Hi Friends! Happy Wednesday!
I mentioned in this post that my mom shoots all of my photos and I edit everything. Are we professionals? LOL NO. But, we have come such a long way since I started my blog in 2014. I’ve invested in a great camera & lens over the years, I’ve invested in a Lightroom subscription and I’m really grateful that my mom is always willing to learn photography with me through trial and error. And honestly, I am proud of the photos I share. So today, we are talking all about Lightroom from a content creator’s perspective. What it is, what you can do with it, Lightroom presets and if Lightroom presets are worth the money.
Are Lightroom Presets Worth The Money?
What is Lightroom?
Lightroom is an Adobe application that allows you to organize and edit your photos. It’s available as a desktop program and an app. In order to use the desktop program, you will need an Adobe Lightroom subscription. The monthly fee for the subscription is $9.99 a month and the annual subscription fee is $119.88. I personally like an annual fee so that is the plan I currently have. The app is free to use although there are benefits if you have the subscription.
What can I really do in Lightroom?
There are A TON of things you can do with Lightroom, some of which I probably don’t even know you can do! But, I’m going to share what I utilize the most.
The first being you can upload RAW images and then export them as JPEG images. I prefer shooting in RAW because it allows you to manipulate the photo easier.
You can also organize and move photos. When you import photos, Lightroom already organizes them by date, but you can take it a step further and adopt your own organization method. For example, I like to organize mine by year then location so when I’m shooting locally, I’ll have a folder called “New York” and when I travel, I’ll have a folder like “Vietnam” or “Puerto Rico” and then I’ll have subfolders of each outfit underneath. I like to rename my folders by outfit to help me identify them easily. I use simple terms like “pink gingham dress.” I also have an “Instagram” folder where I’ll import iPhone photos I want to edit and I’ll just organize those images by date. Lastly, I create a “Done” folder so once photos are edited and uploaded, I like to drag them into the “Done” folder just to help me stay organized.
Another feature I like is that you can flag your favorite photos. I personally like to view all images in full screen and then as I go, I’ll hit the number 7 on images I like and then when I finish, I can go to attributes and hit the color yellow to see all of my selects. That helps me narrow down my images and focus and edit on the ones I really like.
As for the actual editing, there are so many ways that you can manipulate and edit an image. I’ve been using Lightroom for a while now so I have my formula that I always use when I’m editing a photo. The beauty of the system is that you can really play around with it to come up with a style you like, this is just what has been working for me.
The first thing I do is work on the exposure, I normally bring it up a bit, but some photos, especially my vacation ones when it’s really sunny, I’ll either lower the exposure or leave as is.
Next, I’ll lower the highlights, increase the shadows, lower the whites and raise the blacks. At this point, I will go into the Temp and raise it slightly to add some warmth. I don’t want my photos to be overly orange, but I do like adding some color and warmth back into the photo. I’ll then work on the tint and move it slightly to add some pink into the photo.
You can also manipulate specific colors by working on the hue, saturation and luminance. One thing I use often is the orange luminance if I feel like the editing is making me look too orange. I also like working with the yellow and green when I have a photo with a lot of landscape.
If I’m working with a DSLR photo, I always hit the “enable profile corrections.” I find that the camera bends the photo and adds a darker outline to the image and when I check that off, it straightens and brightens the photo.
The last feature that I love and utilize is the transform section. I can rotate images here if I feel like they are uneven, I can zoom them in, I can move them up and down, left or right if I want to capture a specific part of the photo and crop another part of it. This has been one of my favorite features to play with because I think you can really create a great image with this.
There are also additional features that you can use to really fine tune a photo. For me, I like to use the teeth whitening tool, not because I’m trying to catfish ya’ll! But, because when I increase the temp of a photo and add warmth, it tends to add a yellow tint to my teeth as well so I like to clean it up a little. I also use the skin softening tool mostly on my legs to help smooth out harsh shadows and honestly any random bruise that I don’t even know where it came from!
Since I’ve rambled on long enough, I wanted to share some before and after photos that I’ve edited. All of these specific photos were taken on a DSLR so they were easier to edit than an iPhone photo. Some photos needed a lot of work and a lot of exposure and some photos just needed some color added back in. You’ll also see that some photos had to be straightened and some I cropped in to create a new photo.
What are Lightroom Presets?
Now that we’ve gone through the basics and then some, what are Lightroom Presets? It’s basically a pre-determined set edit for a photo that you can apply to all photos. A lot of Influencers have been selling their presets so essentially how they edit their photo, you can take that same edit and slap it on your photo. There are a ton of presets out there, some sold by various photography companies and some sold by popular Influencers. But, there are also free ones out there if you do a basic google search or even a Pinterest search. There are also certain presets that only work with the paid Lightroom subscription and presets that are compatible with the free mobile version.
Should I purchase a Lightroom Preset?
Nowadays, it feels like every single Influencer is selling their preset. And with good reason. The most successful accounts on Instagram have a clear theme on their page and a great photo edit. So naturally, all the comments are people wondering how to edit their photos to look just like the photo they saw on Instagram.
I’ve played with my fair share of presets. Some free I found on the internet, one I purchased from a photography company for about $100 and one I purchased from a popular Influencer for $100. They’re not cheap! And the before/after photos shared always look great so I can definitely see the draw.
Prior to using presets, the only thing I did was increase the exposure to make my photos bright. I didn’t understand the other features. Presets introduced me to all the different features like shadows and saturation that make a great image.
With that being said, it’s important to note, and this is a mistake I’ve made and a lot of people do, a preset is not a one click photo perfection. Every photo is different and your lighting and backdrop is different than that of the Influencer you purchased it from so it’s not going to look exactly like their photo. You have to learn how to tweak it a bit to go with your skin tone and your lighting. So there’s a definite learning curve. But, it is a great learning tool and resource if you are trying to get a specific look for your photos. You just have to be patient and willing to put in the work.
Below is an example of photos where I just put the preset on and did not play around with any details (spoiler alert! they kind of suck) just to give you an example of what it looks like because I know a lot of people go into it with expectations that their photos are going to be instantly beautiful with one click.
Okay, but, are Lightroom Presets worth the money?
Yes and no.
Yes, if you are new to Lightroom and new to editing and really trying to get a specific look. Although Lightroom presets are not an easy one step button to a beautiful photo, it’s a great way to learn the different features.
While I don’t use the Lightroom presets I’ve purchased anymore, I’ve learned a lot from them, like what happens when I increase the shadows vs decrease the shadows. And yes, I could have played around with it myself, but I was able to understand the formula of editing photos. Like what an image looks like with an increased shadow and decreased highlight and how they work together. I would take the preset edited photo and play around with each feature to understand the impact on the photo and I don’t think I would have learned as much had I not paid for presets.
But, also no if you have experience editing photos or if you’re just willing to put in the work and do the research. There is a lot of information out there on how to edit photos that you can learn from. Even Lightroom has their own learning courses.
Honestly, it took more time to edit the preset edit to get to what I liked than when I just do it myself.
I also find that a lot of these edits work best when the exposure in your original photo is very low. I try to shoot in decent natural light and so my photos always look oversaturated with the preset. I also find that a lot of presets increase their shadows to the maximum and it makes my hair look washed out. I personally like when my hair looks jet black and hate the washed out look.
I also like treating each photo set individually. I don’t even make my own presets. I like editing each photo individually to bring out the best in it and then using that preset on the other photos in the album, Yes, it takes time, but it’s just what I prefer and what works for me! Below are the images I shared above with the raw presets, but instead with my own edits so you guys can see what I mean. I honestly like them so much more and they were so much easier to edit.
Okay, I know that was a long one, but I really wanted to share a comprehensive post on Lightroom covering all the bases with questions that I had when I first started using the program. I hope you found this helpful!
Thank you so much for stopping by & reading.