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Let’s go back 15 years. The way we processed photos was to drive to the local one-hour photo lab and come back later to pick up our packet of prints to see what we got. There was very little that we actually had to do, other than take the picture. 

But the digital revolution has changed everything when it comes to processing photos. These days, real magic with photos can happen in the processing, yet sometimes the processing feels daunting. Today I want to give you a few pointers about editing your photos in Lightroom with the use of presets. Presets are exactly as they sound; they apply any number of preset processes to your photos, making for easy photo editing.

To start, I encourage you to use Lightroom to play with your photos. Lightroom doesn’t touch or damage your original photos, so it’s a great way to learn without risk. Once you have practiced, you will find yourself doing some of the same process over and over again. 

To create your own preset is really easy. Here’s how:

  1. In the “develop” module, execute the processing steps (or step) you want to save as a preset.
  2. Go over to the top of the preset pallet and click the + sign
  3. Check the “none” box at the bottom and then select all the settings that you want saved
  4. Name your preset and hit create

That’s it! You can now find your own personal preset under “user presets” (and if you need a visual walk through, here is a quick video).

While it’s helpful to know how to create your own, there are also a number of great resources for presets to load into Lightroom. The two I use most are Mastin Labs (Portra pack) and VSCO (Film 01). I have other packs but find myself returning to these two most often.

One thing to be aware of in using presets that you didn’t create yourself is that you may end up with effects you don’t want — for example, too much grain or sharpening. When this happens, you can use the preset to then make a preset of your own that corrects the issue. For instance, I made one that takes out the sharpening, grain, and clarity – because these are not great for stock photography – and then I hit that preset when I’m done with other fixes, just before I export the photos.   

Presets are a powerful tool in your processing arsenal, quickly taking your processing from start to finish. They won’t just save you time in processing, they also give you the ability to create a unified look with your shoots. You can use those same presets to apply that same look to all those photos yet to be shot. Before long, you’ve created your own signature look — effortlessly.

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