Editing with Lightroom Presets

I receive a lot of messages on Instagram asking me what filters I use on my photos or what app I use. I use ‘Lightroom’ which can be used on a phone or on a computer, and for me, it is easy to use and super effective in getting the look I want for my photos.

So what is the big deal? I used to use Snapseed and A Color Story to edit my photos, A Color Story offers cheap bundles of filters to get your feed looking consistent. However, I found both these apps pretty limiting and I was unable to get my photos looking how I wanted them to be.

I downloaded Lightroom around a year ago, I almost gave up with it but something kept me going. Lightroom offers a range of editing tools, you can create particular looks you want and then save the editing settings as a ‘preset’ – just another name for a filter. Over this last year I have created hundreds of different presets, all for different scenarios, particularly locations. I have divided these presets up into different groups, this makes it quick and easy when I haven’t got all the time I want to edit a batch of photos.

For example, I created a set of 10 London presets, each preset is based on my interpretation of the different neighbourhoods. This has made it so easy when it comes to editing photos after a long day of walking around London and snapping shots. Below you can see some examples of how the different areas of London differ, and how you can create your own perception of each one.

The above photos are all taken in different areas, and each of these four are the original photos I began to create my presets with. You have ‘Notting Hill’ which I chose a more bright and colourful editing style, bringing out the pinks, reducing the contrast, and bringing up the whites. For me, the houses of Notting Hill are like another world, the hidden mews and courtyards could even be better suited to a fairytale than inner-city London.

Next is Artillery Road, between Liverpool Street and Spitalfields. I named this preset ‘Spitalfields’, one of my absolute favourite pieces of London. Here I tried to represent the area’s past, for Jack the Ripper would lurk in these shadows and the Victorians had to deal with a rather dark and dingy living experience. I wanted to create a gritty, raw filter that suited both the area’s history and architecture.

The bright and colourful style of my ‘Little Venice’ filter is also a nod to the area’s past. Little Venice, whilst surrounded by the hustle and bustle of central London, was once just another part of the countryside. And whilst just a stone’s throw from busy Paddington, this relatively small area has stayed rather tranquil, with the canal still giving you a country vibe. Beautiful at all times of the year, the Little Venice preset brings out the rich tones of autumn whilst nurturing the subtle pink hues of spring and summer.

You might recognise this last picture, located just outside Covent Garden’s Piazza, this small corner really suits a vintage feel. In order to replicate a photograph that would have been taken back in the 40s and 50s, I brought the vibrancy right down and the grain up, giving it that mid-20th-century look.

It was whilst creating these London presets that it dawned on me, no two place is the same and no two filters should be the same, whilst cities and countries might not be human, it doesn’t mean they are not brimming with personality that should be nurtured.

So who would I recommend Lightroom presets for? Beginners. It is not easy finding a look or a vibe that you love, that’s why it has taken me over two years to really enjoy editing my pictures. When I first started I felt frustrated, faced with very basic editing apps that just weren’t getting me to where I wanted to be. I bought my first preset a year ago and never looked back. From 8 presets I began to enjoy looking at my photos, I would look forward to the editing process, and for the first time ever I felt proud at the outcome. Fast forward to now and all the presets I use have been created by me from scratch, but I would never have learnt what I had if I hadn’t started with those first 8 filters.

Are presets for lazy people? No way. I wish I could bless all of you with all the time in the world to painstakingly master a look you love, but life doesn’t give us that opportunity. Presets offer the user a fast track to a look they want.

Does this mean everyone’s photo will look the same? Of course not. Different cameras, lighting situations, composition and photographers will all give their own look to a photo. My photos all have an individual look, even when using the exact same settings In fact, when I first started creating my presets I would get hugely frustrated that each photo did not turn out exactly like the first. I soon learn that firstly, I shouldn’t want all my work to be a carbon copy of the previous, and secondly, each photo will need tweaking, even with a preset added to it.

Below are a couple of examples of some photos I have taken and the process of editing them. The first photo is the original, the second is the photo with the preset added, and the third is the final piece having spent no more than 2 minutes tweaking it.

Why is the exposure so messed up? This was my first ever question when I bought my first presets, why oh why were my photos SO overexposed? It was purely because the settings on my camera were not the same as the settings on the original photographer’s camera, all I needed to do was bring the exposure down and I could calm down again! If you still struggle with exposure issues when you have tried bringing the exposure slider up or down, try playing around with the highlights or whites instead.

Do I have to buy presets to make my photos look good? No! It is so rewarding creating an editing process from scratch, however, not everyone has the time and not everyone knows how to do it.

Can you use presets on mobile? Yes, you can. You may have noticed some photographers offer ‘mobile presets’ as well as ‘desktop presets’. However, the updated versions of Lightroom mean you can download a desktop preset and sync it to your mobile, you just need to be logged into the same Adobe account on each and Lightroom will do it all for you. You do need a subscription account for this which is currently £9.99, this not only allows syncing between computer and phone, but you also have access to more editing tools that are otherwise locked on the free version.

Conclusion: Lightroom presets offer individuals and businesses the ability to create a consistent look and feel to their Instagram feed. By creating a range of presets within one bundle, photographers can be assured there is a preset for almost every situation. Presets offer an individual the ease of creating specific effects that they may have not known how to create from scratch. They are quick to use and whilst I advise tweaking photos when needed, this can often be done in under 5 minutes, making it a viable editing option for those who do not have the time to spend 30 minutes editing each photo.

All my own presets are available to purchase here.

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