Are Lightroom Presets Worth It?

I have been using Lightroom for many years. I know my way around the Lightroom Develop module and have even published a book on the subject. So why am I such an advocate of using Lightroom Presets? In this article I’m going to explain why and what I feel are the many benefits of Presets for photographers.

If you’re a Lightroom user and you’re not making use of Presets, I would encourage you to think again. If you’re not really sure what they are, read my introduction to Presets tutorial.

before and after comparison using lightroom presets

The Benefits List for Lightroom Presets

There are lots of benefits you can gain from using Lightroom Presets. Whilst you might also think up some of your own, here are the key ones I have found.

Speed of Editing

By Applying Presets in Lightroom you can edit your photos many times faster than trying to apply adjustments individually. All you need do is select the photo to edit and then click the preset you want to apply. If you don’t like the result, reset and try a different preset. In fact, depending on your version of Lightroom, you don’t even need to select a Preset to see its effect.

By moving your mouse over each of the Presets in the Presets panel, you can see how the image will look. In older versions of Lightroom you can see the effect in the Navigator window, above the Presets panel. In the more recent Lightroom CC versions, the main image preview also shows the effect for improved viewing.

Easy to Use

Not everyone is an expert in using the adjustment controls of the Develop module. Despite many people labelling Lightroom as easy to use, many more would disagree. In recent years the range of features has increased, and many have become buried in existing controls. This is making Lightroom hard to use.

By using Presets, you remove the need for a lot of learning. In fact, if you can even build up basic workflow adjustments with Presets, allowing you to quickly perform basic editing. Just think, with a click of a preset and you could reveal shadow detail in your image or increase the contrast. Fortunately such Lightroom Presets do exist and you can get them for free by visiting The Preset Shop.

If you’re going to adopt a Preset based workflow, be sure you can layer your Presets. Some Presets will remove existing adjustments when they’re applied. If you’re Presets are workflow based, you don’t want this to happen. It prevents you from building up your image editing. You can learn more about how to layer Presets in this tutorial.

Create a Consistent Look

As you develop as a photographer, you often want to develop your own style. You can achieve this common look for your photography in many ways, one of which is editing. Once you develop a look for your photography, you often find you need to apply the same adjustments to each of your photos. This is where Lightroom Presets can help you.

By adjusting an image to create a signature look, you can save the settings as a “signature Preset”. You can then apply this to individual or multiple images, after which you might tweak each photo.

painterly effect created with a lightroom preset

If you’re a professional photographer, the ability to apply a consistent look to many photos will be very valuable. Imagine a situation where you’ve photographed a wedding and you want to quickly share a group of images with the customer. By applying a Lightroom Preset to all the potential photos and you’re making it easier for the customer to select the ones they want. It also presents a much more professional image to the customer.

Simplifying Complex Photo Editing

Sometimes you need to apply a lot of adjustments to create an effect. Such complex editing can be time consuming and difficult to achieve. It’s possible you might not even know how to achieve the end look or be able to repeat it. A good example of this is the editing required to simulate the effect of light leaks.

blackpool mage showing simulated light leak

Creating a realistic light leak often requires several graduated adjustments together with the brush tool. Trying to repeat this without a Preset can be very difficult. If you’re not aware of how to use and combine the different adjustments you might even find it impossible to produce the look you want.

Finding New Editing Options

Often, we become locked into a certain way of doing things, especially when it comes to editing photos. Without being aware, we might dismiss editing options that could produce striking results that get out work noticed. It’s often only when we explore different approaches to editing that we can make a step change improvement in our photography. And this is where Presets can help us.

In my copy of Lightroom, I have lots of Presets that I have created and some that I’ve purchased. Often when I start to edit a new photo I review these presets to look for ideas about how to adjust the image.

lightroom preset adjustments can create new ideas for your work

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It’s also a good idea when you think you have finished editing an image to browse through your Presets. Often you find that a photo you edited to appear very natural improves when you apply “special effects” with a Preset.

Share Work

By using Presets you can share in the hard work done by others. If you have developed your own Lightroom Presets, consider sharing them with other photographers who might not be able to do this.


If you started this tutorial wondering about the benefits of using Lightroom presets, I hope I’ve convinced you there’s real value to be gained. Building Presets does though require you to have a good knowledge of using the Lightroom Develop module. After that, designing good Presets is down to your creativity.

More Lightroom Tutorials

You’ll find more high quality, free tutorials on my Adobe Lightroom Tutorials page.

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