The Ultimate Guide to Adding Presets in Lightroom (2023 Update)

Hey there, fellow photographers and Lightroom lovers! If you‘re looking to seriously level up your photo editing game, then you need to start using presets. Trust me, as a professional photographer for the past decade, I can confidently say that presets have been an absolute game-changer in my workflow.

With just one click, you can instantly apply your favorite "look" or style to a photo, saving tons of time and helping you achieve a consistent aesthetic across your images. It‘s no wonder why presets have become such an essential tool for photographers of all levels.

In this ultimate guide, I‘m going to walk you through everything you need to know about using presets in Lightroom Classic and the Lightroom mobile app. I‘ll cover how to find and install presets, my top tips for staying organized, and even how to create your very own custom presets.

So whether you‘re totally new to the world of presets or a seasoned pro looking to refine your process, this post has got you covered. Let‘s dive in!

What are Lightroom Presets?

First things first, let‘s make sure we‘re all on the same page about what Lightroom presets actually are. In a nutshell, a preset is simply a saved set of edit settings that can be applied to a photo with a single click.

Presets can include any adjustments you make in Lightroom‘s Develop module, such as exposure, white balance, tone curve, HSL, split toning, sharpening, noise reduction, lens corrections, and more. You can think of presets as your own personal "filters" that reflect your unique style and creative vision.

One of the biggest advantages of using presets is the ability to achieve a consistent look across a batch of photos from a shoot. Rather than having to manually edit each image individually, you can simply apply your go-to preset as a starting point and then make minor tweaks as needed. This is a huge time-saver and makes it so much easier to deliver a polished, cohesive final product to your clients.

Presets are also a fantastic way to experiment with different styles and find new sources of creative inspiration for your photography. You can use presets created by your favorite photographers or even download huge bundles containing hundreds of presets in every aesthetic imaginable. The possibilities are endless!

Where to Find Lightroom Presets

So now that you know how awesome presets are, you‘re probably wondering where you can get your hands on some. The good news is that there are presets available to suit literally every photography niche, editing style, and budget. Here are some of the best places to look:

1. Adobe Creative Cloud

If you have a paid Lightroom subscription, you actually already have access to a selection of free presets created by Adobe. Simply open Lightroom, head to the Develop module, and look in the Presets panel on the left to browse the default options. While these presets tend to be more general/basic, they can be a good starting point if you‘re new to using presets.

2. Photography Websites & Blogs

Many professional photographers and educators sell their own signature presets online as digital downloads. You can find paid preset packs on portfolio websites, Etsy shops, and educational blogs. One advantage of buying from individual creators is that you can preview their work and know exactly what kind of aesthetic you‘re going to get. Prices typically range from $15-$50 for themed packs containing anywhere from 20-100+ presets.

Some of my personal favorite pre-made presets come from the Mastin Labs, Tribe Archipelago, and VSCO. But there are so many fantastic options out there at all different price points, so I definitely recommend doing some research to find the best fit for your creative style.

3. Free Preset Roundups

If you‘re on a tight budget or just want to dip your toe into the world of presets, there are also tons of free preset packs floating around the internet. You can often find roundups of free Lightroom presets on photography blogs and resource sites.

While the quality and usability of free presets can sometimes be hit or miss, this is a great low-risk way to play around with different looks. One of my favorite free preset sources is the appropriately named FreePresets.com, which has a huge library of presets organized by theme, effect, and editing style. PresetLove.com is another awesome site that rounds up free presets from various creators.

How to Import Presets into Lightroom Classic

Alright, so you‘ve found some presets that you‘re excited to try out. Now it‘s time to actually get them installed in Lightroom so you can start using them! Here‘s a quick step-by-step breakdown of the process:

Step 1: Download and Unzip Your Preset Files

Once you‘ve purchased or downloaded your desired presets, they will likely be in a compressed zip file. Find the zip file on your computer (it‘s usually in your designated downloads folder) and double-click it to extract the contents. I recommend saving your extracted presets in a dedicated folder that you can easily locate in the future.

Step 2: Open Lightroom and Navigate to the Develop Module

Boot up Lightroom Classic and open the Develop module by clicking on the word "Develop" in the top-right corner or simply pressing the D key. Look for the Presets panel on the left side of the screen (it‘s right below the Navigator). If the Presets panel is collapsed, click the small triangle to the left of the word "Presets" to expand it.

Step 3: Create a New Preset Group (Optional)

This step is optional but highly recommended for keeping your presets organized! To create a new group for your presets, right-click anywhere in the Presets panel and select "New Group…" from the menu. Give your group a descriptive name (I usually use the name of the preset pack) and click "Create."

Step 4: Import Your Presets

Now it‘s time to actually bring your presets into Lightroom. Right-click anywhere in the Presets panel and choose "Import Presets…" from the menu. Navigate to the folder where you saved your extracted preset files (they will have a .xmp or .lrtemplate extension) and select the ones you want to import. Finally, click the "Import" button to bring them into Lightroom.

And that‘s it! Your new presets should now appear in the Presets panel, ready to be applied to your photos with a single click. If you created a preset group in Step 3, make sure to drag and drop your imported presets into that group to keep everything nice and tidy.

How to Install Presets in the Lightroom Mobile App

Want to use your favorite presets on the go? Luckily, it‘s super easy to install presets in the Lightroom CC mobile app as well. Here‘s how to do it:

Step 1: Download Your Preset Files on Mobile

Using your mobile device, download the preset files just like you would on desktop. Most preset sellers will include a .DNG file for mobile alongside the .xmp or .lrtemplate files used for Lightroom Classic. Make sure to download the .DNG files to your phone or tablet.

Step 2: Import Presets into the Lightroom App

Open the Lightroom CC app on your mobile device and open any photo in your library. Then, follow these steps:

  1. Tap the "Presets" icon at the bottom of the screen (it looks like three sliders).
  2. Tap the three dots in the top-right corner of the Presets menu.
  3. Select "Create Preset" from the popup menu.
  4. Tap the "Import from DNG" button at the bottom of the New Preset screen.
  5. Locate and select your downloaded .DNG preset files.
  6. Tap the checkmark in the top-right to finish importing the presets.

Your mobile presets will now show up in the Presets menu under the "User Presets" section and can be applied to any photo in the Lightroom app. So easy!

Tips for Organizing Your Lightroom Presets

Between the default Lightroom presets, free packs, and your own custom creations, your Preset panel can get cluttered fast. Here are some of my favorite tips for keeping your presets organized and easy to find:

  1. Use descriptive names for your preset groups that reflect the pack name, creator, or general vibe (i.e. "Mastin Labs Fuji Pro" or "Warm Golden Hour"). Avoid generic group names like "Presets 1."

  2. Create master groups for broad categories like "Black & White," "Landscapes," "Portraits," etc. and store related presets as nested groups inside.

  3. If you have a ton of presets from a certain creator, try organizing them into sub-groups based on the different packs/themes.

  4. Don‘t be afraid to delete presets that you never use! There‘s no need to clutter up your panel with hundreds of one-off presets you downloaded on a whim. Stick with the ones that genuinely bring you joy and fit your style.

  5. For presets that you use all the time, consider adding them to your Lightroom Favorites menu for even quicker access. Simply right-click a preset and choose "Add to Favorites" from the popup menu.

The key to preset organization is finding a system that works for your personal workflow. Don‘t be afraid to experiment with different setups until you land on one that feels intuitive to you.

Creating Your Own Custom Lightroom Presets

While pre-made presets are a fantastic starting point, I highly encourage you to also try your hand at creating your own custom presets! After all, no one knows your creative style better than you do. Plus, crafting your own go-to presets is one of the best ways to speed up your personal editing workflow.

To create a custom preset, simply edit a photo in the Develop module until you‘re happy with the look. Then, click the plus sign (+) on the right side of the Presets panel and select "Create Preset…" from the menu.

Give your preset a name, choose which settings you want to include, and select a group to save it in (or create a new group). Once you‘ve dialed in the preset to your liking, click the "Create" button to save it.

And there you have it — you‘re very own signature Lightroom preset, ready to be used on any photo with a single click!

I like to create custom presets for specific shooting scenarios (golden hour, deep shadows, dreamy landscapes, etc.) so I can quickly apply a base edit and tweak from there. It‘s also fun to create your own versions of popular film looks or try to recreate the signature style of your favorite photographers.

Remember, presets are meant to be a starting point, not a one-click solution. Feel free to adjust the settings after applying a preset to really make the edit your own! The more you practice creating and fine-tuning your own presets, the more efficient and personalized your editing process will become.

Wrap-Up

Whew, that was a lot of information! But hopefully this guide has given you all the tools and inspiration you need to start harnessing the power of Lightroom presets in your own photography journey.

To quickly recap, here are the key takeaways:

  • Lightroom presets are pre-saved editing settings that can be applied with one click to speed up your workflow and achieve a consistent aesthetic
  • You can find presets for purchase on photography websites, as free downloads, or by creating your own
  • Install presets by downloading the files, unzipping them, and importing them into the Lightroom Classic Develop module or mobile app
  • Keep your presets organized by using groups, culling old ones, and marking your favorites
  • Experiment with creating your own custom presets to maximize your editing efficiency

I genuinely believe that using and creating Lightroom presets has the power to transform your editing game and help you find your unique creative voice as a photographer. Plus, it‘s just plain fun to play around with new looks and inch closer to nailing those chef‘s kiss dream edits.

So what are you waiting for, my friend? Go forth and preset! Your photos (and inner artist) will thank you. And if you have any other great preset tips or resources to share, please drop ‘em in the comments below. Let‘s keep the preset party going!

Happy editing!

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