Why Some Photographers Swear by Presets and Others Avoid Them

Why Some Photographers Swear by Presets and Others Avoid Them

Updated: Jul 9, 2024
Created: Oct 11, 2023
Time to read: 8 min

Why Some Photographers Swear by Presets and Others Avoid Them?

The major part of photographers from beginners to professionals heard about Lightroom. Being the main editing app among photographers Lightroom became a convenient tool to improve images. And the convenience lies not just in the variety of tools presented in the program but also in the automation that is also known as professional photography presets. Presets allow you to use ready-made image corrections aimed at colors to pop off this or another way for certain images and compositions. Presets became a controversial topic as gaining popularity everyone uses them, and it comes to copying each other style. Presets are involved in a love-hate relationship among the photographers' community, we want to be able to copy and paste settings and have all our photos look the same but at the same time, we want to have a unique style that allows us to stand out. In this article we are going to write down rumors and takes flowing around photographers presets and the community with the cons and pros of using them and see opinions about why you as a photographer should or should not use them.

Photo clones argument

And the 1st argument against using presets is that produces clones. Let us take a look back at film photography. Each film stock you used in film photography contains its own characteristics, the way it shoots colors, handles light, and the type of grain it produces. If you shoot photos on Kodak portray 400 film, your photos are going to have the portrait 400 characteristics. Now moving to digital we obviously have way more control in the post-processing of our images and have virtually infinite possibilities. If all a preset does is emulate the look of the film, like Lightroom’s Ghost collection for instance, then what’s wrong with that? Keep in mind, you are not looking back at the work of great film photographers thinking their photos look the same as someone else’s just because they use the same film stock.

The environment changes and preset consistency issue

When using presets on a large number of photos where you change location or have different lighting they will also change the way your images look. So you need to consider these factors to not lose consistency, that is why it is better to create your own presets for different lighting and overall environmental conditions you are shooting in or completely refuse to use them. Keeping that in mind allows you to keep your workflow and recognize changing conditions to improve your set of presets and be ready to apply ones that fit the image in the end. So mastering lighting is probably a more important skill to develop before editing so the post and pre will not contradict each other.

Photo-Specific Lighting and Color Argument

This is basically the answer to the previous argument which is pretty much of the same kind. With this objection, there is some credence to the fact that lighting conditions and location with an overall color palette of your image is going to be different than the example shown and whatever preset packet is being marketed to you. So they will work differently for your photos, right? Maybe. Presets that contain a lot of hue saturation and luminance changes may look great on some photos and look absolutely terrible on others. This is why we believe for presets to really work well as a starting point, they should contain few HSL adjustments and instead rely on other parameters like calibration to make color changes. Otherwise, you end up with an outdoor blue sky presets, an outdoor High Noon presets, and an indoor tungsten lighting presets. Presets like that are probably making broad changes that just will not work in many instances. However, when you focus on parameters like the tone curve, calibration, or even a small amount of split toning, the preset will work better on a broad variety of lighting settings and conditions.

Using presets is not actual editing

When you use presets, you must be not that familiar with editing. Not necessarily. With a lot of presets, they provide you a solid starting point for your editing. You can then dive into the parameters and make adjustments based on your style, subject, and so on. In fact, using presets helps you to learn Lightroom. After applying the preset, you would go through the program and turn off panels to see how a certain group of settings were affecting your image. For instance, you may think that HSL section or split toning is adding in a lot of color, but it could be individual RGB curves. Or maybe you think HSL section is doing the heavy lifting when in reality it is all in the calibration. You can play with each parameter and finesse to preset your own liking. Starting from scratch without a preset it can be hard to know where you even begin. So while we do like presets we do not think you should mindlessly slap them on your photos. Dive into every parameter and setting and know how it is actually affecting your image.

Presets develop laziness

As the previous point, some people think using a preset makes you lazy. On the other side, they can rather enable you to work smarter and not harder. It is hard to imagine editing a thousand images from some wedding photoshoot without a preset. Whether it is something we make ourselves or something we purchase. There is no sense in creating a new tone curve for every lighting scenario in a wedding when you can leave the tone curve alone and maybe just pull the shadows a little more and bring down the highlights. By using a preset your images' black point and white point will not be at varying levels. Your shadows will have similar amounts of detail and your colors let us just say your greens will all do the same treatment throughout. For instance, green foliage inside the wedding venue will be treated similarly to the green inside the bride’s bouquet. You want your body of work to be consistent. When your clients review the photos you made for them it should not look like 15 different photographers shot it. So it is much easier to maintain consistency over a large collection of photos when you apply the same base settings to every photo.

Presets are limiting creativity

The style is way more than your editing. The style is the way you compose a shot, your unique eye is what the photo ends up being. The preset or the editing that you do in post serves to keep your work looking consistent across the board and it might also have a style. Presets allow your photos to have a certain vibe in a certain field not just because of the editing you do but mostly because of the actual shoot. So preset is a spice that you put in the dish for consistency and the creativity pops in making that dish. Overall editing just enforces the style you are aiming at in advance.

The cost

First and foremost presets are not free because preset developers spend a lot of time making these unique looks that you can apply to your image with one click. However, the price variety does not certainly reflect the quality of these presets and does not guarantee that it will make your photo look great. You need to feel what preset will make your photo look better and not the opposite which comes with experience only. Therefore, do not rush to spend a large amount of money, because there is no guarantee that you will not just waste it. It is better to start with some cheap presets and try to improve them yourself through the editing panel and color settings. Once you have the necessary skills and ability to distinguish the necessary presets from the unnecessary you will be able to make the right decisions with a trained eye.

Do professional photographers use presets?

To resume all the said as we can see there are a lot of arguments for and against presets, but the main point here is to not make presets to be your only way of editing. Some photographers prefer to do manual presets to create their own unique style and consistency in the photos they take. However, having large numbers of photos may force you to speed up your workflow and when you have so much job to be done it means that you already have the experience to adjust your ready-made presets on the fly.

Conclusion

So, if you still wonder do photographers use presets, yes they do because this is an efficient way to get the job done. Most photography newcomers use them when it comes down to editing. As a beginner, you have no editing skills developed yet, presets can help you to improve your photos but at the same time instill bad habits. That is why many photographers say that you should not use presets at all and imply that it is better to learn by watching tutorials and starting from zero. The fair point about this is that there are just 2 different learning curves. You can use preconfigured settings to break down its core into pieces and learn that way, or you can go without having any samples and start making it from the same pieces that were just broken apart beforehand. So, it is a matter of choice in the end. Thus, if your goal to get a success in photography it is recommended to learn manual editing first instead of using ready presets. However, do not go bad if you use preset because most photographers use them and if they would not, they are doing a lot of extra work that they do not need to be doing. Choose the most convenient way for yourself that is what is important in the end.

Therefore, presets are good to learn about what your images could look like. Use them as a tool and make them your starting point which you are going to implement your own decision on to enforce your unique style of shooting.

Share
Author
For commercial photographers
Retouchme Pro
Retouchme Pro
Retouching for Professional Photographers
Enhance your commercial photos with professional retouching!
Learn more
Our other products:
For mobile retouching
Before/after example
Transform Your Silhouette with RetouchMe
4.4
15570 Reviews
For TikTok influencers
bg
AppStore
Impressive effects for TikTok
Create videos with special effects like social media influencers!
4.2
47 Reviews
Learn more
For commercial photographers
Retouchme Pro
Retouchme Pro
Retouching for Professional Photographers
Enhance your commercial photos with professional retouching!
Learn more
Retouch your photos using packages
Related articles

Colors & Cropping
Create order
Base Edit
Create order
Advanced Edit
Create order
High-End Edit
Create order
Wedding Light
Create order
Wedding Pro
Create order
Pro Color Correction
Create order
Subject Retouch
Create order
Clipping Path
Create order
Architecture Photo
Create order
Jewelry Retouch
Create order
Restoration Photo
Create order
Custom retouch
Create order
Portrait retouching
Download example
Body retouching
Download example
Newborn editing
Download example
Wedding editing
Download example
Pro color correction
Download example
Product retouching
Download example
Сlipping path
Download example
Real Estate photo
Download example
Jewelry Retouch
Download example
Portrait retouching | Basic
Download example
Portrait retouching | Advanced
Download example
Portrait retouching | Pro
Download example
Portrait retouching | High-End
Download example
Body retouching | Basic
Download example
Body retouching | Advanced
Download example
Body retouching | Pro
Download example
Body retouching | High-End
Download example
Newborn editing | Basic
Download example
Newborn editing | Advanced
Download example
Newborn editing | Pro
Download example
Wedding editing | Basic
Download example
Wedding editing | Advanced
Download example
Wedding editing | Pro
Download example
Wedding editing | High-End
Download example
Pro color correction | Pro
Download example
Product retouching | Basic
Download example
Product retouching | Pro
Download example
Сlipping path | Pro
Download example
Real Estate photo | Basic
Download example
Real Estate photo | Pro
Download example
Jewelry Retouch | Basic
Download example
Jewelry Retouch | Pro
Download example
Jewelry Retouch | High-End
Download example
The photo size is too small. Please choose another one.