“Editing shouldn’t feel like work.” That is the byline that runs on our ads here at X-Equals for our preset collections we offer for sale. It is a creed that we take seriously here at X-Equals, one that the Lightroom team takes seriously and one you should take seriously as well.
Lightroom makes getting the most out of your images easier and presets allow you to speed up your workflow and quickly try different interpretations of your images.
Lightroom and its presets are a devastating one – two combo, allowing you to rapidly whip your photos into shape. The only problem we run into is that the vast majority of presets are one-trick ponies, one-click fixes that provide effect, but often take images over the top.
Most presets are developed upon a single image, or a series of images all from the same photographer. They are tuned to these works but the applied to the work of others. While often the results are great, I am sure you have found that even the best preset requires a good amount of finessing to line out your image.
Editing shouldn’t feel like work.
This is a situation that Brandon and I have been pondering for the better part of a year, and the Monochrome Toolkit that is a core part of the Creative Production Presets Collection was our first step in switching from a universal preset approach to a modular toolkit paradigm. The Monochrome Toolkit provided small, specialized presets that simulated different aspects of the classic black and white darkroom in Lightroom.
By using these small presets in unison, an image can quickly be converted to monochrome, tweaked for a unique look and ready for export in a matter of a few clicks.
The Monochrome Toolkit laid out the groundwork for our future preset development. No longer can a single preset be a product, it must be a component of a development platform. Presets should be specialized and concise, making a few dedicated edits and they should be used in unison to allow the end user an added level of creativity, mixing and matching effects from different presets.
Our latest presets we have offered in the X-Equals Digest are being shipped as platform presets, and our forthcoming collections will be designed in the same manner. I am currently in the process of revisiting the previous Creative Production Presets and Cold Storage Collections and updating them to be more platform friendly than they already are.
We at X-Equals completely embrace the concept of presets as a platform, and if you spend some time thinking of presets as a processing platform, you will likely embrace it too.
So now, let’s dig a bit deeper into the concept. Let’s look at a standard preset, X-Equals’s Straight Muggin. This preset has been applied to a new image in Lightroom, with no adjustments made. This will let us see what variables were adjusted by the preset.
As we can plainly see, the preset makes a severe adjustment to the tone curve and then provides a custom Black and White Mix. Nothing else is adjusted. Since little has been altered that does not need to be, this preset is a very versatile tool that can be used with other presets to create custom styles.
However, in the platform paradigm, it would be useful to further refine this preset into two contributing presets.
To break a normal preset down into platform components is a simple task. The most simplistic way to do so is to simply save new presets, one for each panel in the Develop Module. So first, we will create a new preset that creates only the Tone Curve from the Straight Muggin preset.
Start by making a new preset by using the shortcut CTRL/CMD+Shift+N. This brings up the New Preset dialog. Give the new preset a name, I chose “Straight Muggin Curve” and only check the Tone Curve Box. Click Create to make the new component.
To create a preset that generates the rest of the effect, again create a new preset. This time make sure that only Color Treatment (Black & White) and Black & White Mix are selected. I named this one “Straight Muggin Mix” and then created the new preset.
With that a standard preset has been converted to preset platform ready component presets. When breaking down presets, it is easiest to simply make the components based on the different panels in the develop module. Save a preset for the Basic, Tone Curve, Color Mix, and Split Toning. You can then make special presets on the Presence settings, Sharpening, Noise Reduction and Grain.
Doing this you can break down your favorite presets into components for easier mixing and matching when editing your images.
That is not to say that you have to convert your favorite presets. You can always apply a standard preset to an image, and then apply a Color Mix from a film emulation preset, Tone Curve from another creative preset and finally a custom Grain preset. As long as the standard preset is the first one applied, the other component presets will stack on top of it, altering only the settings they are made to alter.
Now, when you find a good mix of components that work for you with little alteration, then you may want to consider creating a new standard preset from the image you created with the component presets. This can come in handy when you have perfected a combination that consistently delivers good results.
Just make sure when you create the new preset it only alters what needs to be altered. Do not allow the preset to automatically set other settings to zero unless the desired effect requires it. Presets that play well with others are a good thing.
By changing the way you use presets, you will find your creative channels will amplify. Once you break out of the mindset of one click fixes and move your preset collection over to a tool kit platform, you will find editing will feel more natural, and you will slowly develop your own platform presets and soon you will find most of your time in the Develop Modules will be quickly pairing up presets to get you where you want to be, making a few adjustments and on to export.
It is well worth the effort to change your ways of using presets, and if you continue to use our presets, you will find that over time the platform method becomes second nature.
Michael W. Gray – LifeInDigitalFilm