Snapping a picture is only a fraction of the entire process of publishing a photo. This can be both a good, and a bad thing. A good portion of the image creation process takes place in ‘post’ or post production. Usually, this is via Adobe Lightroom or sometimes Adobe Photoshop. There are some other alternatives, but for the sake of this discussion, Lightroom is the main software being discussed.

Having so much flexibility in post can be good for numerous reasons such as poor lighting, framing/composition, wrong settings used on your camera and so on.

It can be bad for a number of reasons as well. Some of those include:

  • Can serve as a crutch for bad photography practices
  • Not using your camera correctly (inaccurate IOS/shutter/aperture/etc.)
  • It can take away from your original idea as there are too many options available

I absolutely love presets. They are great, quick ways to reprocess an image and give it a unique look that I might not have had in mind originally. I have about a good handful (10-15) presets that I like exploring with. I do not use them always though. Instead, I have them there as references. I use them to allow me to see an image from a different perspective to ensure I’m happiest with the way I chose to process it. Sometimes, I may trash all of my adjustments in light of the different perspective a preset gives me. Sometimes, reviewing the image via a new angle helps reiterate the direction I chose. Either way, I use them as a means of optimizing the quality and artistic expression.

I have seen some photographers on the extreme ends of the spectrum when it comes to presets. Some are anti-preset and look down upon anybody who even considers such ‘blasphemy’. Then, there are the less confident photogs who only feel proud of their work when using ‘tried and true’ corrections that presets provide. These are obviously both extremes and you really should find a good place somewhere around the middle. Exploring new artistic expression through presets can be inspirational and helpful if you’re in a rut or are stuck trying to dial in the best settings for an image. But, using presets too often can become a detriment to your art and hold back your progress as a photographer because you are relying too heavily on post instead of considering the actual moment of the image being captured.

So, find yourself a couple fun presets and see what happens. Here are a couple that I have found to be great tools in my workflow: