One of the most time-saving features of Lightroom is Presets. Presets are very much like Macros or Actions in Photoshop. Lightroom lets you create two different kinds of Presets: Develop Presets and Metadata Presets. I’ll do an upcoming blog about the value of Metadata Presets. This Blog is about Develop Presets. Much like a Photoshop Action, Develop Presets let you record any series of adjustments that you’ve done on a given image as a Preset that can then be applied to any other image(s) with a single click.
When you click a Preset, it’s effect is added to that of any adjustments or Develop Presets you’ve already applied to that image (unless one of the Adjustments in that Preset happens to be As Shot, which simply removes all the Adjustments that have been made to that file to date). When you’re in the Develop Module, you can preview the effect of any Preset in the list simply by placing your cursor above it. The Preview will change as fast as you drag your cursor over the Preset names.
What follows is a routine I’ve “invented” for applying a series of Develop Presets that will add improvements to all the images that you shot with a particular digital camera and lens.
I first go through all the images in the Library, looking for any that are obviously over- or under-exposed. These are usually unique instances that usually happen because I took a shot or two on impulse or because I did something like firing a flash too quickly. If there are a series of several, I select them all at once. Then I click the Auto Tone button in the Quick Develop panel. If need be, I’ll also brighten or darken the Exposure in the Quick Develop panel. Don’t do this to images that you under- or over-exposed for a specific reason or you’ll loose that effect. Now all your images will look reasonably close to what you originally intended. Now you can use the Presets suggested below to maximize the quality of images from a particualr camera, lens, and lighting setup.
To create a new Preset, first select an As Shot image and make the adjustments that you want to make for that particular Develop Preset. Then open the Preset panel (it’s on the left slide-out) and click the + button at upper right. You’ll get the dialog you see below. This dialog lets you check exactly which adjustments you want to make count in this particular pre-set, as described in the paragraphs below. So for each of the suggestions below, be sure you have the right boxes checked for the Preset you are creating. When you’ve made all the adjustments and checked all the boxes, click the Create button.
When I first Import a shoot, the first thing I use presets for is adjusting all my images for my camera. So I just highlight all the pictures from that camera. That’s usually done with a Cmd/Ctrl + A to select all the images. I then click a preset called something like Sony A-100 Sharpen. I then use the Detail panel’s sharpen slider set to the sharpness that seems to be a minimum requirement for correcting the blurring caused by the interpolation of this camera’s particular interpolation of the colors in the Bayer pattern. To make that determination, I simply rely on my past experience with making this adjustment. However, I’m sure there’s a more scientific way.
You should also calibrate your camera’s color interpretation, sharpness, lens vignetting, and chromatic aberration.
Next, I’ve created a Preset for each of my camera’s ISO settings. I’ve done this by shooting a series of tests with the lens I use most commonly using a friend and a hand-held color card and gray card in sunlight, shade, cloudiness, and a tungsten-lit interior. I then make a Preset for each of these conditions and name it after the ISO and lighting condition. The order of the adjustments I change for each of the Presets is White Balance (using the White Balance dropper on the gray card), Sharpness (this time, a very mild adjustment to compensate for noise), and (most importantly) Noise Reduction. Be sure you make all these settings in a 100% Preview window.
You could also add other adjustments for this routine if they seem to be needed for just about every picture you shoot, regardless of lens, distance, and lighting. I prefer to do that for particular shooting conditions that I find that either my personal preferences, clients, the lens I used, or existing lighting conditions influence. I have one collection of settings for each of the following: Studio portraits, Fashion, Nature, Candid Interiors.
Speaking of presets, there’s a very useful collection of some 80 pre-made presets that have been made by Jack Davis as a free download from the onOne Software home page for MaskPro 4.