Adobe Lightroom is a cloud-based service where you can edit, organize, and store your photos. Geared toward professionals and amateurs alike, Lightroom is a popular photo management tool with an intuitive interface and learning catalogue for every level of photographer. It also provides a more streamlined experience than Photoshop.
Among the in-app tutorials and instructional tips and tricks, there is also a growing number of Lightroom presets being marketed to photographers and enthusiasts.
What are Lightroom Presets?
Presets are essentially filters where a series of configurations has been made to different settings on a photo, and then saved as a set. In Lightroom, you are able to change a multitude of settings such as exposure, saturation, brightness, shadows and highlights, etc., by moving the sliders. After adjusting each setting so that your photo looks the way you’d like it, you can save the settings into a preset. Later, you can select that preset for a new photo, and Lightroom will adjust each setting to match.
Lightroom subscriptions include 40 free presets, but you can also buy presets or find free ones online from third party sellers, and photographers. Presets are usually available for free download, or sold in packs of 4 or more, based on the style, mood, or type of finished photo you’re trying to achieve.
Are Lightroom Presets Worth It?
Logically, they are a great tool for photographers looking to monetize their craft, in an oversaturated industry where traditional methods of making money aren’t as lucrative as they once were. Whereas photographers used to be able to market themselves for different events, news organizations, or sell their photos to stock sites, there are more resources available that allow anyone to pick up a camera and learn quite a bit to turn out sleek looking photos, increasing the competition between amateurs and professionals.
In this article, we will look at the pros and cons of using preset filters, to find out if they are really worth the price. Let’s start with the benefits of Lightroom presets.
Using a preset will automatically speed up your workflow, especially if you’re editing a large batch of photos from a wedding or big event. Instead of manually fine-tuning the sliders through hundreds of images, you can apply a preset to a batch of photos. First, apply the preset on your first photo, and let it load. Once that’s finished, select all of the other images in your carousel, and click Sync on the right-hand side. Voila! Purchasing a preset may cost you a few dollars (or more), but if it’s one that you’re able to reuse on hundreds of photos in the future, the savings of your time might be worth it.
This is important especially if you’re a for-hire photographer covering weddings, events, or even portraiture. Many times, clients will choose a photographer based on their style or imagery, think rustic chic images of weddings, or black and white portraits. Once you’ve found the right mix of settings that produce the kind of image you want to sell, it’s very helpful to be able to save that as a preset for future use.
Learn from the Pros
Alternatively, many people opt to buy presets that are aesthetically or visualizing appealing, or from photographers with a solid reputation. This comes in handy for those just beginning to use Lightroom or even amateur photographers who are getting the hang of the editing process. Instead of spending countless hours combing through tutorials or YouTube videos on changing your white balance, or adding vignettes, you can rely on a trusted, tried-and-true professional to hand you the keys to your own professional looking photo.
This is all dependent on whether or not you observe and scrutinize the individual setting adjustments that make up your purchased preset. Studying the settings that have been changed and the combination of adjustments used to make up a preset are worthwhile tools into learning how to edit your photos in Lightroom.
Multiple Devices and Mobile Use
Adobe Lightroom comes in a mobile version, and thankfully, presets can also be synced across different devices. This is a useful tool if you’re more on-the go, between shoots, or always within access to a desktop/laptop. Simply installing Lightroom Mobile onto your device allows you to access the cloud that Lightroom CC also operates within. This means you can use your presets on photos that have been ingested onto your laptop, and photos you’ve taken with your phone or tablet.
Lastly, there is a chance (not always a big one, but a chance nonetheless), that you buy your preset packages from actual photographers who make money off of the sales. Like we mentioned earlier in this article, creating and selling presets is a useful way for photographers to monetize their craft, in a competitive market.
In the end, the use of Lightroom presets allow you to cut down time spent editing, and use that time towards actually capturing a great photo. Instead of worrying about color correction, auto exposure, or other settings, you can focus more on the foundational skills of taking a great photo, like your ISO, aperture, shutter speed, playing with light and compositional techniques.
Missed Opportunity to Learn
An argument could be made that relying on presets deprives users of the ability to actually learn how to edit photos. Learning compositional and lighting techniques with a DSLR camera are foundational skills when trying your hand at photography, and these are often done through trial-and-error. Likewise, the editing process was traditionally a hands-on learning opportunity for emerging photographers and creatives to play with color, saturation, and more. Using a preset allows a photographer to skip straight to a finished and polished looking photo, without actually learning how that photo came to be.
Presets don’t always guarantee that your editing is finished, which means that there are times when it might be quicker or logical to edit a photo manually instead of adding a preset and editing afterwards, creating double work.
This is especially true if you’ve come to rely on presets without understanding the different settings and adjustments that can be made to a photo. In photojournalism or photos taken for the news, editing is often very limited to removing camera glare, cropping, or making a photo more or less exposed, due to the ethics of overediting a true occurrence or event. Presets would not only be unethical to use in this instance, but might also focus more on changing or replacing the entire color scheme or mood of a photo, as opposed to technically enhancing what already exists.
Essentially, relying on your library of presets to test out how one photo can look, a million different ways, instead of going out and taking multiple photos, has the potential to oversaturate the market with the latest trends in terms of type, or style of photo. Instead of having a diverse range of subjects, objects, places, or any variance between photos, presets, which are beneficial for consistency, can also rob us of our creative expression.
This isn’t relegated to just individual creativity, but there’s also the risk that buying popular presets or packages, your photos will end up looking similar or identical to other photographers’ photos. A dominant style isn’t necessarily wrong, it is exactly what a trend would be defined as, but it does pose a threat to anyone who is looking to make money off of their photos, if they don’t conform to the desired, and therefore, standard, presets.
Are Adobe Lightroom presets worth the price? We’ve discussed both the pros and cons of presets for amateur and professional photographers, and seen how presets can be beneficial and potentially harmful, if not just lazy. Presets allow us to do batch editing in a more efficient way, which is a boon for event and wedding photographers in particular, and help create a consistent and clean brand. Presets are also compatible with Lightroom CC and mobile, so they can be used on the go and sync up with all of your devices. Many packages of Lightroom presets are free, so they are accessible, but if they are costly, you can always opt to purchase from an actual photographer, supporting their livelihood while also guaranteeing yourself a professional product.
However, presets are only helpful to the budding photographer if you actually study the adjustments made to all of your settings. There is a risk of skipping the important part of editing, which is trial-and-error, that allows us to learn exactly how all of the different settings in photo editing work together. Popular preset packages have the potential to flood our network or Instagram feeds with photo after photo of similar and identical places, people, and now presets, or filters.
Ultimately, it’s the person considering using presets that should be aware of the pros and cons of purchasing them. With prices varying widely from completely free presets to packages that range upwards of $80, presets are another accessible tool that photographers can use to further develop their craft, and are worth trying out.
Frequently Asked Questions
Lightroom presets can cost as little as $5. But there are also free presets available.
The easiest way to add Lightroom presets on the mobile app is to sync them using the Adobe Creative Cloud and the desktop version of Lightroom. You can also read the instructions to import Lightroom presets to your mobile device without a computer.
Lightroom presets are used to quickly make your photos aesthetic or more pleasing to viewers with one-click and minimal editing.