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Are Lightroom Develop Presets Worth the Money?

Delicious Presets review

I was recently approached by a representative of Delicious Presets to review their product. The review is below, but when I looked at the details on their website it occurred to me that there are other questions to answer:

  1. Are Lightroom Develop Presets (the sort you buy from someone) worth the money?
  2. And if they are, how do you know which ones to buy given that most websites won’t refund your money if you are unhappy with the product?

Let’s start with Delicious Presets, then dig into those later. The promise on the website is that their presets will increase the quality of your processing and save you time in Lightroom.

They seem to be aimed primarily at event and wedding photographers. On the surface, their presets seem expensive at $40 a set (you can save money by buying in bundles) but from a business perspective that is a relatively small investment for something that saves you time. An example:  I recently spent around $150 on a good quality polarizing filter for a new lens, and you can buy all the Delicious Presets in a bundle for less than that.

Here’s what you get in each set:

  • Between 11 and 13 Develop Presets
  • Delicious Controls, which gives you three sets of presets for taking control of sharpness, grain and tone
  • Plus 37 vignettes and frames

All the presets have been updated to work with Lightroom 5. You can go to the Delicious Presets website and view the details for yourselves.

If you want to learn more about Lightroom Develop presets in general, you should read my article A Concise Guide to Lightroom Develop Presets.

Delicious presets website

Delicious Controls:  Sharpness, Grain and Tone

The Sharpness and Grain presets really do nothing that you can’t do on your own, although it might be nice to use presets created by someone else if you don’t have the time or inclination to work out the sharpness and grain settings that suit your photos. Complete beginners to Lightroom may also find them useful as a way of learning by analyzing how the presets work.

The Tone Control presets are a little more useful and give you some colour grading options that you might not have come up with yourself. But again, they are fairly simple in nature and are really just a set of Split Toning presets that can be applied to either colour or black and white images. They do look nice in black and white and you can tweak the saturation if the tone is too strong for you.

Delicious Controls: Vignettes and Frames

While I can see the use of the sharpness, grain and tone controls as part of a workflow aiming to save you time, I don’t understand the point of the vignettes and frames. The vignettes are rendered useless by The Radial Filter tool in Lightroom 5, a tool that is easier to use and more versatile. The frames are just cheesy.

Delicious Presets Collections

Now let’s look at the preset collections themselves. Lightroom Develop Presets tend to fall into one of two broad categories. The first are one shot Presets – they tend to be presets that you use once. These ones are pretty binary, they either work or they don’t, and the effectiveness depends on your photo. If the preset matches your photo you’ll get a good result, and if it doesn’t, it won’t.

The second category are what I think of as genuinely useful presets. These are a bit better thought out and may be presets that the photographer who created them uses in his own workflow. They may work in modular fashion, so that you can build up the effects by layering them on top of each other. Each preset tends to adjust just one or two settings, so that you can pick which adjustments you want to make. The best ones combine flexibility with consistency, allowing you to create a variety of looks while retaining a consistent feel throughout your portfolio.

The Delicious Presets presets fall into the second category, if used with the Delicious Controls presets.

Delicious Colour Presets

This is a promising set of presets. The key to getting the best out of them is pick one you like and use it as a starting point, tweaking the sliders in the Basic panel until the tonal values are pleasing to the eye. Here’s an example with the Autumn preset:

Delicious Presets review

Another with the Blue Love preset:

Delicious Presets review

Yet another with the Vivid Tones preset. For this example I used the presets in a modular fashion, adding a vignette, grain, sharpening and the Brownie tone using the Delicious Controls presets:

Delicious Presets review

The verdict? I like these and think they have a lot of potential for portrait processing.

Delicious Black and White Pepper Presets

This is another promising set of presets that give you 12 instant black and white conversions. They need a bit of work to get the best out of them, but the potential is certainly there. This example uses the Black Pepper preset:

Delicious Presets review

Below is the Black Pepper preset with the Warm Tone from the Delicious Tone Control presets added:

Delicious Presets review

This is an interesting collection and they are certainly helpful for creating black and white conversions rapidly.

Delicious Analog Story Presets

These presets are aimed at photographers who like the look of photos produced with film cameras. There’s no doubt this is a trend in the world of event photography, and these presets aim to bring that look to you with a click of the button. There are some interesting presets here that complement the Delicious Colour presets nicely. This is the Blue Vintage preset:

Delicious Presets review

Distinct Analog Presets

Another set of analog presets, and I have to admit that these didn’t work well. Most of the presets just looked horrible with this particular photo, although you may of course get a better result with different subject matter. The Love Letter preset didn’t look too bad:

Delicious Presets review

The verdict

If you buy the bundle with all four singles collections you end up with 37 colour Develop Presets and 12 black and white ones. You also get the Delicious Controls which may provide a useful shortcut to some people. But essentially you can achieve the same effects by pushing sliders. The Tone Control part of the Delicious Controls gives some nice tones but the others are not really worth bothering with.

That leaves the Develop Presets themselves. Are they useful? The Delicious Colors, Delicious Black & White Pepper and Delicious Analog Story, yes. Especially if you are willing to use them as starting points and adjust them to suit your photos. The Delicious Distinct Analog is an exception – I didn’t like this one, but it may work well with other peoples’ photos.

Are they worth the money?

I don’t think so. They are too expensive for what you get and you will get better value elsewhere. I think the fair price is around $10 a set, although I’m sure many people will disagree. It’s hard to name a fair price for Develop Presets but there are plenty of people selling similar sets for around the $10 mark and I don’t see anything special about the Delicious Presets collections that sets them apart.

Don’t forget you can go to the Delicious Presets website and check them out for yourself.

A negative review?

Is this review too negative? I’m the sort of person who speaks his mind and I’m not going to tell you that a product is good value for money if I don’t think is. But, I understand that some of you may see things differently. If you have used any Delicious Preset products, then please let us know in the comments to balance out my point of view. Do you like them? Do you think they are good value for money?

You can also check out the Delicious Presets blog, where they give examples of photos processed with Delicious Presets. Take a look and make up your own mind.

Free Develop presets

There’s no question about value for money with free Develop Presets, but are they worth the time? My favourite free presets are the Signature Collections from OnOne Software. But what are your favourites? Let us know in the comments.

Other Develop Presets

There are lots of Develop Presets out there, and I haven’t tried them all. That’s where you come in. Have you purchased any other Develop Presets? Did you find them useful? Were they good value for money? What are your recommendations? Please let us know in the comments, and hopefully we can build a good list of useful Develop Presets.

Some that I have bought and found useful are the ones sold by Craft & Vision and the Black and White Workflow Collection from Pretty Presets.

Tips for buying Develop Presets

You don’t always have to pay full price for Develop Presets. You’ll often see presets offered for heavily discounted prices at websites like Snapndeals, Photo Deal Cafe and Photo Dough.

Another tip is to sign up for the newsletters of websites that sell Develop Presets. If they have a sale, they will let you know.

For more on Lightroom check out these:

Mastering Lightroom: Book One and Two

My Mastering Lightroom ebooks are a complete guide to using Lightroom’s Library and Develop modules. Written for Lightroom 4 & 5 they take you through every panel in both modules and show you how to import and organise your images, use Collections and creatively edit your photos.

Read more from our Post Production category

Andrew S. Gibson
Andrew S. Gibson

is a writer, photographer, traveler and workshop leader. He’s an experienced teacher who enjoys helping people learn about photography and Lightroom. Join his free Introducing Lightroom course or download his free Composition PhotoTips Cards!

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