When chatting with other photographers, I hear drastically mixed feelings about Lightroom presets. The idea of presets are fantastic. I use presets ALL the time in my workflow. For example, when shooting a fashion editorial I need all the images to have consistent post-processing. I’ll select a single image until I like the overall toning, color, etc. Then I’ll create a preset which is then applied to the rest of the images in the series. This helps me to create consistency across my visual story.
Presets are also an incredible tool when I am shooting tethered. In Lightroom I can actually have images automatically import with a preset applied. This is wonderful if I want to get an idea of how the final image and creative effects might look. For example, I see light differently when shooting high contrast black and white for a ‘film noir’ type shoot. Having the images appear in Lightroom with an approximation of the final black and white conversion really helps me to see and shoot with the final product in mind. I’m a visual person and sometimes the aid of a Lightroom conversion upon tethered import can really help in my visualization.
Where the controversy arises is whether to purchase other people’s Lightroom presets. It is true that anything that can be achieved in a preset in Lightroom you could hypothetically achieve on your own. The same is true, really, of Photoshop actions or post processing style in genera, if you know what steps to take. A preset is really just a starting point, and a spring-board for inspiration.
My workflow for using presets when I do a shoot is to begin by scrolling through a wide range of them to help give me inspiration. Which preset helps me best express the mood of this shoot? Does a preset take the shoot in an entirely new and exciting direction? I’ll test out a wide range of presets, and when I find one that fits the mood I am going for, I’ll then tweak the preset. I’ll adjust the exposure, the contrast, the vignette or anything else that might need to be tweaked to fit this particular series of images. When I have the look right, I create a NEW Lightroom preset specifically for this shoot in my own user presets. From there, I apply this to the entire series of images so they now all have visual consistency.
For example, the Lightroom presets I offer too are not meant to make a photograph look like ‘a Lindsay Adler photograph’ or to be a one-size-fits-all solution for image adjustments. Instead, they are meant to be a source of inspiration and starting-point for your post-processing adjustments. I hope thats how you will be able to utilize these tools in your own artistic endeavors.
Below of is a video as I describe this same process, showing you how I utilize a preset, make adjustments and then create my own custom presets for each shoot.