The Cumulative Power of Presets

Lightroom offers a great way to save time by the use of presets, allowing you to apply multiple processing parameters with a single click. Those same preset options will allow you to also apply a single parameter. What you should know about the develop presets is that applying one wont necessarily remove another. It all depends on the selections at the time the preset is created.

Here are some basic examples to explain what I mean.

In this first Develop Preset the only item checked is the Auto Tone. The only thing that will happen when using this preset is the application of the Auto Tone setting in the Basic Panel. This is quite a useless preset by itself as the Auto Tone is also a one click option but it will be useful to show the accumulative effect of presets.

I am going to create two more basic presets:

#2 Strong Tone – Clarity – Vibrance
In this Develop Preset I have checked some Tone and Clarity options but unchecked the Auto Tone option even though it may have been applied to the image.

#3 Strong Tone -Clarity 0 – Vibrance 0
Here I start to make errors. I have reset the Clarity and Vibrance sliders to a value of zero but have not recorded that fact on this preset. So in fact the preset is mis named and confusing.

Applying this preset alone to another image will not invoke the Auto Tone setting in the Basic Panel but more importantly, applying the “Auto Only” preset will NOT remove any of the settings applied by the “Strong Tone – Clarity – Vibrance” preset. The presets are cumulative.

If I were to apply these presets in order:

1 Auto Only
2 Strong Tone – Clarity – Vibrance
3 Strong Tone -Clarity 0 – Vibrance 0

Here’s what would happen:
The Auto Tone would be invoked from #1, then the Tone Curve, Clarity and Vibrance Settings would be applied from #2 but the Auto Tone would remain from the first preset. Then, after applying #3, nothing would happen to the Clarity and Vibrance settings as the zero values were not recorded and therefore not overridden. Similarly, selecting the first preset again would not reset all the other changes made to the image as that preset ONLY recorded the Auto Tone option.


Try them for yourself – download the presets and apply them to an image. If you open the Basic Panel and the Tone Panel you will see what is changed and what is left alone. Apply them in different orders to test what is and what is not overridden.

So now you might ask – “why don’t I simply use the “check all” option and record everything so everything gets overridden with each preset“. Well, you could. But that would mean an awful lot of presets requiring quite descriptive names just to begin suggesting what they might do. It would also severely limit the combinations possible with your Develop Presets.

Heres an example.
Let’s say you had spent some time fine tuning an image in terms of tone, color, saturation and all, then you wanted to apply some sharpening in varying amounts. A preset for sharpening would come in handy but not if that preset had all the other options selected. It’s more likely that you’ll apply very similar sharpening settings to many images but wildly different tone, color and saturation settings to each.

Setting up different sharpening parameters where only the sharpening panel was changed is a really useful way of applying and seeing different sharpening at a glance.

You can also put them in a separate folder specifically for that task. This helps to organize your presets making them much easier to use later.

Don’t forget a reset
If you build presets based on a specific developing attribute such as sharpening you may find it useful to have a preset that will reset only that portion of the develop panel. So if you change your mind about any sharpening for example you can simply use the preset to clear all sharpening values to the default level or a base level of your choice. Creating a Reset Preset is simply a matter of setting the values to the Lightroom default, or your own preferred starting point and creating a new preset. Here I have used the * in front of the name just to be sure it appears at the top of my list.

How do I install a Develop Preset?
Installing Presets is actually very simple. First, open Lightroom and navigate to the Preferences. Click the Presets tab, then click the “Show Lightroom Presets Folder…” button.

Inside the Lightroom Presets folder you will find the Develop Presets folder. Copy or move the folder you downloaded earlier to it. Relaunch Lightroom. You should now see the presets folder in the Presets Panel of the Develop Module.