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What are Your Truly Useful Development Presets?

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Jul 4, 2008
San Francisco Bay Area
Lightroom Experience
Power User
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  1. Windows 10
I've always eschewed most development presets, especially the cottage industry selling specific looks or styles, like, "Stewed Tomatoes on the French Riviera" when asked by my Lightroom students since I don't think style presets age well and you don't learn anything by invoking someone else's preset.

Nonetheless, I do see a place for preset, especially when I'm traveling and using an iPad where Auto Tone can only be applied on import via a preset, and on the desktop were AI mask can be put in a preset and not have to be re-computed (hopefully the iPad/iPhone will catch up).

The presets I've created include:

Import with Auto Tone
Darken background (Select Subject, Invert, reduce Highlights and Exposure)
Texture, Clarity, Dehaze (a little of all 3)
Highlight Recovery
Darken Sky (Select Sky, reduce Highlights and Exposure)
Subject Shadows Lighten (Select Subject, increase shadows and contrast)
Underwater (white balance and highlight recovery, and Dehaze)

What presets do you use that are particularly useful?


Is there an amount slider for presets on iphone/ipad?
I have a develop preset for each camera as the default. I use it on import. Profile is Camera Faithful (same as the camera is set) and it is an ISO dependent preset with sharpening and noise reduction based on ISO. Everything else I do manually. Oh, I have one more preset that kills sharpening and noise reduction before I send it to Topaz products.

I have been playing with a combo masking one that selects sky and lowers exposure and then inverts and dupes the sky and ups the exposure. Good start for birds in flight and some of my triathlon events.
create the preset, then tap it, and it should pull up the amount slider
Thanks @reidthaler

I created a preset and it AUTOMATICALLY added an Amount Slider. How do you create one in Mobile WITHOUT the Amount Slider like you can in Classic. I don’t want the Amount Slider for presets with Masks as Adobe messed up the the sync of the sliders for Masks when you use Amount.
Then make it in Lightroom Classic and uncheck the box at the bottom, "Support Amount Slider" and add it to Lightroom or just don't move the amount.

Thanks. Surprising they didn’t include a checkbox for amount in Mobile preset creation. I use Mobile only on extended trips doing nature photography so only a few times a year.
I have been playing with a combo masking one that selects sky and lowers exposure and then inverts and dupes the sky and ups the exposure. Good start for birds in flight and some of my triathlon events.

I think that one would be pretty handy, Thanks!
I use a preset on import that bumps clarity and vibrance up to the mid teens and also applies lens profile corrections (including Chromatic Abberation).

Beyond that moving a slider or two left or right, to me, is simpler than finding and applying a preset that may only be close to what I need and would require slider movements as well. So I don't use such presets. However, I suppose that if you speicalize in a niche of photography (e.g. Wedding, Studio Fashion, Etc.) or you convert everything to a particular monotchrome "look" and don't want to deal with profiles, having a few std presets might prove useful.
Yes, I generally agree with you about presets— easier to just move a slider. But i am finding the adjustments in my preset list have been helping
I don't understand why anyone would use a dev preset unless they are doing some kind of studio or special shoot where the lighting and set is the same throughout.
When I shoot, every shot is different, so I develop each one as needed (even if I'm developing hundreds of images).
For example. why would anyone apply something like shadow recovery or taking down the highlights to every shot? (Note - in my opinion, shadow recovery is the most abused tool in LR and it took me years to realize I was overusing it).
If I get to a string of shots that are similarly lighted like a group of landscapes shot minutes apart, I can sync that set after developing one of them.
I only say this because I am of the opinion that presets get people in more trouble than it helps. It causes bad habits and usually applies adjustments that don't need to be made on that shot.
I also think that more than half the images I see from less experienced photographers (and from some who are very experienced) are over-processed in post.
It is a matter of taste, and we all get to make our own decisions in post about how we want our images to look.
I'm, simply saying that from what you wrote, I'm not sure you need those presets as much as you think you do.
It often leads to a bad start to post processing your images.
Many of the marketed presets I have seen are just radical or garish application of the sliders that you could do yourself in 35 seconds and the results would be far better.
Presets have their use (not for me ever but for some), but I think they are abused, misused, misunderstood and end up doing more harm than good in most cases.
But I use a great pro color calibrated 32-inch mini-LED 4K monitor, pixel peep ever image at 1:1 carefully and have a lot to play with and extreme malleability in LR with Medium Format 100 MP GFX files. I have tremendous latitude in post in LR and the last thing I want to do is apply someone else's edits to my shots. They have not seen my image or know what I'm going for.
Every image is different. Treat it that way in post.
This is not intended to be aimed at you (the OP). I'm lecturing the great unwashed masses of the Forum. :)
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It sounds like you didn’t read my initial post, look at the presets I listed, nor asked to see any of my photos.

It’s simple: if you don’t want to use presets, don’t. Feel free to add something actually useful to this post.
I started using Lightroom about 6 months ago and found myself starting with the same 2 steps. I set a custom profile and auto enhance. So now this happens on import and I adjust from there. For my needs this works well.
I started using Lightroom about 6 months ago and found myself starting with the same 2 steps. I set a custom profile and auto enhance. So now this happens on import and I adjust from there. For my needs this works well.
Glad to hear. I also apply auto tone then tend to bring down the highlights and the blacks. Then, frequently some clarity , dehaze and texture. Most of these adjustments will add contrast, so I may need to reduce Contrast so it doesn't get over worked.
I mean this as no slight at all. But it sounds like you should be shooting OOC jpeg instead of raw.

Let the algorithm decide what is best if you are just going to blindly add all of this mess at import or as a start point in editing all of your raws in LR.

You scolded me for not offering anything useful to the thread, so I apologize for that. You asked if I saw your original post. Yes, I did. It is what inspired my response. So, I read it again. I will list the presets you mentioned in bold and ask why you would want to apply them to all of your images and suggest to you that you reconsider this approach to your photography and post processing.

Import with Auto Tone. Maybe, if you are shooting jpeg? I wouldn't on raw. No way I would ever do that and would advise against it.

Darken background (Select Subject, Invert, reduce Highlights and Exposure). Why would you want to do that as a start point in post on all of your images unless you are in a static repetitive setting of shooting objects or heads in a static setting that doesn't change? You want this even for the majority of shots that don't need it? Then you have to redo it anyway?

Texture, Clarity, Dehaze (a little of all 3).

is a powerful tool that can add a lot of noise and artifacts and other ill effects that won't be desirable most of the time. But when you need it you need it. But you need it rarely. I use it from time to time, but you have to be careful. Using it in a blanket manner is wrong and will not help you but it will hurt you. There have been whole articles written and tests conducted by some great landscape shooters devoted to the pros and cons of using Dehaze. Even LR warned about it when they came out with that tool. You gotta use it sparingly and only when you need it.

Clarity. Absolutely do not need it on many situations, especially any kind of portrait unless it is what you are going for on an old face showing the cracks and lines.... Clarity is overused by a majority of photographers I converse with (like with shadow reduction). It looks good if your audience is viewing on a small screen and it can add pop, if that is what you are going for. I admit I use it on about 20% of my shots. Clarity often adds a bit of help on my landscapes and city scenes. However, that said, I know a great photographer and digital scientist who knows my work as tells me I overuse it.

Texture. No. Texture is a very selective tool and you have to know when to use it. A lot has been written about that slider and exactly what it does. I shoot a lot of doors, walls, city scenes up tight and some twilight landscapes that sometimes benefit from a bit of that. But I'm telling you sir ... listen to me. Don't apply texture to all of your shots.

Highlight Recovery. Remember, once a highlight is blown it is blown, no matter what the camera or post processing. That slider can be powerful, and I admit to using it quite often. It is not really recovering blown highlights but can be useful in bringing out some sky in a high-contrast situation when you fail to nail exposure or intentionally blow unimportant highlights. It is a great tool and LR has improved it greatly over the years. But I would never apply it unless it is needed. And you do not need it on every shot.

Darken Sky (Select Sky, reduce Highlights and Exposure). I do that a lot, but certainly not on every shot. Maybe 8% of my landscapes. Maybe. Depends.

Subject Shadows Lighten (Select Subject, increase shadows and contrast). You mean you lift shadows as a preset on every shot? Or are you talking about adding contrast by increasing shadows? Either way, why do you do this as a preset? This is something that requires particular application to that individual image.

Underwater (white balance and highlight recovery, and Dehaze) I used to shoot a lot underwater back when I was a diver and yes, WB is a problem and it is better to get in right in camera than to just wait for that first shot in post (because of viewing the live view while shooting and getting more room in LR later). Anyway, you could just wait for that first shot then set the white balance in post. But sometimes, like when I shoot IR with a filter, there is not enough room in LR to get it right in post and you have to set a custom WB in camera.

Vignette. I wouldn't set that as a preset because that is a complex topic and you gotta pixel peep to see and correct it when you need to.
I mean this as no slight at all. But it sounds like you should be shooting OOC jpeg instead of raw.

Let the algorithm decide what is best if you are just going to blindly add all of this mess at import or as a start point in editing all of your raws in LR.

Vignette. I wouldn't set that as a preset because that is a complex topic and you gotta pixel peep to see and correct it when you need to.


You said that you re-read my OP, but it's hard for me to get that sense from multiple comments you've made. Let me clarify: I don't use presets to create "looks," and at no point did I ever suggest that I apply all presets at once. And despite your suggestion, I'll continue to shoot in RAW.

Regarding WB and underwater photos. If you are shooting in RAW, white balance is not baking in like jpgs and can be adjusted without penalty in post.

Having shot with an adjustable film camera and worked in a darkroom starting in 1974, having shot RAW files since 2002, and using Lightroom since it was in beta in 2006, and teaching Lightroom since 2011 at colleges, universities, camera stores, other venues, and teaching over 500 hours on Lightroom Classic on Wyzant, an online teaching forum, more than any other teacher, I think I have a reasonable grasp of what I'm talking about.
Apologies Sir.

I misinterpreted your original post and your experience as a photographer and with LR.

I've been shooting for many decades (5) and have no desire to argue with a fellow experienced photographer (we are getting rare these days), who actually is well-versed in the nuances of the whole thing - camera equipment, photography, shooting in a wide array of situations and post processing raw in Adobe.
Your point about WB I'm sure you made to the audience and not to me since I've known that since my first raw shot so long ago and my very first day with LR. WB? I tweak WB on every shot in post and it is a powerful reason to shoot raw.
I will say this though. I got into some very long discussions about two years ago when I started shooting IR with a top-end (and pretty famous) pro photographer of many decades who is also a tester and scientist. (I am not a tester or scientists, but he is.) I asked him about getting WB right in camera for IR vs just editing it in post in LR and he had some very interesting observations about that from a technical point of view.
I won't cover it all here, but there are cases where LR can run out of room on the slider to get it right and Image Fidelity can be improved by getting it right in camera vs the LR edits on WB (in some cases). That is mostly in extreme cases like shooting with an IR filter on longer exposures where the IR images are so far out of the normal expected color range that LR will not have enough room to the left with the sliders to get the WB right and you have that terrible tint that trashes the image and must be corrected before the shot in camera. I have since switched to an IR-converted GFX 50s, and when they convert the camera, they set an in-camera profile with a custom WB setting that is a great start point. Otherwise, LR can't handle it well. It's just too far over out of the normal range when using auto WB (or any of the prifiles). .
Anyway, getting WB right in camera is not a bad idea, but you are right. That is one of the reasons I shoot raw. That is all correctable and fully malleable without cost in post.
My dream (besides 8 TB 200-dollar NVMe M.2 SSDs)? A camera with a true in-camera raw histogram and one not based on the in-camera jpeg.
That's why I use Raw-Digger in post a lot. But I have learned over the years how to use a raw histo and also to not be fooled by the jpeg histo in the live view or EVF of your camera. Sorry - that is a different topic (sort of).
Anyway, I didn't mean any offense and I actually thought I was talking to someone trying to learn LR and playing around with presets and profiles that in my opinion, are not required (but in your case you are a LR instructor, so you have your sound reasons).
We all have our styles and workflow. I'm always trying to learn and adopt other photographer's tricks and workflow habits and would love to hear how a preset might help me vs just doing the edits in post from a cold start, which is my preferred method.
One more thing on a similar topic, like with presets....
I'm a photographer who hates any in-camera or in-LR profile. And I'm not alone. They are a hindrance to every shot I take and annoy me no end. Even with Fuji, who arguably has the best OOC jpeg performance in the industry, I don't like them. Why? Because I shoot raw and care absolutely nothing about any form of jpeg until I am completely through with my editing and export a full-size jpeg for posting to Flickr or a smaller jpeg to send to someone.
I do not want to see the effect that the jpeg in-camera profile has on the jpeg that I'm seeing in the EVF or LCD screen or live view. It creates only problems for me in that the histogram is thrown off and the colors and tones I see in the EVF or live view are not relevant to the edits I will make in LR to the raw. Besides in-camera profiles, the last thing I want to do is apply any profile that LR has to my edits. No. Not for me. But I can see how some people might benefit from it.
I also want a top-end camera with no jpeg settings on the menus and no profiles. But that doesn't exist.
But I have said this for years and I believe it. If one is decent in LR, that person can beat any in-camera profile or out-of-camera jpeg 100% of the time, every time. No exceptions. Now that could change as AI and computational photography advances in mirrorless cameras with bigger sensors and the settings then change on every image. But that will be hard to do on 100MP cameras and when it happens it will probably happen within LR.
One thing I will admit. When I create a virtual copy and do a B&W version of a shot, I kill all the edits I did on the color version and start with a LR B&W profile. There are 21 of them and I have an affinity for BW 1, 3 and 5 and the red filter. They work very well with most scenics I shoot (depending of course on the situation and light). Then I add a bit of contrast and maybe some other tweaks and it is good to go.

Many years ago, the Temperature slider in Lightroom didn’t go that far. That created the myth that you should correct the WB in camera for raw underwater photos, even though raw files do not have a WB and so this ‘correction’ would only record a high value in metadata. It was a myth then and it is a myth now, because there were two ways to set the Temperature way higher than that slider seemed to make possible. The first method was to simply type in the value. You can easily set the Temperature to 20,000 K or higher this way (iirc the slider only went up to 12,000 K at that time). The second method is using the sampler tool. Click on something that should be neutral, and Lightroom will set the Temperature to anything that is needed to get that neutral grey.
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