A while back, we presented a concept of using presets as a creative platform, a series of tools that can be used together to increase productivity and creativity. Since that time, all of our presets have been developed with the platform paradigm in mind. This has inevitably led us to the next evolution in X-Equals Lightroom presets.
Our Preset Platform has been built on the idea that presets should facilitate one of three basic needs.
- The first need is for Inspiration, a creative preset that can be applied to make an image more than what it would be normally. This is the need 99% of presets are designed for in the wild, including our Creative Production Presets.
- The second is a preset can be a Destination, this means that you are shooting your images with this preset in mind, much like one would have chosen their film for in the olden days. Most presets can be used for this purpose and our Cold Storage film presets are designed with this goal in mind.
- The final need a preset can facilitate is that of a Tool. These presets are designed to produce a certain effect, quickly, altering only those properties of the image that must be manipulated to generate the effect.Presets that are designed to be tools should be designed to stack well, as Tool presets should be used in unison with one another, or apply a new spin to an existing preset. The goal is to have discernable effects at your fingertips, eliminating the need to figure out how to generate a given effect in the Develop Module on your own.
These tools should be named with descriptors of their effect, so you know at a glance what effect will be applied. This convention allows you to shift your mindset from adjusting sliders during your creative phase, and instead focusing upon what you want to see in your image. Color Pop + High Contrast Curve + Coarse Grain as opposed to manually adjusting Saturation, Vibrance, Clarity, Tone Curve and Grain settings.
Although using the presets may not get you to your perfect image, these tools will let you rapidly develop your image, getting from a raw image to the final tuning in seconds instead of minutes.
This is the heart of XeL, our newest line of presets. We are creating collections of tools that will allow you to rapidly develop images, getting you close to your intended goals quickly. XeL assists you in all Develop Module adjustments in a quick manner, allowing you to “prototype” images quickly reducing development from adjusting sliders from scratch to simply tweaking the final results.
As opposed to most general presets, where you apply the preset and hope it works or have to adjust until it works, XeL allows you to build up your images applying desired effects, applying no other changes than those desired.
First goal of XeL: Provide a rapid methodology to improve Develop Module workflow, in a concise manner.
Beyond allowing you to quickly shape up your images, XeL is also designed to assist you in creating reasonably accurate reproduction of traditional photographic tools and processes. Some effects are rather laborious to carry out, especially for multiple images.
Consider this …
Think of simulating colored filters for monochrome images.
If you want to apply a color filter to a color image, you can simply apply a Split Tone, but do the same for black and white, you get a tinted image. The most accurate way to simulate a filter is by using White Balance, which is almost impossible to do accurately.
This problem will be solved in XeL with a White Balance preset that was created with a carefully controlled shot of a Gray card. This gray card was shot both filtered with a Tiffen 47 Blue filter and without. The White Balance was then adjusted on the unfiltered shot, matching the blue hue of the 47 filter as closely as possible.
The image was then converted to B&W and the preset saved. From here, this preset can be applied to any image with accurately calibrated white balance (using custom camera profiles), and it will do a generic B&W conversion, with the White Balance altered to simulate the Blue filter. From here you can apply a film emulation preset and get really close to the look of Tri-X shot through a filter.
The work is already done for you. Using these tools in tandem with the rest of the XeL presets, you can simulate a variety of effects, from filter to push processing, quickly and easily.
Second goal of XeL: Provide an intuitive method by which to generate otherwise difficult effects.
XeL was developed directly from our preset development toolkit. These are the little presets bits I use to rapidly prototype a new preset, before I get down to the details. Stealing a bit from the programming world, the preset development system I use for both creative presets and film emulations is based on the concept of modular, reusable presets. This toolkit has been refined, expanded and enhanced to create the basis for XeL.
After you apply a selection of XeL presets, you can further tweak your image, or leave it as is. If you like the results hit ctrl/cmd + shift + N to generate your own preset from the XeL components. When you find a combination you like, make it your own. By creating your own presets from the layered XeL presets, you can further expedite your processing by making your custom recipe of XeL ingredients.
Third goal of XeL: Provide tools that allow anyone to rapidly create their own presets, to further expedite workflow.
There are many more benefits that XeL will provide, but these were the goals I set out to meet in the creation of the XeL Platform. XeL will be released as a series of toolkits; specialized collections of XeL presets that are designed to be used in unison.
The first XeL collection to be released will be XeL: Local Adjustments. We are starting out XeL with the most unique collection. Whereas most XeL compilations will be mostly regular Develop Presets, XeL: Local Adjustments provides an assortment of specialized Local Adjustments, allowing you to quickly apply a variety of effects with the Local Adjustment Brush.
From whitening teeth and altering eye color to dodging and burning, XeL: Local Adjustments will help you rapidly make corrective and creative local adjustments to your images, without the hassle of configuring your settings for the desired effect. The basic work is done; all you need to do is tweak it to your needs.
Next in the release schedule is the XeL: B&W Toolkit. This toolkit contains a myriad of presets, designed to help you create stunning black and white images in rapid manner. Not only does it allow you to create creative monochrome works, but it includes a variety of tools to allow you to emulate many traditional darkroom processes, from push processing and image toning to paper selection and alternative processes.
The XeL: B&W Toolkit will also include an updated selection of black and white film emulations, updated to work well with all other XeL presets, allowing you to truly capture an authentic black and white appearance. The XeL: B&W Toolkit will be ready soon, we’re currently in the final stages of preparation!
These are simply the first two releases. there is a roadmap laid out for future XeL toolkits, all of which will focus on a specialized tasks, such as B&W work, Portraiture, Landscapes and so forth. All of the toolkits are designed to work with one another just like all XeL presets are designed to work with one another – a completely integrated platform.
Each XeL toolkit is just a small piece of the XeL platform. Each toolkit will work well on its own as well as with any other XeL Toolkit.
Oh, and if you are wondering about the name XeL, it simply stands for X-Equals and LifeInDigitalFilm. We pronounce it by pronouncing the letters X, E, L, and we hope you find our toolkits help you excel in your Lightroom workflow.
So, this all starts real soon. Get ready and hopefully your views on presets and their role in workflow will change. Also, if there are any specific effects or processes you would like to see get the XeL treatment, shout out in the comments below.
Michael W. Gray – LifeInDigitalFilm