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Preset or not?

Jun 8, 2012
Brisbane, Australia
Lightroom Experience
Hi, and welcome again to Lightroom Forums.

This is a question is asked relatively frequently in slightly different ways.

Presets can never be magic bullets in creating effects.
This is especially so for those presets that predominantly manipulate tone (exposure, whites, blacks, contrast, clarity etc), white balance, and colour.
An image such as the one posted is very individual - it is anyone's guess what this looked like straight out of the camera.
As a consequence there is no one preset that could be automatically applied to give a guaranteed result.

The reason why presets cannot handle situations like the one you present is that any changes made in the Develop module are absolute. The preset cannot know whether the image was underexposed to preserve highlights or whether the photographer allowed them to blow in order to expose just for the shadows. Also, the dynamic range of the file is very dependent on the camera that took the shot. The way I might have to shoot that image that you posted could well have been very different depending whether I was using my Canon 5D mk III or my Sony A7R mk II. The difference in Dynamic range is several stops.
Presets, though, can be very handy when one is shooting in a controlled environment with known lighting and white balance characteristics. So, as a result studio photographers are the one's that really benefit from presets. It is likely, though, that those studio photographers have made their own presets and will not expect a 'canned' preset to give them the result they want.

I do use presets for sharpening and noise reduction as well as applying lens corrections. However these are applied conditionally depending on camera and lens used and ISO. I also construct presets for those situations where exposure conditions are consistent but would never use them outside that situation.
However, these presets have been constructed by myself for specific purposes and it would be frankly silly for me to offer them to third parties as catch-all solutions.

My suggestion is to get to grips with the Develop module - there is no substituting this if you want excellent post-processing. Presets are a tool that may be helpful in defined situations but there is not a single preset that manipulates tone, white balance, or colour that I know of that could simply be applied to any image with even acceptable, never mind good, results.
Looking to 'canned' presets to give the results one wants, is, in general, a futile exercise.

That said it would not surprise me in the least if someone recommends some preset or set thereof that gives 'guaranteed' results.

Tony Jay
Last edited:

Colin Grant

Active Member
Apr 18, 2016
Lightroom Experience
Lightroom Version
Well said, Tony. All I would add is that playing with On1s Perfect Effects might give you a kick-start (after doing initial post processing in LR). Why not download the 60 day trial and see.


Active Member
Sep 2, 2014
Mildura, NW Victoria, Australia
Lightroom Experience
Lightroom Version
one really needs to see the original file to even guess at a preset IMO.
Personally I feel presets are very anti-learning and we are far better off working out our own preferred method of editing our many different files. No one preset will ever fit all files. That doesn't mean I don't use a few presets myself; however they are ones I have made myself to suit my edits of my usual style of photos. And they are very much an averaging preset and there is usually more editing to do. When I first got lr I seem to spend .... WASTE so much time clicking on LR presets that never really give something I liked.
Usually it's gently gently on the sliders; however there are times it pays 'rip a file apart' with aggressive slider use; it will never hurt the file but results can be amazing as much as shocking bad

after we get the general idea; practise and experience is our best teacher

None of that helps you at all e2paige. Total waste of time reading it; but one day it might make some sense to you ;)