For most of my shutterbugging days, I’ve been quite resistant to using photo editing software, and I was quite happy, thank you, with what I could do in Picasa. When my sister-in-law asked me to shoot her wedding, however, I thought such an event deserved something with a little more finesse (not to mention the power to salvage at least some of my mistakes). Lured by Adobe Lightroom’s 30 day free trial, I decided to give it a try. I figured I’d use it for the free month to edit the photos from the wedding and then go back to using Picasa. Little did I know how deeply and hopelessly I would fall in love with Lightroom.
There are so many great features in Lightroom, but today I want to share my latest preoccupation with Lightroom: develop presets. Presets are similar to “actions” in Photoshop in that you can save a series of effects and settings in a file that you can apply to other photos with a single click. Presets can be as simple as adding just a little boost to your exposure and contrast, or they can be more creative, changing anything and everything from tone curves to color hue/saturation/luminance to vignetting to sharpening to noise reduction to split toning to camera calibration for color and on and on and on.
Since the one word I chose for the month of February is “EXPERIMENT,” I’ve been doing just that with my photos in Lightroom and creating presets to share with all of you. The photo above shows the original photo that I started with in the upper left hand corner, and the other fifteen thumbnails are of the presets I made applied to the photo. To see larger photos, click here for the gallery (which was created in Lightroom, by the way). You can download a zip file of the presets here and find instructions for installing them here. I’m not a pro by any means, but I thought I might share the fun and inspire some of you to try your hand at creating your own presets or to just experiment in Lightroom. I’ve actually learned a lot about how Lightroom works by examining the changes applied by other people’s presets. Plus, you can tweak any changes applied by a preset to suit your own fancy and get as creative as you’d like.
There are also numerous free presets on various websites, such as Presets Heaven, Lightroom Killer Tips, or on Flickr’s Presetting Lightroom group. I found some really practical presets on the onOne Software site, which also has some helpful video tutorials.
Please note that presets are generally best applied to RAW (digital negative) files. You can use them on JPEGs, but all the effects will be exaggerated since they were meant for uncompressed data files. You can still get the gist of the preset and modify things like exposure or brightness to make them work on JPEG files.
If you’ve never used Lightroom and are curious, you can try it free for 30 days. But I have to warn you…once you’ve tried it, you may never be able to go back to life without it.
If any of you are using presets or have created your own, please share with us your favorite images that show off what the presets can do. I know I’ve seen some cool examples in our Flickr group pool. Or, if you have tips on using presets or have a favorite collection of presets we can check out, please do share.