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Save Your Favorite Settings as One-Click Presets

Lightroom comes with a number of built-in tonal correction presets that you can apply to any photo with just one click. These are found in the Presets panel over in the left side Panels area, where you’ll find two different collections of presets: Lightroom Presets (the built-in ones put there by Adobe) and User Presets (ones you create to apply your favorite combinations of settings with just one click). Some of the built-in ones are pretty decent, and some are, well...well...let’s just say that I haven’t had an instance to use them yet. Here’s how to put presets to work for you:

  • Step One: We’ll start by looking at how to use the built-in presets, then we’ll create one of our own, and apply it in two different places. First, let’s look at the built-in presets by going to the Presets panel (found in the left side Panels area), and clicking on the right-facing arrow to the left of Lightroom Presets to expand the set, and see the built-in presets within it (as shown here). Adobe named these built-in presets by starting each name with the type of preset it was, so those that start with “B&W Creative” are black-and-white special effect presets, those starting with “General” are just standard tone control presets, and those that start with “Sharpening” are...do I even have to explain this one?
  • Step Two: You can see a preview of how any of these presets will look, even before you apply them, by simply hovering your cursor over the presets in the Presets panel. A preview will appear above the Presets panel in the Navigator panel (as shown here, where I’m hovering over a Color Creative preset called Aged Photo, and you can see a preview of how that color effect would look applied to my photo, up in the Navigator panel, at the top of the left side Panels area).
  • Step Three: To actually apply one of these presets, all you have to do is click on it. In the example shown here, I clicked on the Color Creative preset, Cold Tone, which gives the effect you see here.
  • Step Four: Once you’ve applied a preset, you can apply more presets and those changes are added right on top of your current settings, as long the new preset you chose doesn’t use the same settings as the one you just applied. So, if you applied a preset that set the Exposure, Fill Light, and Shadows, but didn’t use Clarity, if you then chose a preset that just uses Clarity, it adds this on top of your current preset. Otherwise, it just moves those sliders again. For example, after I applied the Cold Tone preset, I felt it looked kind of flat and lacked contrast. So, I scrolled down toward the bottom of the built-in presets and clicked on the Tone Curve - Medium Contrast preset. Then, I clicked on the General - Punch preset to give us the image you see here. Just three clicks and I was able to add a special effect tinting, more contrast, and an overall sharper, punchier look.
  • Step Five: Now, of course you can use any built-in preset as a starting place to build your own preset, but let’s just start from scratch here. Click the Reset button at the bottom of the right side Panels area (shown circled here in red) to reset our photo to how it looked when we started. Now we’ll create our own look from scratch: Increase the Exposure amount to +1.00, set the Recovery amount to 100, the Fill Light to 40, Blacks to 5, the Brightness to +50, and then lower the Contrast to −12. Now, increase the Vibrance amount to +30, and then lower the Saturation to −60, which gives us the look you see here. We’re not finished yet (‘cause this looks kinda lame).
  • Step Six: Now go the Tone Curve panel (in the right side Panels area), choose Strong Contrast from the Point Curve pop-up menu, then drag the Highlights slider to +75, and the Shadows slider to −85 to add some mega contrast. Lastly, go to the Lens Corrections panel, click on Manual at the top, drag the Lens Vignetting Amount slider to −100, and set the Midpoint to 5 to complete the effect (that looks better. Kind of a contrasty, washed-out, yet snappy color effect). Okay, now that we’ve got our look, let’s save it as a preset. Go back to the Presets panel and click on the + (plus sign) button on the right side of the Presets panel header to bring up the New Develop Preset dialog (shown here). Give your new preset a name (I named mine “Desaturate with Contrast Snap”), click the Check None button at the bottom of the dialog (to turn off the all the checkboxes), then turn on the checkboxes beside all the settings you edited to create this preset (as seen here). Now, click the Create button to save all the edits you just made as your own custom preset.

    Note: To delete a User Preset, just click on the preset, then click on the − [minus sign] button, which will appear to the left of the + button on the right side of the Presets panel header.

  • Step Seven: Now click on a different photo in the Filmstrip, then hover your cursor over your new preset (I’m hovering over my Desaturate with Contrast Snap preset), and if you look up at the Navigator panel, you’ll see a preview of the preset (as seen here, where you’re seeing what your current color photo would look like if you applied the custom preset we just made). Seeing these instant live previews is a huge time saver, because you’ll know in a split second whether your photo will look good with the preset applied or not, before you actually apply it.
  • Step Eight: You can even put these presets (the built-in ones that come with Lightroom, and the ones you create yourself) to use from right within the Import window. For example, if you knew you wanted to apply the Desaturate with Contrast Snap preset to a group of photos you were about to import, inside the Import window, over in the Apply During Import panel, you’d choose this preset from the Develop Settings pop-up menu (as shown here), and that preset would automatically be applied to each photo as it’s imported. There’s one more place you can apply these Develop presets, and that’s in the Saved Preset pop-up menu, at the top of the Quick Develop panel, in the Library module (more about the Quick Develop panel on the next page).
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