Presets Aren’t Working? Here’s Some Things To Try!
Mar 11, 2019
Have you ever downloaded a preset, clicked to apply it to your image, and hated the results? Did it look NOTHING like the sample images that led you to purchase the preset in the first place?
This is a well-known problem when using LR presets—and could be due to a number of factors. This post is intended to troubleshoot some common preset issues, and to explain why issues may occur when using LR Presets.
3 Reasons You Don’t Like Your Presets
- Poor Preset Design:
It’s possible that the preset you are using was poorly designed. When some photographers create presets, they create them specifically to work with their own unique shooting style, camera type, lighting preference, etc—and don’t do proper comprehensive testing on all camera profiles, shooting styles, or lighting conditions.
For example, if a photographer who created the presets only shoots in golden hour on the coast, or soft shade with very evenly diffused light, prefers to underexpose and shoots on a Canon—and you often have to shoot in bright sun, or your climate is super cloudy/gray a lot of days, you slightly overexpose and you use Nikon, when you apply that photographers preset, it’s likely it will look incredibly different than their “example” images. Most presets weren’t designed to work out of the box in “all” types of lighting, and many haven’t been properly tested on all camera profiles.
Additionally, as you’ll read below, some photographers have designed their presets to not be very versatile, by including very style-specific adjustments in the preset self—like a specific white balance or exposure adjustment.
- Improper Preset Use:
Another reason why you might not like the results after clicking on a new preset & applying it to your image, is that most presets do require at least a white balance & exposure adjustment to work on your image. There is no preset out there that’s a one click solution for every image. Check out the “troubleshooting” tips below to see if this may be why you don’t like your presets.
- Aesthetic/Style Conflict:
Editing is just one part of the artistic process as a photographer—and looking at example images of someone’s finished work, liking it, and purchasing the preset that they used to edit, doesn’t necessarily mean that you will like the results in your own images. In addition to the fact that many photographers shoot very differently, use different camera settings, and have different equipment—it’s very different looking at a particular editing preset applied to your own work than someone else’s. Some photographers have very specific ways of shooting that when combined with their post-processing creates a particularly unique look, and unless you shoot exactly like them in the same conditions, it’s difficult to get the same results. It could also be just a general mis-match of style—or it’s possible you just don’t like how the preset looks on your own images.
Is one of these reasons the source of your preset issues? Try the tips below to troubleshoot poor preset design or improper preset use issues. I hope it helps!
Troubleshooting Preset Issues
3 Tips to try after applying a preset—before you decide your presets just don’t work
- Adjust Your White Balance
Unless your image is was shot significantly under or over exposed, the first thing to check after you apply a preset is your white balance. Depending on the color temperature of the light you shot your image in, what white balance setting you used, and the undertones of the preset, you may need to significantly warm up or cool down your image in order to achieve the look you are going for. Often the temperature slider (blue>yellow) needs a larger adjustment than the tint slider (green>red)—so adjust temperature first, and then fine-tune the tint. You’ll be shocked how big of a difference getting your WB right after applying a preset makes! I shoot in Auto White Balanace, and find that I normally prefer a WB that is warmer than AWB, and also slightly more “red” to achieve the skin tones I’m after.
Note: Some people sell presets with a white balance adjustment included—meaning that when you click their preset, it will adjust the white balance of your image every time. This is usually an indication of a poorly-designed preset, as it will only work for a very specific lighting scenario and if their camera profile and lighting conditions were identical to the ones you are utilizing. If you have purchased a preset that includes a WB adjustment, make a copy of it, without the WB adjustment and you’ll find that it’s more versatile and less frustrating.
- Fine-Tune Your Exposure
The next step once you apply a preset is to fine-tune your exposure. Sometimes specific tone curves and split toning in a preset means that it looks very aesthetically different color-wise depending on how light or dark your image is. For example, if a preset has blue in the shadows in its split toning, and the image you’re using it on was underexposed, the overall image could look too “blue” for your taste, and increasing exposure could fix alleviate that.
Note: Some people sell presets with an exposure adjustment included—meaning that when you click their preset, it is adjusting the exposure of your image. This is usually an indication of a poorly-designed preset, as it will only work if your image happens to need its exposure adjusted to that exact spot. To make this preset more versatile, make a copy of it without the exposure adjustment included—and it’ll be easier to use.
- Adjust Contrast
The last step to try once you’ve applied a preset and haven’t loved the initial results, is to adjust the contrast slider and see if that helps. It’s possible the lighting conditions that your’e shooting in were either much more contrasty or much less contrasty than the preset was designed for.
Note: Some presets were created only for a very specific camera profile and weren’t tested on different camera systems, and may have way too high or way too low of a contrast adjustment as a default in the preset. If you have found that you are constantly lowering or increasing the contrast of a specific preset to make it work for your images, consider copying it with a contrast adjustment that is more appropriate for your camera profile.
Of course there are tons of other ways to tweak a preset to make it more to your liking—which I go over in-depth in my online editing course, but the three tips above make the quickest & greatest affect to helping get your images to the place that you want.
I hope it helps! Happy editing!