Layering Lightroom Presets

Lightroom is a great tool for photographers’ helping them manage and process their photos. It also allows for a range of special effects to be created which can then be saved as presets in order to apply them in the future. These presets can be a huge time saver as well as providing all sorts of creative effects but there is one huge drawback. Lightroom doesn’t support Layers like Photoshop does. If you wonder why this is a problem read on as well as find out how to solve the problem.

When you apply a preset to an image you can often inadvertently remove some or all the changes that you might have already applied to the image. For example you might have a great preset that has a soft dark vignette and want to add a dark frame around the outside of the image using a second preset. It’s quite possible that as you add the frame with the second preset that the vignette from the first vanishes. Take a look at the images below. The first one is from the Lenscraft Vintage Colour Collection (which can be found in the Lenscraft Store) and features a soft, dark vignette around the edge.

Example image showing one of the Lenscraft Vintage Colour Collection presets

Example image showing one of the Lenscraft Vintage Colour Collection presets

The second image is the same as the first except that it has an additional preset applied from the Lenscraft Vignette Collection. Notice that the soft, dark vignette from the first image above has been removed by applying this new edge vignette.

Example illustrating the problem when an edge is applied from the Lenscraft Vignette Collection

Example illustrating the problem when an edge is applied from the Lenscraft Vignette Collection

The extent of this problem will depending on two things:

  1. How the presets have been developed. Some preset developers create their presets without a great deal of care and this can cause the issue. If you are buying presets and want to avoid the problem check that the presets can be layered on top of each other.
  2. Sometimes, as in the above example, there is a clash of settings where the two presets use the same Lightroom functionality to create their effect. When this happens the layering problem is unavoidable.

Layering Lightroom Presets

If you find yourself faced with the problem of not being able to layer your preset effects, there is a fix that you can use. First select your image and apply the first preset that you want to use. Next export your adjusted image to a new file in your existing folder, selecting the option to include this Lightroom catalogue. You can see the export settings below which are highlighted with red arrows.

Exporting an image to the same folder as the original and adding this to the Lightroom Catalogue

Exporting an image to the same folder as the original and adding this to the Lightroom Catalogue

Select the newly created file and apply your second preset.

Applying a second preset to the new image file

Applying a second preset to the new image file

Notice that the image now has the original soft, dark vignette together with the new edge vignette. You can repeat this technique as many times as you like to layer Lightroom presets that would otherwise conflict with each other.

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