I GET ASKED A LOT ABOUT PRESETS.
And I totally get it! Presets can dramatically speed up your editing workflow and can drastically affect the tonal makeup of your imagery. So today I want to talk about some of my favorite preset packs, the individuals and companies that make them, and hopefully give some practical advice on what to purchase if you're in the market.
But before I say any of that, I need to make three things very clear –
1. PRESETS AREN'T MAGICAL – believe it or not, presets don't do anything you can't do yourself. The companies and individuals who create these packs simply take a TON of time tweaking the built-in controls in Lightroom to create the color profiles they want. When you buy presets, you're not buying something you couldn't create yourself – you're just paying them for the time they took to get the settings right.
2. PRESETS WON'T FIX BAD IMAGERY – if your shots aren't lit well, if your exposure is terrible, or if the colors you've captured aren't great, presets won't fix that for you. You have to do the hard work on the front end capturing quality imagery and then presets help you from there.
3. PRESETS AREN'T ONE-CLICK SOLUTIONS – it'd be amazing if there were presets out there that would make your images look amazing with only one click. Unfortunately this isn't the case and if you don't know how to use your editing software, presets will probably only make your job harder.
But if you have a decent grasp on editing in Lightroom, you've captured some great images, and you want to quickly apply some creative looks without spending hours tweaking settings, presets can totally help!
SO, THAT SAID, LET'S TALK PRESETS.
BEGINNER/INTERMEDIATE – VSCO FILM
I do 99% of my editing in Adobe Lightroom (I'll get a blog up soon about WHY) and when I first started editing in Lightroom I quickly learned the power of the VSCO FILM packs. These film packs have been painstakingly created to model what individual films would look like if you shot them on your particular camera.
If you're just starting out with presets, VSCO FILM is an amazing place to start as they'll provide you great diversity as well as included one-click tools to make other edits to your images (grain/exposure/white balance/skin tone corrections/etc).
There's a lot of available packs but for beginners I'd recommend the "Film Essentials" pack as it'll provide some great variety and tools at an affordable cost. From there you can branch out into their other packs and start to really hone in on your particular editing style.
**P.S. if you're a VSCO X subscriber on mobile, VSCO just released a free pack of Lightroom presets that completely model the presets in VSCO CAM (and they're awesome) – YAY for mobile-to-desktop editing consistency!
INTERMEDIATE/ADVANCED – TRIBE ARCHIPELAGO
If you're looking for a different tonal composition than what VSCO FILM offers and are more familiar with editing in Lightroom, I'd strongly point you to the packs created by the Tribe Archipelago team. I personally own about half of these packs and they offer a lot of variety and editing latitude.
What's important to know with these packs, though, is that it's critical to understand more than simply how to edit exposure and white balance to get these presets to work on your images. Every once in awhile there will be a preset that works perfectly on an image with little effort, but often you'll have to tweak things a bit to get things looking right.
These packs are truly beautiful though and, if you put in the time and effort to really learn Lightroom and how to tweak the settings, using these packs on your images will leave you with some stunning results!
If you're interested in these packs, I'd steer you towards one of the packs made by Loren & Chris – I own both of them and they're great!
NOTE ON OTHER PACKS
It seems like right now every photographer is selling presets on their websites. This can be awesome if you're looking for a very specific tonal structure and just can't quite nail it...but do be careful! Often these presets are less universal than presets made by larger collectives and you may find that their presets look nothing like you were hoping when applied to your own images.
Some great individually-created options...
At the end of the day, presets can be a great tool to add to your arsenal and can dramatically decrease your editing time. However, understanding how to edit in Lightroom is far more crucial than buying a specific preset pack! If you're interested in learning how to use Lightroom better, I'll be offering a workshop soon on this process so drop your email here and I'll get in touch once I nail down the venue and dates!
Otherwise, feel free to drop me a comment or send me an email if you have questions on a specific preset pack and I'd be happy to help you out! Additionally, check back in soon as I'll be posting blogs on why I use Lightroom as well as what I use to edit on mobile – and don't forget to subscribe if you want to get notified every time I post these blogs!
Cheers and happy editing...