Are Lightroom Develop Presets Worth the Money?

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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
mastering-lightroom-bundle-1

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

is a writer, photographer, traveler and workshop leader. He’s an experienced teacher who enjoys helping people learn about photography and Lightroom and his written over 25 popular photography ebooks. Enroll in his new Lightroom course for free, or get $4 off his latest book Mastering Composition Book Two with the code december4.

  • Leif Sikorski

    I’ve once bought a set of Lightroom presets, but actually barely used it. In my opinion people get much more when they invest the 149$ into the Google Nik Collection if they feel that they want something more. Especially people who don’t have Photoshop extend the functionality of Lightroom this way rather than just buying presets who doesn’t do anything new.

  • bibousiq

    Thanks for this post ! I also find a lot of preset bundles too expensive . i can’t also gige a regular price but i think $10 to $15 (for a 10 to 20 presets set) is quite fair. Even if there are lots of very good prests you can fin for free on the internet ! 😉

  • That’s a good point about plug-ins, some of them are very versatile and
    include lots of presets. A couple of other good ones are Alien Skin’s
    Exposure 5 and OnOne Software’s Perfect Photo Suite 8. Topaz Labs
    plug-ins are also worth a look.

    The benefit of Develop Presets
    though is that you can carry out your processing in Lightroom.
    Ultimately they save you hard drive space (as you don’t have to convert
    your Raw files to TIFF or JPEG to edit in a plug-in) and time. So
    anything you can do with Develop Presets is hugely beneficial in
    workflow terms.

  • If you know of any good free presets feel freel to post the link on here so other readers can take a look. Generally though I find the paid ones are better quality, I’ve always struggled to find good free presets (the OnOne Signature Collection mentioned in the article being an exception).

  • Leif Sikorski

    This is true.

    Another problem I had with presets that include color corrections was that each camera renders colors differently so they might be optimized for one camera, but look completely different on anothers raw file. VSCO for example includes camera profiles in their LR Presets to prevent that problem, but if you switch your camera in the future you’re often still out of luck if the old presets doesn’t get updated.

    But after saying so much bad about presets I still think that they can sometimes help to get an idea for different possible styles – I just wouldn’t spent too much on them. Dealing with subtle color changes can be pretty tough and a discipline that many professional retouchters are better at than we photographers. So a starting point can be helpful.

  • rebecca

    No, they are not worth buying. There are many sold that don’t even work properly. I’ve been suckered into buying and regretted it each time. Plus, they are so easy to make yourself.

  • I agree on the $1 per preset as being a fair price for a preset, as long as as I’m not forced to buy 99 presets that I do not want… (more than one photo example/preview per preset would help)
    Does anyone have experience with the presets from SLRlounge, where the focus is more on the workflow than on one preset? Due to the price I’m not considering it for the moment as a hobby-photographer…

  • Hey everyone,

    It’s an interesting discussion Andrew… I’ve purchased presets in the past, some really good ones and some that shouldn’t have existed to begin with.

    I tend to be of the opinion that LR presets are a good “starting point” and can give you a good place to jump off into the depths of editing inside of Lightroom.

    I’ve been applying a number of presets when I import photos to Lightroom to get a starting point and then either switch to another preset depending on my mood, or dive right into the develop module and make individual image changes.

    With the option to copy develop settings from one image and paste those settings to an entire group of images, editing a bunch of images for a specific look and feel isn’t terribly hard. Get where you want with one image and then paste those settings to the entire batch…

    So my opinion. Use develop presets to spark your creativity, but don’t rely on them to do everything perfectly.

    And… just in case your interested in some free presets, I have some available. There are currently twenty some presets in the pack and I’ve got more I’ll be adding really soon.

    If you want to check those out (or the CorePresets show, a weekly video of an image edit in Lightroom, Photoshop or whatever I choose to use) you can find them right here – http://bit.ly/corepresets

    Also if you want to give me some feedback (positive or negative as long as its constructive 🙂 ) on the presets, you can contact me over at the same site…

    Happy editing folks!

  • tinyhands

    I don’t like presets at all. I’ve never found one that did what I wanted, and most of them go far beyond what I want. I suppose the “jumping off point” has some validity, but I don’t see it as a huge time-saver if I have to undo part of what the preset did.

    And if I’m being totally honest, it feels a bit like cheating to me. A sculptor doesn’t put clay into a mold that someone else created and claim it as his own art. The art, to me, is both framing, lighting, and capturing a photograph, then manually crafting the postprocessing.

  • I enjoyed the read, Andrew. Sure the review was ultimately negative but it is refreshing to read a review that is raw (no pun intended) and not simply an advertisement for the product. Every product has places it could be improved. That’s what I (as the consumer) and the manufacturer need to hear.

    Onto the topic of presets, I’ve not ventured into the space myself despite the looking around that I have done. I’ve struggled to justify paying for something that I can just as easily do myself. There is a lot to be said about creating that spark of inspiration, but as a hobbyist, I enjoy experimenting with looks, cranking sliders one way or another. Making virtual copies and trying something new. For me, it is more about learning what I can do. The more I learn today, the more I can do in the future to create that “look.” At the moment, presets would hinder my learning process. Since I’m not looking for the time savings, I’d rather spend my pennies elsewhere.

  • Reto Kohler Tamburini

    I would just full heartedly recommend to buy either Andrew’s Post-processing Workflow book or direct yourself towards Crafts & Vision and get David’s: Both books are great reads (you actually understand what is going on and even more importantly they are directed towards facilitating your workflow) and you get enough working presets for free along with it.

    What bothers me about presets is the fact that today’s people don’t learn the stuff anymore and limit themselves to dumb button-pushers: Is that really that instant gratification (hence Instagram) or just self-limiting laziness with no reward? Y’all know in which camp I reside…

  • tarsus

    Smart Photo Editor has hundreds of presets for free. I use it quite often for published pictures.

  • Hi Eldon, I haven’t had time to look at it closely but your website looks like a good resource. I think your philosophy of using Develop Presets to spark your creativity is spot on.

  • Hi Bart, I haven’t used the SLR Lounge presets so I can’t comment on them, but have you seen the video on this page? It will give you an idea of how they work at least:

    http://www.slrlounge.com/store-product/lightroom-presets

  • Thanks, glad you like the honest review. I like your point about Virtual Copies, they are a great way to experiment with creating different looks without consuming hard drive space.

  • Thanks for the recommendation Reto. Good to hear you like Craft & Vision’s Lightroom ebooks too, they are very good.

  • Cool… The CorePresets site is mostly just something I do in my “downtime” just for fun. If I can help a few people along the way that would be great!

  • Eric Dye

    I use the Nix software plugin when I want to go for something like a preset. There aren’t really too many that I would find useful that Lightroom doesn’t already come with. Particularly when it comes to black and white, I don’t think Lightroom gives quite enough power over color -> B+W conversions so I usually go to Photoshop for that.

    That said, presets in general seem to be a bit gimmicky and you can quickly overuse them.

  • Sophia Jenner

    Great Tutorial Thank you for letting me know this Thaks a lot forsharingthis..

  • Jamie

    Eldon – I’m a beginner with Lightroom. I’ve just checked out your website – very cool! Looks like I’ve got a few videos to watch.

  • Cool Jamie! Let me know if there is anything I can help you with…

  • ziplock9000

    The fundamental flaw with presets is the output will vary depending on your input. So a preset designed to give your image a warm look may not even work if it’s already warm or too far into the cool. They are absolutely just a con in most cases.

  • db

    I’ve had great success with OnOne presets, and the best part is that they’re free! From what I’ve seen and heard from other photogs, mostly event and wedding photogs, the VSCO bundles are worth the $

  • That’s interesting feedback about the VSCO bundles. They are a little pricey, but I guess they are aimed at working photographers for whom it is not a great expense.

  • TimD
  • The idea behind ready Lightroom presets is that they are best to be used in shooting scenarios similar to the ones for which the preset was created. Buying a huge pack of presets, does not mean that every preset in the pack will apply to any photo and make this photo look the same as in the demo. Of course, presets can be adjusted, but then you’re creating your own preset which might not always end up being better than the original.

    My advice is, search for specific categories of presets collections and don’t buy mixed preset collections. You may want to check our presets at http://colorela.com

  • LisaShalom

    i LOVE my lightroom presets. they have saved me tons of time, plus they are so creative. i bought 100 of them during an xmas sale online for only $10!

  • Amy

    A raw review Andrew like it! I personally prefer some free sites like FLP.co. https://freelightroompresets.co. Everything available without braking the bank.

  • Jack

    In my opinion presets are too expensive in general. Also I don’t usually need many presets, just one or two and all I find is high priced bundles. I think there should be more sites like http://xpreset.com where every preset is sold separately. Presets are great way to keep your workflow fast but not worth hundreds of dollars.

  • George C

    While I agree that these presets are overpriced, this article doesn’t help much with evaluating their usefulness. The examples seem to mostly be missapplications. The original photo didn’t need much work and didn’t seem to match the presets that were applied. Definitely wouldn’t want her white shirt to turn yellow or dingy gray.

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