Update, April 16, 2015: The comment below reminded me of this post. I had forgotten about it because I subsequently wrote a series of five blog posts on the different ways to use presets in the nine Lr modules. If you’re interested, you can find the first one here: The Many Faces of Lightroom Presets: The Import and Library Modules.
This is going to be a relatively short post – for me anyway. One of the (many) wonderful things about Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is the ability to use presets to speed up your workflow. There are presets for everything from importing to exporting, for slideshows, prints and web galleries (although those are called templates), but for most people, I imagine presets refer to the Develop module presets. Even in the Develop module there are presets for the sliders in the right-side panel and there are separate presets for the adjustment brush/ graduated filter, presets for the Crop tool (specific dimensions) and also for the Camera Calibration tools.
Lightroom comes with a few standard Develop presets but you can certainly make your own, and there are many, many presets available online, some for free and others to purchase. Some people love them, and others don’t use them.
For myself, I find presets often a good beginning place. The ones I use most often are for white balance – I have a set of presets for Daylight, Cloudy, Flash, etc. I have some Black and White presets and some others as well, and often they’ll give me ideas on what I want to do with a given image, although I must say that if I find myself working too hard to make a specific image look good, it’s usually time to ‘reject’ and move on.
When you use Develop presets – whether you make them yourself or if you download them from somewhere else, each preset may be applied to one, many, or all of the fields in the right panel of the Develop module, and this is important to remember because I’ve found that often people simply leave all of the boxes checked when making a preset. This can lead to unexpected results, if you apply, say a black and white preset to your work and discover that it’s also changed the Contrast or the Sharpening sliders for example. Fortunately, all is not lost. If you have a preset that is changing more fields than you want it to, you can right-click on the preset (Cmd-click on a Mac) and select ‘Update with Current Settings’. This will bring up the window that has all of the checkboxes for the different fields in the right panel, and you check or uncheck those boxes that do or do not apply to that specific preset. It follows that when you make your own presets, start by unchecking all of the boxes and then selecting only those that are appropriate.
Have fun playing with Lightroom, and if you’re looking for tips, tutorials and videos regarding Lightroom, you can find links to over a hundred other sites (and I don’t know how many links from there) on my Lightroom Links page.
P.S. This is indirectly related, but if you’re in the Develop module and you want to take the settings you’ve made to one image and apply them to one or more other images, you can do this two ways. One way is to process an image, select the next image want to process with the same settings and click the ‘Previous’ button at the bottom of the right panel. This will only process one image (the active one) at a time. The other way is to select all of the images you want to develop with the same settings, make adjustments to the first one, and then click the ‘Sync…’ button at the bottom of the right panel (or hold down Ctrl/Cmd and press ‘Sync…’ to enable ‘AutoSync…’). When more than one image is selected, ‘Sync…’ replaces ‘Previous’ for the same button. ‘Sync…’ also works in the Library module for Quick Develop and Metadata Settings.
There is a big difference between ‘Previous’ and ‘Sync…’ however, and that is that ‘Previous’ will set ALL of the Develop settings (including spot removal, graduated filters, adjustment brushes, etc.) to those of the previous image you processed, whereas ‘Sync…’ will bring up the box where you may select which adjustments you want to copy over to the new image(s). Use ‘Previous’ judiciously.
P.S. II, the sequel. If you haven’t already, give Lightroom 3 Beta 2 a try. Some of the new features are amazing. Just remember that it IS a Beta and not a final shipping version of the software, so do your own due diligence and the usual caveats apply. If you’re not yet a Lightroom user, Lightroom 2.x can be used free for 30 days before purchase, and Lightroom 3 Beta 2 is free until June 30, 2010.