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Saving Your Favorite Settings as Presets

If you really want to leverage the power of Photoshop Lightroom to keep your workflow moving along, then you’ll want to learn how to use and create presets. That way, you can apply your favorite settings (like your favorite black-and-white conversion, or a set of edits that fix overexposed photos) with just one click. Once you start creating your own presets, you’ll wonder how you lived without them. Here’s how to start making your own:

  • Step One. The best time to create a preset is right after you’ve applied a set of changes that (a) you really like, and (b) you think you’ll be able to use again on a set of different photos. If you shoot in a studio (where the lighting situation is controlled), then this is a no-brainer. You may only need to make a few presets. If you’re a wedding photographer, maybe a few more, and if you’re an outdoor or event photographer, you’ll be making these puppies all the time. To get you rolling, let’s open a photo, create a duotone look, and then save that as a preset so you can apply it to different photos on another day. Once the photo’s open, go to the Develop module (as shown here).
  • Step Two. First, so we get to see a bigger preview of our photo, hide the left side panels. Then, go to the Basic panel and at the bottom of the panel, lower the Saturation amount to –100 (as shown here) to remove all the color from the photo (don’t worry—better ways to convert to black and white are coming in Chapter 6, but for this example on presets, this method is quick and easy).
  • Step Three. Without going into a big explanation about what split toning is (that explanation is also coming in Chapter 6), scroll down to the Split Toning panel. Increase the Highlights Hue to 43, and Highlights Saturation to 50. Then go to the Split Toning Shadows controls, drag the Shadows Hue to 43, and the Shadows Saturation to 50 (as shown). This gives a brownish duotone tint to our black-and-white photo (seen here).
  • Step Four. To add some additional contrast (making the highlights brighter and the shadows darker), go to the Tone Curve panel, and from the Point Curve pop-up menu choose Strong Contrast (as shown here). Okay, we’re on our way, but we’re not quite there yet—let’s make a few more edits here in the Develop module.
  • Step Five. Now head back up to the Basic panel, and let’s really give this baby some juice—increase the Blacks quite a bit, then bring up the Recovery amount (as shown here) until it looks good to you, then finally bring up the Fill Light a little to open up some of those shadows. (Honestly, for this example, it doesn’t really matter which Basic sliders you change, or how much you change them, because I just want you to see—in the end—how many slider moves you can save by creating one simple preset. So... knock yourself out. Tweak that pup until it looks good to you, which is, of course, the bottom line.)
  • Step Six. Once you’re done tweaking things in the Basic panel, make the left side panels visible again, then go to the Presets panel. Click once directly on the + (plus sign) that appears on the top right side of the Presets panel itself (it’s circled here in red). This brings up the New Develop Preset dialog (shown here). Give your new preset a name (I named mine “My Duotone.” I know—pretty clever). Now click the Create button (as shown) to save every change you just made (from removing color, to tinting, to the tone curve, to all your slider tweaking in the Basic panel) as your own custom preset, which will be now added alphabetically to the list of presets.
  • Step Seven. Open a different photo, and then hover your cursor over your new preset (I’m hovering over the preset I named “My Duotone” in the example shown here). Now, look up above the Presets panel (at the Navigator panel), where you’ll see an instant preview of the preset you’re hovering over (as shown here, where you’re seeing what your current color photo would look like if you applied your custom duotone preset). Seeing this preview before you actually commit to it is a huge timesaver, 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. So, for now, go ahead and click on the duotone preset, and watch how quickly all those adjustments are applied to your photo. Ahhh, now you see why this is so cool. (If you want to delete a preset, just click on it, then click the - [minus sign] that appears to the left of the + [plus sign] that creates new presets.)
  • Step Eight. By the way, presets are cumulative, so if you click on a preset, it applies those edits. Then, if you click on another, it applies its edits on top of the changes the first preset made (it other words, it doesn’t replace what the first preset you clicked on did—it adds to those changes). Another nice thing about creating your own presets is that you now have access to them while you’re in the Library module’s Quick Develop panel. Just click on the Preset pop-up menu and a list of all the Develop module presets appears, including the one you just created (as shown here). Nice. And unlike copying-and-pasting settings, presets are permanent and will still be there the next time you launch Lightroom.
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