Friday’s Featured Resource: Adobe Lightroom Develop Presets

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.


Special thanks to my Shutter Sisters Superha, Mika and Laura (of Dolcepics) for their feedback on my presets in preparation for this post!


  1. says

    Sarah-Ji, you’ve done such a great job with your presets. I’ve learned so much about my photography just through using Lightroom this past month. You’re right. I don’t think I can go back to life pre-LR. I will still use my Photoshop CS for layers and larger projects, but Lightroom had me at import preset. By the way, I am proud to be your Shutter Sister!

  2. says

    These are fantastic. Love seeing them grouped together like this. And – altho I’m hooked on photoshop..I think I’m going to have to give lightroom a try.

  3. Deeleea says

    Oh dear… seems everywhere I look people are talking about Lightroom… Now I want it too… I have to ask, does it supplant Photoshop or augment it?

  4. sarah-ji says

    Deeleea, Lightroom augments Photoshop. I think many people use Lightroom for most post-processing workflow and use photoshop for things they can’t do in Lightroom, such as working with layers. I personally don’t ever use layers, so I use Lightroom exclusively.

  5. says

    The thing that keeps me from using Lightroom is that I shoot in jpeg. I’ve never tried RAW and for some reason, I’m afraid, you know, the whole storage thing. I was excited after reading your post though, so perhaps I’ll step out of my comfort zone and try it. Thanks for the little nudge.

  6. says

    I was reading about Lightroom on Diane’s Alberta Photography blog the other day and today I’ve discovered more with your post. Now I have to give it a try. Thank you.

  7. says

    I made the switch in November from shooting in jpeg to strictly shooting in RAW and it made a huge difference in the quality of my photos. If you haven’t tried it, do! If you are worried about storage, and I can completely understand that, you can get a 500 GB external hard drive for around $80-90 on Amazon.

    I started using Lightroom around Christmas time and I love it! I usually don’t go crazy on the presets, but take advantage of two of the built-in presents quite often – the Direct Positive and Punch, which I used on today’s image:

  8. says

    I downloaded the free trial, but never really got into it. I guess I am still enamoured with ACR and CS3. I think it is really good for people to make their own presets/actions, though. It helps you understand processing and getting the look for the style you want. Plus it saves time! I love being able to batch all my photos with one click.

  9. says

    this is wonderful! i’m deeply smitten with how much easier lightroom makes it to process photos. the way it allows you to organize pictures, easily alter them….i especially love the ‘previous’ button if you are looking for consistency between pictures! but i hadn’t really played with presets yet. thanks for this sara-ji!

  10. Samantha says

    Oh dear! I just purchased photoshop CS4. Do I need really need this ? or can I accomplish the majority of my processing in Lightroom? Do most pros use both or just lightroom?


  11. sarah-ji says

    For those wondering whether you need both Lightroom and Photoshop to create professional looking results, it really depends on personal preference and if you shoot primarily for yourself or for a client who’s actually paying you money. For me, I’m pretty lazy when it comes to post processing and like to keep things simple. I never use textures or layers (features not available in Lightroom) so I don’t personally need Photoshop. Lightroom 2 has some powerful new features previously not available in Lightroom 1 versions–the gradient filter and the adjustment brush tools which allow me to do things in Lightroom that I previously would’ve ignored or had to actually use Photoshop for.

    That being said, Photoshop is a very powerful tool, and I’m sure most professionals would not part with it.

  12. says

    still loving your LR presets, sara! and so excited to see this post up on Shutter Sisters! thanks so much for letting me preview and try out your presets! it was an honor to be able to provide feedback!

    here’s some of what i did with a couple of your presets..

    looking forward to seeing what you do next and excited to keep working on creating my own! and thanks for the link to my flickr/shoutout! :)

  13. Angie says

    How funny because I only had Picasa and Bibble when I was asked to shoot a wedding (I’m no pro, for sure!) and decided to try the one month trial for those pics as well. I haven’t shelled out the money for the program yet, but I am hooked! Thanks for sharing these, Sarah!

  14. Kristin says

    I use Picasa too and haven’t yet tried Lightroom. I’m also shooting a wedding soon so I may need to download it and use it for that especially. I’m kinda scared….hehe!

  15. says

    OOOH I’ve been waiting for this post since I read you post/thread on the Flickr preset group. I bought LR a couple of weeks ago and am hooked. LR takes a bit getting used to but once you get it it rocks! I’m not heavy into pp so LR and PSE works for me.

  16. says

    I’m very new to photography but love how much lightroom has helped me with editing that I couldn’t do with free programs. Thank you so much for posting these links and an overview of how the different presents look!

  17. Trude says

    I totally agree! I don’t know what I would do with LR! It’s an integral part of my processing now! Thanks so much for the beautiful presets. :)

  18. Jason says

    HI Sarah,

    Big fan of your original presets. So I came back looking for more and noticed you’ve added a few which is awesome, but also noticed the some of the original ones 7Up and Metropolis and so on behave a little differently. Were these intended be updates on the old ones or just a new generation of your old presets? Basically trying to figure out what the difference is between the old and new ones.

    Keep at it…you are a star at this!


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