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What are Presets?

Presets are settings that photographers, companies and photographic manufacturers create. These are imported for use in Adobe Lightroom.

They sit on the side of the Develop Module within Lightroom, waiting for you to apply them to your images. You can use them to change colour into black and white or add specific colour tones to images. You can apply any adjustments to any image using presets.

These are very versatile and can vastly reduce the time you spend on adjusting many images at the same time.

After you apply the presets, you can also tweak them. This can give them a more personal look. You can also make your own presets and save them for future use. This is a great addition to projects that need the same look.

Adobe Lightroom has its own presets that come installed with the software. Things like sepia, facial sharpness and contrast can be used straight away.

How to Install Presets

Here I will show you step-by-step how to add presets that you have found on the internet. We will look at how to make your own presets after the installation part.

Step 1: Find the Preset

There are thousands of Presets all over the internet. Some photographers offer them for free on their websites, some you will have to pay for. For this example, we are going to use some collected by Parker Photographic.

To find these specific Presets, you will need to go to the website and then scroll down until you find 12 Free Lightroom Presets as shown.

You will need to click on the red text to take you to the photographer who originally created these specific presets.

12 free Lightroom presets by Parker Photographic

As this photographer has a few different presets, you will need to go to the second page of his collection. Here you will find the presets we will be working with, Lightroom Presets – Black and White Tonal Contrast Effect.

You will need to click on the headline or the photograph to get to the next page.

Free Lightroom presets by Matt K

This post by the photographer goes into why he made the preset and what it does. It can be helpful to read these posts before you download them to make sure they offer you the adjustments you want.
In this post, he gives you an example so that you can see firsthand how the changes affect the image.

Black and white tonal contrast effect - Lightroom presets by Matt K.

Step 2: Download the Preset

Under the image in the post is the download link. You will need to click here to start the download process. Depending on what computer system and internet browser you are using, you will have different options when it comes to saving presets.

In Microsoft Windows 10 using Google Chrome, the file is automatically sent to the downloads folder on the hard drive. On an Apple Mac using Google Chrome, it will ask where you would like to save the file.

Choose somewhere that you can get to easily, such as your Desktop or Downloads folder. You might move the Lightroom presets to a specific folder later on.

Lightroom preset by Matt K.

Step 3: Unzip the Files

The folder you download will be a zip folder, meaning it is compressed for faster downloading. These files will need to be unzipped before you can use them.

Select all three files in the folder, and press extract to unzip them.  Place them in another folder where you will access them easily.

For more help regarding unzipping files, see here (for Windows) and here (for Mac).

Unzipping presets in Windows 10

Step 4: Add the Presets to Lightroom

After unzipping the files and placing them in a folder, you will need to add them into Adobe Lightroom. Open the software program, and head over to the Develop Module. You can do this easily with keyboard shortcut ‘D’.

On the left-hand panel, under the preview image, you will see the Presets area. The last folder of the list should say User Presets.

Lightroom presets - finding the User Presets folder

Right-click inside the User Presets folder. This will give you two options: New Folder or Import.

To keep your presets organised, we are going to create a folder for these instead of directly importing them. Click on New Folder.

Creating a new folder within the User Presets folder

After clicking on New Folder, a box should appear.

This box is asking you to name the folder. You can name it anything you wish, but it might be a good idea to put in the photographers’ name.

Enter the name of the folder and click Create.

Naming the new folder

The next step is to click on the folder you have just created to select it, then right-click on it. This will bring up 4 options.

Click on Import as this is how we get the presets into the folder and Lightroom.

Importing presets into the folder

This brings up the Import Preset box. This is where you’ll find your files.

If you deleted the Zip files after opening them, you know these are the files you are looking for. If you didn’t, you need to make sure you have the unzipped files.

Select all three in the folder and click Import.

Selecting the files to be placed inside the presets folder - Lightroom presets

Step 5: Using Lightroom Presets

Now that the presets have been added, you can start using them. Upload an image or select one from the library and go back to the Develop Module.

While the picture is selected, navigate to the presets folder you created, and click on any three of the added presets. I recommend the last one named Black and White Tonal Contrast (strong) as it gives you the biggest change.

Selecting an uploaded preset

To see exactly what the preset did to your image, have a look at the Basic panel on the right-hand side. This will show you all the values it increased, the ones it decreased and the ones it left the same. And that’s it!

Showing the local adjustments in the preset

Well, there is one more thing. You don’t need to settle on this final image. Since these presets were created using another photographers’ images, they are set up for their images, not yours.

Chances are that you want to tweak these adjustments to add or subtract things such as exposure, contrast or sharpening.

This is possible, as you can see the local adjustment panel is still accessible. Navigate over and have a play around with the settings. The benefit is that none of these adjustments are destructive.

You can always revert back to the initial picture. If you want to start again from the very beginning, click on the Reset button at the bottom of the Basic panel.

Tweaking the local adjustments in the preset

There you have it. You have found, downloaded, installed and used the Presets on your photographs in Adobe Lightroom. Great work!

There are many presets that you can benefit from.  Do some research and surf the web for others you might enjoy.

Making Your Own Lightroom Presets

Downloading and using 3rd party presets can give you a good base to work from. But making your own presets can be very beneficial. Not only are they a fast and efficient way to adjust your photographs. They can be applied to hundreds of photographs at the same time.

The other benefit is that you have created them specifically for your photographs. They will fit your style.

Step 1: Open the Photograph

Find a photograph that you would like to edit and open it in Lightroom. Go to the Develop Module with the photograph open.

If you do not select the image, none of the tools, such as the Basic orthe Presets panel will be accessible.

Opening an image into Lightroom

Step 2: How to Make the Preset

Navigate over to the Presets panel, and in the top right-hand corner, you will see a + sign. This should say Create New Preset when you place your cursor over it.

Creating a new preset via the Create New Preset button

When you click on this button, the New Develop Preset panel opens up. This may seem a little daunting, especially if you are new to Adobe Lightroom. All the check boxes here are all of the adjustments you can make to an image.

The idea here is that you are telling the preset what to save when you make adjustments. As you become more and more used to the Lightroom system and make more and more presets, you will find that you might only need a few boxes checked.

To start with, we are going to check all the boxes except for Lens Profile Corrections and Transform settings. These modify your image further than just the style of the image, which is adequate for now.

Keep Auto Tone box unchecked too, as we will work on the tone ourselves.

Settings in the New Develop Preset window

Step 3: Name Your Presets

In the Preset Name box, name your preset. This example will show you how to turn an image from colour to black and white, by adjusting a few settings. For me, I will name this preset Black and White Conversion.

This is also the area where you can decide where the preset will go. User Presets is a good place to start, unless you want to separate these presets further. You can create a new folder or add it to an existing one, but only to those you have created or added.

After naming the preset, click Create at the bottom.

Preset name in the New Develop Preset window

After clicking the Create button, it will take you back to the Develop Module.

As you can see on the left, at the bottom of the Preset panel, our preset is there under the folder User Presets.

Showing the newly created preset at the bottom of the Presets panel

Step 4: Adjusting the Settings

Now that everything is set up, we can go ahead and make some changes. You will do most of your editing over in the Basic adjustments panel.

For the sake of this example, I have modified these settings:

  • Temperature  +17
  • Contrast +17
  • Highlights -19
  • Whites +31
  • Blacks -26
  • Clarity +26

You can see all of these in the panel. All of the other adjustments remained untouched.

Showing the modified adjustments in the Basic panel

Step 5: Updating the Settings

Now that we have all of the changes created, we need to update our preset to save the information it will need.

This is done by going over to the Presets panel, finding the preset and right-clicking on it. This will bring up a few options. The option we need is Update with Current Settings.  Showing the Update with Current Settings option in the preset folder

The Update Develop Preset box pops up to clarify which adjustments you want to save. There is an extra check-box here, Auto Black & White Mix but we leave it unchecked. Click Update when you are happy with your selection. This can be changed at a later date.

Showing the Update Develop Preset window

That’s it! You have created your very own preset. You can now apply this to any photograph you work on in the future.

Showing the final outcome

A note from Josh, ExpertPhotography's Photographer-In-Chief:

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Craig Hull

Craig is a photographer originally from the West Midlands (go Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath) currently based in Budapest. There isn't much photography he hasn't tried, but his favourite photographic areas are street and documentary photography. Show him a darkroom and he'll be happy in there for days. As long as there are music and snacks. Find him at craighullphotography.co.uk and Instagram/craighullphoto