Making your Lightroom presets look amazing

Lightroom presets are commonly used by Instagrammers and photographers alike. The simple answer to how to use Lightroom presets is to ‘create your own’, but some people don’t want to do that. Others just want a quick and easy form of editing, and some want to use presets as practice before they create their own. I don’t use my own presets because I really struggled to articulate what I wanted by myself without having some sort of baseline to go on. For me, presets are a starting point for me to edit and I always end up adjusting them a lot to make them work for my photos. Some want to use presets as a simple ‘click and go’ filter, which is totally okay too!

girl in the sea holding her dress as a wave comes along

Lightroom presets tend to come with divided opinions. Some believe that a preset should be able to be applied to any photo and work without any adjusting. In my opinion, I think this is completely WRONG. In fact, I would be wary of people who advertise their presets this way because there are so many factors that come into play that means the preset may look very different in your photo, especially for close up portraits.

girl in a pink milk bath on a post about lightroom presets

How to tweak Lightroom Presets

How many times have you downloaded a photographer’s/Instagrammer’s preset and you’ve found that they never look as good on your photos? I know I’ve done that, many, many times! But as I’ve grown accustomed to using presets, I’ve realised there are many different factors which means the preset might not look as good on your photos:

  1. Camera settings. Everyone likes to shoot with different settings on their camera. Some like to shoot overexposed, others underexposed, etc. The fact of the matter is that it’s very unlikely you’ve shot with the exact same settings as the person who created the presets. Sure, they may have tested the preset out on different camera settings, but they can’t account for every different scenario.
  2. I recently shot photos on the other side of the world and you wouldn’t believe how differently I had to navigate these presets! The way I had to edit my photos taken in the U.K. and the photos taken in Vietnam were almost polar opposite. Natural light can differ depending on where in the world you are, so it’s important to take that into account.
  3. Skin tone. Everybody’s skin tone is different, meaning you will probably have to make some adjustments to the way your skin tone looks when using a preset. I’m pale as all hell with red undertones, so of course, my skin will edit differently than the orange under-toned person who has lived in LA their whole lives.
  4. Do you create the same type of content? This is one I learned the hard way. I’ve bought so many different presets because I loved the creator’s images and found that they didn’t work on my photos. It’s important to note that presets may not look right on your photos if the locations are different. For example, if the photos are created for travel content, they may not look right on your indoor photos in one click.
  5. JPEG vs RAW. Many people are now creating presets for people who edit RAW files and those who edit JPEG, which is great because presets designed for RAW photos tend to not work as well for JPEG photos. This isn’t ALWAYS the case, the photos I put in my story have a preset on them designed for RAW photos even though the photos are JPEG, but I would never put a RAW preset on a JPEG feed photo. The colours tend to be way over saturated.

So, How can you work around these?

  1. Camera Settings: I pretty much always play around with the exposure once I’ve applied a preset. Not once have I applied a preset and thought “yep, this is perfect.” I like my photos on the moodier side, which often means decreasing the exposure. If you like your photos more bright and airy, increase the exposure but be careful not to blow them out!
  2. Lighting: This is a bit of a repeat but exposure is your friend here. I’ve also found toggling with the temperature of the photo to really help. If the photo has come out a bit too yellow or orange, decrease the temperature to make it bluer.
  3. Skin tone: Sometimes, my skin tone comes come out a bit too muddy but I get around this by increasing the luminance of oranges. People sometimes play with the luminance of orange to make them look more tanned. Which is obviously completely fine, but do it sparingly. Some presets can sometimes bring out the redness in my cheeks, so I make sure to make the hues of the red more on the orange side (not too much) to get around this.
  4. Do you create the same type of content? I’m going to take @marisa’s presets here as an example. I absolutely adore her photos and her editing style, but I know they wouldn’t work on my photos. Why? Because the tones really compliment travel photos but wouldn’t look as great on mine. Try to find presets from people who create the same type of content as you do.
  5. JPEG vs RAW. If you’re using JPEG photos, I would recommend switching to RAW, but I know that isn’t possible for everyone. Therefore, if you’re not working with RAW photos search for JPEG friendly presets, or ‘mobile presets’.

girl holding phone on green background

Lightroom presets  are really great if you’re just starting out your photography journey as long as you know which ones are right for you. They obviously have to appeal to the look you’re going for but will probably take some trial and error before you find the right ones – but it’s definitely fun to play!