Value of Presets


Today’s Question: I often see promotions for Develop presets for Lightroom Classic that promise miraculous improvement for my photos. What do you think of these preset bundles, which often include hundreds if not thousands of presets?

Tim’s Quick Answer: While presets can be helpful for streamlining your workflow and getting some creative inspiration, in general I don’t feel there is significant value in purchasing presets for Lightroom Classic. That’s especially true when the bundle includes a particularly large number of presets.

More Detail: I get asked about presets in Lightroom Classic on a somewhat regular basis, and of course I also see the promotions offering hundreds of presets with promises of revolutionizing your workflow and magically making your images stunningly perfect.

Part of my frustration with these claims is that presets in Lightroom Classic really just represent saved settings for the adjustments applied on the right panel in the Develop module. In other words, any preset you obtain represents something you could have created with the exact same result working on the right panel in the Develop module in Lightroom Classic.

To be sure, presets can be very helpful. Presets provide a quick way of getting to initial settings for your adjustments and creative effects. For example, I tend to use the same basic settings as the starting point when applying a sepia tone effect to a photo, and so a preset is great because it ensures I’m using consistent settings for that effect.

It is important to keep in mind, however, that in many cases a preset that works wonderfully well for one image won’t provide a pleasing effect for another image. This is part of the reason I recommend using presets as starting points in most cases, with refinement of the adjustments on the right panel. In other words, it is rare that I would apply a preset and leave the image with those settings without applying refinements to the effect.

Presets can also be helpful when you’re trying to figure out which direction to take a photo, since you can preview the effect of presets by simply moving your mouse over the list of presets on the left panel in the Develop module.

If you find a set of presets that have effects that you find appealing and think will work well for your photos, by all means you should take a close look at those presets. Over time, however, I think you’ll find it more valuable to gain familiarity with the adjustments in Lightroom Classic, and create your own presets over time to preserve good starting points for adjustments and creative effects.