If you’re a photographer like me, you’ve probably had more than a few of those times where you take a picture and it comes out blurry, or it has shadows or bright white lights in all the wrong places. Maybe you’re going for a retro motif and you want lighting and colors evocative of an earlier era, or you might simply want to give your photos an extra touch to really make them stand out as something special. For me, I’ve found for a number of years that presets have been a big help in terms of my work.
One Click Wonders!
If you’ve never heard of them before, presets are predefined tools available in Adobe’s Photoshop and Lightroom programs. (Grab our FREE Lightroom VIP Preset Collection) You can either buy these, or you can create them yourself so they’re customized to suit your preferences. Best of all, presets can be applied in just one simple click of a button. A lot of photographers use to avoid these presets – after all, they say you can always tell when beauty is manufactured – but these tools have become so sophisticated over the years that lots of professional photographers today have experimented with them and created photos that look completely fantastic and natural without that “manipulated” look at all. When you use presets, the trick to creating natural yet beautiful photos with them is to not overdo it, and also to really know your subject well.
Easily Give Any Image a Custom Look!
Are you doing portrait photography? Commercial? Nature? You can get ideas for how to apply presets by following tutorials online, or you can play around with presets and learn your own unique style. A great place to look for inspiration is also in photography magazines and websites. A lot of people who share their work publicly online have also used Photoshop, Lightroom or both in many cases. Lightroom is a little more streamlined and simple to use than Photoshop, but they’re both cut from the same cloth so if you know how to use one of these programs, chances are you’ll find the other program fairly simple to learn, too. You can even use Lightroom’s presets in Photoshop, and there are a lot of tips online that explain how to do this in detail. If you’ve never used one of Adobe’s photo-editing software products before, online tutorials are a great place to learn the basics.
Presets were great for me because I’m definitely not a tech wizard, and I found that all of Photoshop’s options could get very overwhelming and time-consuming. I used to spend hours editing my photos, only to come out with them looking unnatural and obviously altered past the point when they were originally taken. Photography is what I truly enjoy, being out there with my good ol’ camera, exploring the world and having lots of fun doing it, but presets gave me a lot more time, organization and they also gave me the chance to explore my creative side without having to get too technical. It also allowed for some quick photo retouching on images I wanted to share with my family and friends of birthdays and holidays, getting the lighting and sharpness just right before they went out on social media. These tools are definitely a great time saver, but to me they’re also a lot of fun, too.
Give That Retro Look!
I’m a big fan of retro photos, for instance. Anybody remember the muted yellow lighting of the 1970’s or those bright popping colors of the 1950’s? With Lightroom, I was able to create a preset for each decade with the right balance of saturation, lighting, shadows, sharpness and grain. Brushes and swatches, another huge part of Photoshop and Lightroom that ties into presets, gave me the option to customize my own brushes and colors based off of characteristics I use most often, giving me a much greater ease of access with the programs than I ever had before. Experimenting with different effects sometimes might not result in much, but depending on how you use them, it can give you a whole new look that’s uniquely your own, adding your personal style to every picture you take.
Try Them On Your Scanned Filmed Photos!
One of the best parts of using presets is that they’re not exclusive to one specific type of photography. If you’re an analogue person in a digital world, shooting with film stock and developing your pictures in the darkroom, you might find using digital effects redundant since film is supposed to look more natural than digital, but actually, many film photographers have found a great balance between using a film camera and retouching their shots with digital editing afterwards. This is often the only way to save important photos that look too darkened or washed out. Presets are great in this department. All you need is a scanned digital copy of your film photos and Photoshop or Lightroom, and you’re good to go. I’ve been able to retouch old film photos of myself as a kid from the 1980’s and the presets were great for removing blurry spots, facial blemishes and for mellowing out the look of red eyes in older images. Presets are great for just about any type of subject too, and whether you prefer indoor or outdoor photography, you can always find one that goes well with different types of lighting.
Where should you start with presets though if you’ve never had any prior experience creating your own? A lot of websites make them and sell them, and some are available for free depending on where you look. You can also use the Preset Manager in Photoshop to give you more organization and control over which presets you see first, and this way you can always find which ones you’re looking for. Once you get the hang of it, it’s easy. I’m definitely glad I gave them a chance.
Be sure to check out our shop for a list of Presets and Actions!