The making of a Lightroom preset

So i have been playing around with a “hybrid high key” look that I like on certain images. I originally did it as the result of salvaging a “eh” picture but I really liked the look. So I worked out how to take my history of the image and flip it to be a preset. Not only that, but the preset works pretty on other images with some minor tweaks.

My first image was a happy accident but this one is the result of my new preset plus some extra work in photoshop to really dial it in. I applied the preset then loaded it up into CS4 to paint in some color, apply some blur with a mask so I could even out tones, fix the eyes using MCP eye doctor actions and painted in some eyelashes.

Jo - Version 2

Jo Version 2

Now I had the look I wanted, how could I save the look and use it on future images? I need to make a preset for Lightroom. So I created the preset and then I needed to test it on other images. Now the question was could I get the preset to work on a picture of a different tonal range? Here is my original image. You can see she has dark hair and darker skin than my first model.

Basic Bridal Image

Basic Bridal Image

So I apply the new preset and tweak a few things like the vignette and the exposure a touch. And this is what I came back with.

Testing the preset

Testing the preset

I’m pretty happy with the results so far. My new preset gets me within 80-85% of where I want to be with the image and I just need to fine tune the development of the image to bring it exactly to the point I want. The Photoshop edits are a topic for another blog post 🙂

Now, how did I actually make the preset? I used Lightroom 3’s history panel. I made all my adjustments and then made a snapshot of the history.

Lightroom 3 History Panel

Lightroom 3 History Panel

Once I had the snap of the history, I highlighted the new snap and I went to the preset panel and clicked on the + sign to make a new preset. It’s that simple.

Lightroom 3 snapshot dialog box

Lightroom 3 snapshot dialog box

But, you can also see that the whole process of making snapshots and presets can be a VERY powerful aid to your workflow. You can make a preset of virtually anything you can do in Lightroom and use as much or as little of the settings as you want for the preset. In my case, I unchecked a few things like lens corrections since I’m not always shooting with the same lens.

Lightroom 3 Preset Dialog Box

Lightroom 3 Preset Dialog Box

Now just what is in a preset? A preset for Lightroom is just a text file that has all the settings that Lightroom will apply to the image when you “develop” it. These changes are non-destructive which is why you have these text files. If Lightroom had been made several years ago, they would have edited the image directly which is why some of us have alot of copies of the same file scattered around because you never, ever edited the original. This way is much better! Here is the contents of a preset file. I have hightlighted in yellow a couple of setting we all know and love. Both of which I changed in my development of the preset. This file captures those changes and will apply them each time I apply the preset.

Preset File Contents

Lightroom Preset File Contents

Now I can make any image more or less the same using this preset. I dont have to try and remember how I did it or guess at the settings. I can apply it to one image or to many images at once. I can apply it at import or at a later time if I choose. As I said, presets are a very powerful tool for your workflow in Lightroom.

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This entry was posted in commercial photography, editing, editing software, highkey, lightroom, photography, technique, training and tagged , , , , , , .

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  1. […] platfrom (.XMP) files, Lightroom presets do not use XML but the format is pretty easy to follow (Mike Sweeney has written about Lightroom 3 presets and they look pretty similar in Lightroom 2.x to me). By examining the contents it should be […]

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