The Many Faces of Lightroom Presets: The Import and Library Modules

Hi Folks:

If you mention the words ‘Lightroom’ and ‘preset’ in the same sentence, odds are pretty good that the person is referring to Lightroom’s ‘Develop presets’.  There are a number of sites devoted to sharing and/or selling Develop presets; ‘Lightroom Queen’ Victoria Brampton has an excellent list of such sites here and you can also check out the list of over 200 website links in our ‘Lightroom Links‘ post.  For those who haven’t used them, presets are ways of assigning a series of steps or actions to a one-click movement.  I have a number of Develop presets installed on my computer and I sometimes use them for inspiration when I’m stuck on an image that I’m not sure what to do with, but I rarely use them without tweaking them a bit.  We’ll get to Develop presets in their own time, but there are many, many other presets in Lightroom that can make your workflow smoother and more efficient and I thought I’d highlight a few of them based on each of Lightroom’s modules.  I wrote this originally as one post, but since it’s over 3500 words I thought I’d break it up into segments.  They are:

Import Module

As Lightroom is essentially a database program, to work with images in Lightroom one needs to create an association between where the images are stored on your computer and the Lightroom database (catalogue).  For more on Lightroom’s file management, you may wish to read our ‘Lightroom, File Management and Metadata‘ post.  When one ‘imports’ images into Lightroom, there are a number of different parameters that are set, such as whether to Move, Copy, Copy as DNG or simply Add files from their current location, the destination for where to move or copy the files, whether or not to back up the images to a second destination at the same time, whether or not to create previews (and what size/ quality), whether or not to rename the images, what Develop preset (if any) to apply, what metadata to include, what keywords to add, and so on.  Several of these options can be assigned to presets.

Import Presets 1

a) File Renaming

I have two different file renaming presets that I use, and for slightly different reasons.  My one camera assigns a filename of ‘DSCFxxxx’ by default, where ‘xxxx’ is a sequential file number.  That works well up to ‘DSCF9999’, but the next image becomes ‘DSCF0001’ again and I prefer not to duplicate filenames.  Therefore I have a preset that adds a number to the front of the sequence, changing it from DSCFxxxx to DSCFxxxxx.  I’m currently up to thirty thousand images with this camera, so the prefix I’m using is ‘DSCF3’ and the camera’s name of  ‘DSCF2678’ for example becomes ‘DSCF32678’.  When I get to ‘DSCF39999’ I’ll change the prefix to ‘DSCF4’ and so on.  I use two different capture apps on my cell phone, and they both use slightly different filename structures.  Because I normally sort my images by filename, I want some consistency between the two apps when I import my images into Lightroom.  To that end I use a ‘Date-Sequence’ naming structure when I import my cell phone images, creating a filename of  ‘20130209-1’ for example.  I use other criteria such as keywords and folder structure to identify images so I’m not too concerned about the filenames, as long as each one is unique.  Your workflow may differ and there are a number of options for file renaming.  The point here is that the structure can be saved as a file-renaming preset.

b) Develop Presets

We’ll cover Develop presets in more depth when we get to the Develop module; here I’ll simply state that if you desire you can apply a develop preset on import.

c) Metadata Presets

Metadata as it relates to digital images refers to information ‘about’ the image and breaks down generally into two types.  There’s information added at the moment of exposure – camera make/model/serial number, lens information, exposure information, GPS (for some cameras), etc. and then there’s metadata that’s added later, such as copyright information, the name/address/contact information of the photographer and more.  The first is called ‘EXIF’ metadata, and the second is ‘IPTC’ metadata.  There are quite a number of different IPTC metadata fields, and which of them you fill and add to your images is entirely up to you.  However, once you’ve created a metadata template or templates, you can save them as metadata presets and simply assign a preset to a specific import.

d) Import Presets

Import Presets 2

As you can see from the image above, I have a number of different import presets.  I organize my images under the Pictures folder, then by camera, location and year/month.  For each month’s preset I have a subfolder location where I store the images, a specific file renaming preset, a metadata preset (including copyright information for each year), a standardized keyword set (Victoria, BC, February, 2013, for example, which will automatically add Vancouver Island and British Columbia upon import), and if all of the images I’m importing are from a certain shoot, I’ll add more keywords related to that shoot to the keyword set before importing.  By selecting the January 2013 preset for example, all of the parameters for import are set for me.  For cell phone images I have only one preset/year; for the sake of efficiency I’ll import the images from the phone into Mike’s Cell Phone Images or Marcia’s Cell Phone Images and move them to a year/month subfolder from there.  This is relatively simple as the files are renamed to include year/month/date as part of the filename.

How you set up your imports is entirely up to you, but using import presets can save you a lot of time.  NB: To delete a preset such as an import preset, you need to select it first and then click on the drop arrow beside the import presets.  This will allow you to rename presets, update current settings or delete the currently selected preset.  To create a February 2013 preset for example, I’ll start with the January 2013 preset, change the import destination, change the keyword list from January to February and save the preset as February 2013.

Library Module

Some people prefer to import all of the images from the card into Lightroom, sort through and delete their rejects and then deal with the images that are left. This is something covered in more depth in our ‘Import/ Export Tips for Lightroom‘ post, but once you have your images in the Lightroom library module all of the same presets are available to you, as you can see below:

Library Module Presets

We’ll move on to the Develop module next…


P.S. You can find more of our posts on photography and Lightroom tutorials here, and you can find links to over 200 other sites that have Lightroom tips, tutorials and videos here.

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