Photo editing can be a time consuming task for digital photographers. Putting in the effort to create something beautiful is always worth it though, and the results show!

Lightroom allows you to create advanced edits by adjusting colors, light and shadows, sharpness, and many other settings. Another great way to create intriguing edits is by starting with Lightroom Presets. Presets are saved effects you can install and re-apply to your own photos!

Not only can LR presets save you a lot of time on repetitive tasks, but they can help you get to more advanced edits with special techniques. Below I’m going to share a few ways you can use custom presets in Lightroom to create advanced, and awe-inspiring edits for your photos.

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Presets for a Purpose

Using presets for specific photography styles is a great way to build out unique editing styles for your different bodies of work. You can create folders of presets for each separate project or style of photography you enjoy.

For me, this means having folders of presets from my favorite creators (like the Foodies Feed Presets), and also dividing my presets into folders based on: Real Estate Photography, Travel, Landscapes (cold), Landscapes (warm), and Portraits

What are your favorite types of photography?

Another example of using presets for a purpose would be to find photo filters that are for your exact niche. If you are into some of the lesser known photography fields like astrophotography or action-sports photography, there are still presets for you to use!

These can be niche specific, making it easier to get the right effects for your photos.

Color & Tone Adjustments

Sometimes, getting just the right colors for the environment of your photo can make all the difference. A tropical rainforest suddenly comes to life when you bring out the greens just right. Ocean waves look more dramatic with the right curves and color tone adjustments.

These are just a few examples of how you can use presets to start your edit off and create intense color and tonal adjustments.

Once you apply a preset, you need to take it a step further and customize the effect so it looks just right on your photo. Everyone shoots differently. Some people prefer to underexpose and then bring details back to life in post. Other people like light and airy/dreamy photos with slight overexposure.

Both techniques are pretty awesome, what matters is that you get the shot you want. Take a few minutes to adjust these settings to really get the effect perfected:

  • Adjust HSL/Color settings to get the colors exactly as you want them. Reduce colors that are oversaturated and play with the hues
  • Play with the Tone Curve if you need a more dramatic contrast
  • Enable Lens Profile Corrections to fix distortion
  • Look at the highlights, shadows, white, and blacks if you need adjustments to the lighting and overall detail

Special Effects

Another major reason I use presets is for adding special effects to photos that would otherwise take a long time or that I just don’t fully know how to create myself.

These can be interesting color adjustments, such as the teal and orange “look”, or something even more complex like working with gradients, brushes, and/or sharpening effects.

Repetitive Tasks

Finally, one of the biggest (and most common) people use presets in general is to complete repetitive tasks. Things like editing 3,000 wedding photos in one night. Or shooting a football game and adding an aligned effect to all of the photos.

These tasks can be incredibly time consuming and by re-creating the edit for each photo, you’re wasting a lot of time.

Speed up the process with presets for your project and then take it a step further by adding customizations and copy/pasting the effects. In Lightroom you can right click a photo in the Develop view at the bottom and then select Develop Settings > Copy Settings… to copy your customizations and adjustments after you apply a preset. Then you can paste this ‘updated’ effect to other similar photos.

You can also right click a preset in the Presets Panel to the left (when you’re in Develop view) and right click the preset to ‘Update with Current Settings’. This is only recommended if you are comfortable changing the presets. If you specifically downloaded presets created by someone else and want them to stay the same, simply save a new preset with your finished effects in a separate folder. That way you can still have the presets you bought or downloaded, while saving your updated effects in a separate folder for future use.

Author Bio:
This article was written by Mike Moloney. Mike is the founder of FilterGrade and enjoys creating, building, and writing. View some of Mike’s photography work and say hi on Twitter!

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