There are thousands of custom Lightroom presets online. But they might not make your photos look the way you want them to. So why not learn how to make and save a preset in Lightroom yourself?
You’ll improve your workflow and spend less time editing photos. And you’ll have full control over how your images look.
What You Need to Follow This Lightroom Presets Tutorial
- A few photos to experiment with (RAWs)
JPEG files usually have less details to edit than RAW files.
JPEGs are much smaller than RAWs when it comes to file size.
This is because JPEGs are automatically compressed as soon as they’re made. Because of this, it’s much harder to edit them.
Uncompressed image data in RAW files makes it easier to create Lightroom presets with a wide range of tones. If you’re going to create Lightroom presets, I recommend experimenting with a variety of RAW photos.
Make sure you have at least three. That way you’ll have a better idea of what your preset will look like in different lighting situations.
How to Make Lightroom Presets
Lightroom has a wide variety of editing panels. Some of them will let you edit very specific parts of your image while others will focus on general tones.
The kind of panels you’ll use depends only on your taste or on your client’s requirements.
I try to be selective when I make Lightroom presets. The more subtle my preset looks are, the easier it will be to apply them to all kinds of images.
You might have a set of images that need to look dramatic. Then you’ll have a completely different look to your preset.
The process of making and saving one is the same though.
The top photo is the original. The bottom photo is the result after I made, saved, and applied my preset using almost every panel in Lightroom. (Your preset’s effects don’t have to be as dramatic as this, of course.)
To start making your preset, go to the Develop module in Lightroom. There, you’ll find 9 panels.
The Basic panel features eleven sliders that almost every photographer will find useful.
Since the brightness in every photo is different, be careful when you use the exposure slider. Unless you’re making a preset for a very specific set of photos with similar exposures, feel free to ignore this tool.
Highlights, shadows, whites, and blacks will restore shadows and create contrast. And they’ll get rid of excessive brightness.
Clarity will add depth to your photo. If you have a very textured image, be careful with this slider. For a portrait photo, +34 clarity would be too much. For a smooth landscape shot like this, adding a lot of clarity isn’t a problem.
Vibrance and saturation will increase or decrease the intensity of your photo’s colours.
As its name suggests, the Tone Curve tool controls tones. There’s no right or wrong way to use this tool.
You can ignore it, use the RGB channel only, or experiment with the Red, Green, and Blue channels.
There are three different sections in this panel. HSL and Color will let you edit the hue, saturation, and luminance of every colour in your image.
This is ideal for photos in which certain tones don’t look right. It’s also great for creating surreal photos. Using the hue slider, you can completely change how certain colours look!
This is one of the simplest panels in Lightroom. You can edit the hue of your highlights and shadows here.
Split Toning usually makes photos look dreamier and more nostalgic.
If your photo isn’t eye-catching enough, you can increase its sharpness in this panel. Detail also provides a solution for photographers with grainy photos.
The noise reduction tool will make noisy photos look more natural.
Lens Corrections and Transform
If your photos look distorted, you can fix them using these two panels. I wouldn’t recommend adding these corrections to your preset, though.
Every image is different. So it’s unlikely that a single preset will fix all kinds of distortions.
Fans of analogue photography love the Effects panel because of its Grain slider.
Here, you can also add vignettes to either darken or lighten the edges in your photos.
If you want to experiment with different colour effects, you’ll like this panel.
Many popular Instagram accounts use it to give their photos a very specific look like the one above.
How to Save Lightroom Presets
Once you’re happy with your result, click on the plus sign on the left side of your screen. This will open a new window. Give your preset a name and select the settings that you used.
You can either save your preset in a specific folder or in a general folder entitled User Presets. Once everything is set, click on Create.
Once your preset is saved, it will appear under the folder you selected. Now you can apply it in the Develop module.
You might want to share your Lightroom presets with someone else. Or simply keep it in a folder in case Lightroom crashes. To achieve either of these, you should export your preset.
To do that, right click on your preset, select Export, and choose the folder you’d like to save your preset in. Now you can share and store it anywhere you like.
When I export a set of Lightroom presets, I like to keep them in a zipped folder to avoid scattering them all over the place.
How to Apply Presets to Several Images at Once
An advantage of using Lightroom presets is speed. You can apply the same preset to hundreds of images with one click.
To do this, import your photos to Lightroom, making sure you’re in the Library module. Select all your photos and choose your preset under the Quick Develop panel.
This is also an opportunity to preview your results. You can make any quick changes if something doesn’t look right.
If your preset desaturated your photos too much, you can increase their vibrance. Click on the right arrow in the Quick Develop panel to do this.
Getting better at editing and making presets has improved my photos. And my workflow’s faster now.
Knowing how to make and save Lightroom presets will give you a better understanding of what makes a photo stand out.
Familiarise yourself with the panels above. You’ll be able to create photos that are not only visually appealing, but easy to edit using your very own presets.
A note from Josh, ExpertPhotography's Photographer-In-Chief:
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