What are Lightroom Presets?

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find out how to create and install lightroom presets

Even if you’re a beginner photographer, you probably know that a good photo editing software is an essential tool for professional photographers. And, even if you’re not a professional, photo editing programs can help you dramatically improve your photos. But, what do people mean when they talk about presets, and specifically, Lightroom Presets?

What are Lightroom Presets?

Probably the easiest way to explain Adobe Lightroom Presets is that they are preset editing settings. When you’re using Lightroom to edit your photographs, you move controls–called sliders–to change settings like color saturation, brightness, and contrast. If you get a particular combination of settings to your liking, you can then save that combination of settings as a preset–it’s pre-set, get it?

When you apply the preset to your photos, it will automatically adjust all of the settings that you had saved. You can create and save your own presets in Lightroom, or you can purchase groups of presets to achieve particular looks for your photos, like a Wedding Preset Collection that has settings designed to create images with a romantic mood. 

Advantages of Using Lightroom Presets

There are a number of different uses for Adobe Lightroom presets. They can greatly assist you as you edit photographs. Here are just a couple of ways in which they can be of use to you:

  • They can help you speed up batch editing — If you’ve got several similar photographs, such as a group of images you took on a sunny day at the beach, then you can apply the same preset for that type of photograph. It’s not going to make every single image perfect, but it will reduce the number of edits you have to do for each. 
using presets for editing beach images.
With Lightroom presets, you can edit multiple images at once, giving, for example, sunny beach days a consistent look, as seen in this beach photo.
  • They allow you to create a consistent theme — Again, if you’ve got a batch of photos that all come from the same–or a similar–location, then by applying a preset, there will be the same tonal theme and style that resonates through all of the images. Sure, you will have to customize some images as needed, but the same general theme will be present that will tie them all together–even if that means they all have a similar saturation or shade of red, the theme will be consistent.
  • Presets greatly simplify the editing process — If you’ve ever spent hours editing images, this benefit will catch your interest. Presets save you so much time by doing most of the work for you. There will be many images that won’t even need further editing, and the ones that do–well, they’ll take a lot less work. 
  • Presets allow you to customize the styles of the images — Since you can edit the image once the preset is applied, you can customize the style of particular images. You’re likely to have more than one shot of at least some of the images, particularly if you’re shooting in burst mode. Each of the images taken will look slightly different after the preset is applied, You might want to customize one of the images or even a part of an image, and Lightroom lets you do just that by using a brush tool.
  • You can experiment with different looks for the same images — While consistency is great, so is variety. You’ll find presets for different times of day, alternative lighting, and even different kinds of scenery. For example, you can find or create presets for sunset or sunrise, sunny days at the beach, or low light forest environments. That gives you a variety of looks that you can apply to any image, and changing the preset will completely change the mood of the image.
Lightroom presets let you experiment with different looks--like a nostalgic look seen in this beach picture--for the same photograph.
  • Affordable — Lastly, Lightroom presets are affordable, and considering how much time they will save you, and how much easier they will make the editing process, they are well worth the money. And, you can create your own Lightroom presets too! 

How to Create Lightroom Presets

If you don’t want to buy Lightroom Presets, you can just create your own. It’s easy to do. Here’s how: 

  • You can either create your own preset from scratch, or you can first apply another preset and then adjust it until you have the look you like. Once you’re happy with the look, you can save it.
creating a preset in lightroom.
  • To save your preset, go to the Presets panel, and in the top right hand corner of the Presets panel, click on ‘+’ icon. Then, you just have to name the preset and click Create.
saving a new preset in lightroom
  • Once you’ve saved your preset, you should see it listed in the User Presets category on the Presets panel. From there, you can apply it to any other image in your photo library.

How to Use Lightroom Presets

Now that you’ve got your new presets, you’ll want to use them often. Here’s how you use them:

  • You start with the image you want to edit, and then go to the Develop module. Under the Presets column (on the left hand side under Navigator section), you’ll see a list of category titles. Click on the one you want, to access the presets in that category. 
  • If you want to preview how a specific preset will look on a particular photo, just hover over the preset, but don’t click on it. You can now see how the photo will look after you’ll apply the preset.
  • Once you’ve decided on a preset you like, just click on the preset to apply it to the image you’ve selected.
  • You can also remove the preset by simply using the Undo Preset command in the Edit Menu, or the Reset button in the bottom right corner (using Reset will return the photo to its original look).
  • If you would like to experiment with applying different presets to the same photo, that’s easy to do–just choose Photo > Create Virtual Copy, and that will make a copy of the picture. Then, you can apply a different preset to that copy.

How to Install Lightroom Presets

Adding presets to Lightroom is very easy to do using the preset import feature. The steps are as follows:

  • Open Lightroom and Switch to the Develop Module.
develop module.
  • The Lightroom Presets panel is to the left, and in the top right hand corner of the Presets panel is a ‘+’ icon. Click on that.
  • In the popup menu that displays, click on the Import Presets option.
  • That displays a dialog box where you can select the presets you want to import. Select multiple presets by holding down the shift key while clicking on the first and last preset in the group you want to import.
  • Once the import is complete, you should see imported presets in a new list of category titles in the Presets panel or in the User Presets category. That contains all your new presets. You can rename that folder to something specific by right clicking on it.

Presets are a great way to rapidly edit multiple photographs at once. They will save you valuable time, allow you to customize your photos, apply consistent themes to multiple photos, and greatly simplify the photo editing process.

No matter how good of a photographer you are, you will benefit from understanding how to use Lightroom presets.

Want to give Lightroom Presets a try? Here are our top 3 collections:

If you are going to use Lightroom for the first time, we have added a detailed workflow tutorial video with each one of our packages, to guide you step-by-step.

editing workflow for adding presets to wedding photos.

Wedding Lightroom Presets

This wedding presets collection includes 42 presets and 57 brushes you can use to easily create perfect wedding photos. Whether you’re softening the light or creating a vintage look, these presets will give your wedding photos that special, romantic feel.

presets for food photography

Food Lightroom Presets

The food presets collection includes 66 presets and 44 brushes. With these presets you can take your food photography from bland to beautiful by creating those mouth-watering images that will leave viewers salivating.

workflow installing winter presets for lightroom

Winter Lightroom Presets

The winter presets collection includes 66 presets and 30 brushes that will help you create a veritable winter wonderland. With plenty of options to choose from, you can create any mood in your winter-themed photographs with these presets.

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Catherine Gaither is a professional photographer and bioarchaeologist. She has traveled the world photographing archaeological sites and artifacts, and studying human physical remains. She has written numerous professional publications. She continues to work as a forensic consultant and author.
Catherine Gaither is a professional photographer and bioarchaeologist. She has traveled the world photographing archaeological sites and artifacts, and studying human physical remains. She has written numerous professional publications. She continues to work as a forensic consultant and author.

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