The discussion of using presets or not comes up time and time again on various photography groups and websites. Some people are for them and others are against. Just like camera brands, it seems there is no clear answer, and everyone believes that their way is correct! For or against, it’s undeniable that presets are here and they’re not going anywhere. Many people find them useful in their workflow and so they will keep using them. So, should you purchase Lightroom presets?
The case for buying presets
A quick search online will give you hundreds of places you can buy presets and they will all have varying quality. Before you make your purchase, be sure to read some reviews to see if others are happy with their purchase. Remember that your style of images will heavily affect the way presets look when applied, so expect some trial and error!
But why would you buy presets rather than make them yourself from scratch? Here are some reasons to help you decide if buying presets is for you.
It will save you time
There’s no doubt about it, buying presets will save you time in your workflow. You won’t have to spend time coming up with looks that you like. Instead, someone else has completed the initial hard work for you.
In reality, using presets in this way is no different from choosing what film stock and developer you’d like to use if you’re shooting analog. You’re using someone else’s color toning ideas to achieve the images you want to produce.
Being able to quickly apply lots of different looks to your photo can help you quickly make decisions about how it will look. And then you can set about refining it and doing the fun part of processing.
It gets you away from the computer
Not everyone loves the digital darkroom. During the summer, I’d rather be taking advantage of the good weather than sitting at my computer developing images. Having a set of presets available to me that someone else has created means each shot takes less time to process. That way, I’m spending more time doing the things I love.
I can share stylish images that I’m proud of within minutes of loading my images into Lightroom thanks to my preset library. That’s a big draw for me, and that’s why I love having a bank of presets ready for me to choose from.
You can borrow the best of other peoples ideas
Everybody sees the world differently. You might never have thought to put a pop of pink in the shadows or add just enough grain to make your black and white conversion look like it was shot on fast film.
By purchasing a library of presets, you can see how other people might have chosen to process your images. And that might give you a few ideas for a new direction that you want to head in. Purchasing Lightroom presets really can boost your creativity and help you see new possibilities for your images.
Some people would say this is ‘cheating’ somehow, but I think of it as gathering inspiration. It’s like an artist going to her friend’s studio, finding the most beautiful custom blue paint and then asking if she can have the recipe to use the color in her own work. The two artists won’t be producing the same artwork even if they use the same color paint!
Your photos will still have your own touch and your own style even if you use other peoples ideas to help you shoot or post-process your images.
Some people are just better at post-processing and color grading than you
Face it – you can’t be amazing at everything. Even the best photographers often employ other people to help create their vision. Buying presets is like a real cheap version of having your own digital tech assistant available for your shoots. If you have a vision of light and airy photos but your post-processing skills aren’t quite up to it, then presets can help you get there – just like a digital tech assistant would on a high-end shoot.
Over time, you can learn more about this side of photography. But you can start getting great results now by taking advantage of other peoples knowledge and creativity.
The case for making presets yourself
Of course, if you love working in the digital darkroom, then the idea of buying presets to save time or get ideas might seem completely alien to you. Moreover, if you like spending the time to make your own presets, then that’s great! You should absolutely continue to do what makes you happy.
There are other reasons too that you might want to make your own presets. The most obvious one is that presets available to purchase may not be exactly what you’re looking for. When you make your own, you can have exactly what you want rather than just getting close.
You might have other considerations too. For instance, some camera clubs do not allow you to enter images into competitions where you have used purchased presets in their post-processing. Or you may feel that ethically a picture cannot be truly called your own unless you created every single part of the image.
Perhaps try a combination?
Personally, I use a combination of both. I have a large library of presets that I’ve purchased. I use this library to quickly see what images could look like with different color grading applied to them.
When I’ve found a look that I love, I tweak it slightly to suit the mood of my images even more. If I think I’ll use the preset again, I then save my new custom preset in a folder with the others that I’ve tweaked to suit my style!
I like this way of working because I enjoy getting inspiration from other peoples presets, and then finishing the images off to achieve something that is genuinely my own.
What do you think about buying presets? Should you purchase Lightroom presets? Perhaps you have a library of your own that you’ve already purchased? Or do you prefer to make all of yours from scratch? Maybe you don’t use presets at all, instead preferring to start each time with a blank slate when it comes to post-processing images?