Lightroom Presets Demystified - Digital Darkroom Academy

Lightroom Presets Demystified

When you use Lightroom and look at the way others edit their images in Lightroom, presets are often mentioned and sought after. Questions about ‘what presets can I use for creating this look in Lightroom’ are asked too. The subject comes up so often it is useful to explore Lightroom presets more extensively because there is so much more to it then just changing the looks of an image. In this blog we will discuss what presets are and where in Lightroom you can use different kinds of presets. It will show you how useful presets can be to apply all kinds of settings easily. Lightroom Presets can do wonders for your workflow!

What are Lightroom presets?

So, what precisely are presets? They are certain settings that have been saved so you can apply them with one click. PREdefined SETtings is what they are and hence the name ‘preset’. And that one click is the clue and the beauty of presets. It can save you so much time in Lightroom if you can ‘just’ click once and voila, everything you need has been set just the way you needed it to be set!

With just one click, presets can make your workflow more efficient

Predefined settings or presets are not limited to sliders in the develop module although that is the most well known one. To get a better idea of all the kinds of Lightroom presets you can have, here is an overview of the most important modules and places where you can use them:

  1. Import presets
  2. Develop/editing presets
  3. Export presets
  4. Watermarks
  5. Slideshow templates
  6. Print module templates

The last three ‘presets’ (watermarks, slideshow and print module) are not usually called presets but they are in fact just that. Predefined settings that you can apply with a single click. And if you get more acquainted with Lightroom you will notice that all presets have the same file format. They are all a xxxx.lrtemplate file. This information is useful because if you ever want to get someone else’s presets into your Lightroom, you need to make sure they have this file format!

For now, we will not get into these three special versions of Lightroom presets, as they have or will get a separate blog.

Import Lightroom presets

Importing into Lightroom is needed in order to get your images showing up in the library module (as well as other modules). If you are like me, perhaps you too have different setting for your importing. For instance, if you have multiple camera’s they each might require their own import settings. Or different shoots require their own import settings. You can choose to redo all those specific setting every time you import. Or you can choose to have all those settings appear with just one click. In order for that to happen you need to save it as a preset once. Once that is done,  all you need to do is choose that preset for that particular version of your import preferences to be set and applied before hitting Import.

To start making your import preset(s), in the import window make sure to have your settings on the right side the way you want them to be (here, I have chosen ADD, to build 1:1 previews, to build Smart Previews, to Not import suspected duplicates, added Copyrights metadata and a Keyword). Next, click on that little arrow beside NONE as shown in the screenshot.

Lightroom presets

Then select Save Current Settings as New Preset. This will create the import preset with the settings that you have.

Lightroom presets

You are now asked to give the preset a name. It is smart to choose a name that is specific to what you need in order to identify it easily next time you need all these settings (this is my preset for cat shoots) and click Create.

making Lightroom presets

Next time I want to import images from a cat shoot, I will click on the arrow at the bottom of my import window to select an import preset and I can choose the kitties in lightroom one.

using Lightroom presets


A word of caution. Even when using Import presets, always check and double-check that these are the settings you want. This is always important but even more so for those who use Lightroom to copy images to an external hard drive on import. When that external hard drive is not available (it is not plugged into the computer, for instance) Lightroom will change the import location to your Pictures folder on your internal hard drive. Even when you use an import preset that has the external hard drive set as the import location. And it makes sense because Lightroom cannot do what you are telling it to do because the import location is unavailable!

A tip for when you need to change or make adjustments to an existing preset. First select your preset and then make the adjustment in your settings. The preset will now show as ‘kitties in lightroom (edited)’. The next step is to click on the arrow next to this and in the dropdown menu choose Update Preset ‘kitties in lightroom’. This preset is now updated and next time you select it, it will apply the new/changed settings.

edit Lightroom presets


Develop or Editing Lightroom presets

The develop or editing presets is a category all on its own, and there is a lot to know and say about them. That is the reason in the very near future a blog will be added about only those. For now, did you know Lightroom comes with a default set of develop presets? You can find them in the develop module on the left hand side (depending on your version of Lightroom, it might show some different default ones) under Presets.

Lightroom presets

In the next blog on develop presets we’ll talk about how to make them yourself (very useful if there are certain edits you always apply), how to import presets into Lightroom that you have purchased or gotten for free, how to organize your presets panel in the Develop module, and last but not least, where you can apply your develop presets outside of the develop module.

Export presets

Lightroom never touches your originals so you need to ‘take your images out of Lightroom’ to be able to show them with the edits done. In Lightroom, you export your images (most other software apps have a Save or Save As… function).  When you choose Export, a window will open up and allow you to make all kinds of choices for that particular export. Do you set them all every time you want to export or will you save your settings as a preset? I prefer the last one, as my settings are different depending on what I export for. My Instagram images have their own settings, and so do my images that I export to get printed.

Let’s take a look at how to make presets for Export. Select an image in the Library module and click on Export.

Lightroom presets

A window will open up with different panels where you can choose your settings. For this blog, my Instagram export settings will be saved as a preset. The screenshot shows you how my export values for images that I want to use on Instagram are set. Right now, we are not going to discuss why I choose those settings, but they are shown here if you are interested.

export Lightroom presets

Once everything is set the way you want it to be, click on Add found at the bottom left of the sidebar. A window opens up called New Preset and you add the Preset Name (in this case Instagram) and click Create.

The Instagram preset is now showing up in the Users Presets in the export window so anytime you want to export an image for Instagram all you have to do is select that preset and the settings are done. All you need to do now hit Export.

A tip, even if you have the individual tabs closed, they will show the settings within them as you can see in the red rectangle:

save Lightroom presets

Where are my Lightroom presets stored on my computer?

There are many reasons you want to know where Lightroom keeps your presets. If you want to add presets or need to copy them to another computer it is essential you know where to find them. Lightroom needs a place to save all the presets that are being used. To find out where, all you need to is go to your menu bar and on a mac, choose Lightroom > Preferences  and on a PC, Edit > Preferences. Once the Preferences dialog opens, then in the Presets tab, click on Show Lightroom Presets Folder:

store Lightroom presets

A window will open with the folder showing. For me it looks like this, it may look different for you depending on whether you’re on a PC or a Mac:

Lightroom presets location

That is because I choose to store the Presets in Lightroom’s default location. If you have your catalog on an external hard drive and use it on multiple computers you may check the box Store presets with this catalog in the Preferences dialog. As soon as you check that box, Lightroom will look in your catalog folder for your presets. It will show up next to your LR catalog like the screenshot below.




Learn how to use Lightroom to get organized, create amazing photos and cut your editing time in half.

Do keep in mind, if you ever want to have the presets to be stored with the catalog, checking that box is only the first step. You still need to copy the presets from the default location (as shown above) to the new location (as shown below). So you copy the Develop Presets folder and paste it in the Lightroom Settings folder. You have to do this for each folder you see there.

Lightroom presets


Help, all my presets are missing!!!

Ever come across something like this: “I opened Lightroom and ALL my presets are missing. Help!!!”?  Well, very likely, that little check box for Store presets with this catalog got checked in the Preferences dialog and Lightroom is now looking elsewhere for the presets. Usually all that needs to be done is uncheck the box and the presets appear again.

Lightroom presets

Or, if you had been storing your Lightroom presets with your catalog and notice some or all of your own presets are missing, that little box got unchecked and all you need to do is check it again.

Final thoughts

After reading all this I hope you have learned how to make import or export presets to aid in your workflow. And that you have come to realize how useful presets can be. Apart from making your workflow more efficient it can also be a great way to get your import or export set the same way in the same situations.

There is much more to know about Lightroom presets, so stay tuned for more blogs on them!

Kitty Van Gemert

Kitty van Gemert is a passionate photographer who edits almost exclusively in LR. She has been sharing her knowledge about Lightroom for many years helping others. To get a better understanding of how Lightroom works and also helping people with troubleshooting their Lightroom issues. Her focus when helping out is always to ensure empowerment for the user so that their understanding of Lightroom and their confidence in using it grows. For a look at some of her images, check out her Flickr page

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