to judge and criticize anyone who uses them. People get told they are lazy, that their images all look the same ala Instagram filters and so on.

Up to a point they are right – anything overused becomes a short-lived fad. If all you ever do in your editing is use canned settings and don’t learn even the basics, then I agree with them.

Many people make the mistake of thinking that applying a Preset (or a filter) makes a bad photo better, but hopefully, Instagram has taught us better by now. Instead, think of Presets as tools to help you automate your process, make you faster and more efficient at editing.

Still, there’s a lot of potential and possibilities that presets offer us. Let’s explore that idea!

(Note:  While this article specifically addresses Creativity with Lightroom Presets, the same principles apply for any other program that allows presets, including Photoshop Actions)

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This is the same image as the header but this features a preset which deepens the green tones and desaturates the image, toning down the yellow. I like this much more than the original which is true to life.

The Benefits of Using Lightroom Presets

1. Saves Time

You can spend hours on editing just one image if you want to. However, most of us don’t have the luxury of that much time. Nor do customers want to pay that much for their images.

My recommendation is you should do a basic edit for each image to suit its requirements. However, if you want a specific look or a consistent style to your images, imagine how much more time you have with just being able to click a preset to finish it off?

Some images take more time to edit. You can allow extra time for those images by utilizing presets on the easier ones.

Of the two images below, the top image is an unedited RAW File, while the second image is a processed image using Presets.

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2. Easy and Fun

Why do people judge you for doing something that is easy?  Does everything have to be complicated and involved? Can’t it be fun too?

Not everyone has time to fully understand and master every setting and option within Lightroom (or any other program). Presets can allow you to quickly and efficiently apply complex effects.

It’s also fun to experiment with new styles.

3. Consistency

If you have a shoot where the subject/light/tones are all similar, you can achieve a consistent finish for the final image by applying a preset. You can also make one specifically to suit the shoot if required.

Besides, if you have done a series of tweaks to your image, do you remember exactly what you did and what the settings were?  Do you remember everyone to add to lots more images manually? Yes, you can write it all down or pull it out of the ‘history,’ but there’s no need.

Of the two images below, the top image is an unedited RAW File, while the second image is a processed image using Presets.

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4. Customizable

You can easily create your own presets in Lightroom and save them for using repeatedly. Alternatively, you can create one that only works for a specific shoot. Presets are also available to buy pre-configured for all kinds of different finishes.

Once you have applied the preset, you can continue to edit and refine the look. Depending on the settings, you can stack multiple presets on top of each other for a unique outcome.

There are many different ways to use and apply presets, and you can get a sophisticated outcome quickly and easily even when you may not fully understand all the capabilities of the software.

5.  Different Functions can have Presets

For your editing functions, the primary use for Presets is in the ‘Develop’ module. However, you can create presets that apply to Metadata, or when you Import or Export images. This process can help you apply copyright information or customer information to images, or quickly change the export settings depending on requirements. For example, print versus web use.

Of the two images below, the top image is an unedited RAW File, while the second image is a processed image using Presets.

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So, can I just use Presets for everything?

Presets are not a magic one-click fix. Each preset reacts differently with individual images. It is essential to understand the basics of your program because some editing is necessary.

However, if you only want to use presets, no one is going to stop you. Do you want to make that choice though?

Can people tell if you are not entirely in control of your editing software?  Yes. In general, experienced people can tell.

That said, I strongly recommend that everyone should have a solid understanding of the basic features their editing program has so they know enough to be able to edit without relying on presets. If you are using presets, you should understand how you can further tweak and improve the effect.

Please note that not all presets are created equal. Some are better designed and, when applied, provide a more polished effect.

Of the two images below, the top image is an unedited RAW File, while the second image is a processed image using Presets.

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Freedom to be Creative

One of the most powerful things Presets can do is take us out of our comfort zone and show us new possibilities in the way we edit images. Humans are creatures of habit, so once we find the comfortable place that we can generate images of acceptable quality, we are likely to settle in there.

Maybe we don’t know everything the program can do? Perhaps we don’t understand how we can apply this feature here on top of that function there. For example, how many people fully understand Split Toning?

What if we didn’t need to understand absolutely EVERY function and feature in our software? Maybe we simply don’t have the time. What if we could understand enough to be able to use the necessary bits and then use the knowledge someone else has created to add that extra dimension to our editing?

What if we CAN try a new look with one click? Maybe a purple-toned one, then a matte-finish one, and a black and white one? We can compare a whole heap of different processes.

Maybe by trying out Presets, we can learn more about the software’s capabilities? Perhaps it can give us more confidence to shoot in a different style, taking advantage of the new editing prospects.

Breakdown of an Edit

In the screenshot below it shows the final edit of the clematis flower (Before and After images featured above).

As you can see, after Import, the next step is ‘Paste Settings.’ This is where I have copied the Preset and some adjustments made on a previous image in the shoot.

A further 19 steps have been taken to enhance and finalize this image to achieve the desired outcome.

Could I have stopped after the first ‘Paste Settings?’  Absolutely.

Was it the best that image could have looked?  Not in my opinion. So, I spent the time I had saved using a preset to do further fiddly little tweaks and refinements.

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Using Presets Creatively

This winter landscape of frost-crusted rocks, icicles, and what I can assure you was freezing water, was already quite blue-toned. The blue tone was due to the 10-stop filter I used to achieve long exposure on the water.

I liked how the blue tone emphasized the cold crisp winter feel so I decided to use it to set the whole mood for this image.  A blue-toned, slightly matte finish preset helped boost that aspect of the process. It added more brightness on the whites, deepened the shadows a touch and added a bit of clarity for extra crispness.

I could have completely changed the color space to natural daylight, but seeing this blue tone inspired me to follow that direction further. I knew I had a preset that would do interesting things to the blue tones and it worked better than expected.

Of the two images below, the top image is an unedited RAW File, while the second image is a processed image using Presets.

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I tend towards darker, moody edits. So, using Presets for an image helps me see different possibilities quickly. With a few clicks, I can assess what is suited to a high-key edit, a desaturated, matte edit, a neutral, natural edit, or perhaps black and white one.

Sometimes I strike gold and end up with something delightfully unexpected (like the green currants at the top of this article). It never fails to amaze me how much scope Lightroom has to do things I don’t fully understand yet. However, using presets has taught me a great deal, and I am slowly unpacking them, figuring it out and beginning to make my own Presets now.

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Lightroom (and other editing programs) offer a lot of functions and scope for editing your images. Many people don’t have the time to learn all the features and capabilities in detail. It can be frustrating when you are learning how to use it.

Presets give you access to features within the software without needing to know exactly how to implement them manually.

Using Presets allows even novice users the ability to be creative and experiment with different styles and looks to their editing. More experienced users can create their own presets, or utilize purchased ones in their editing process. They save time and can make your editing process more efficient as well.

Presets offer you the opportunity to try a style that is different to what you typically create. Alternatively, perhaps you want to dabble and see how an image turns out with a range of edits. Using Presets can also help you learn more about the program by showing more of its capabilities.

While Presets can be overused, or not used to best effect, they also offer many advantages. Provided they are used as part of your process, and not as a magic solution, Presets can be a valuable tool.

Finally, playing with them is fun. Being able to experiment safely and easily with one click of a button gives you the latitude to be brave while considering new editing styles.

Ready to try Lightroom Presets? Check out the range of dPS Lightroom Presets – designed to transform your images in a click.

Read more from our Post Production category

Stacey Hill invested in her first DSLR back in 2007. While having many adventures out and about in the South Island of New Zealand, Stacey took to blogging about her experiences learning photography. Recently she discovered the fun and creative possibilities to be had with Photoshop. She can be found having an opinion all over the place here.

  • IRG – Ricardo Galvão

    Profiles are even better…

  • Stacey

    Not everyone is using the latest version of LR, or may be using a different program entirely.

  • Minnie Haley

    Do you want to know genuine web-based making money opportunity to get paid atleast $16000 per month? Then you are at the best place simply because I am bringing in that much since half a year now. You will be your own boss and travel the entire world with your family and friends at anytime and enjoy your time along with them. You can take your laptop with internet connection in locations you want to travel andkeep an eye on your online work any time you want. Here is what I am doing>

  • Lisa

    Nice presets!

  • Limbopix

    How do you install presets from someone else into your own computer (Lightroom program)?

  • Stacey
  • Stacey

    Thanks 🙂

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