The Ultimate Guide to Using Lightroom Classic Develop Presets

by Andrew S. Gibson
The Ultimate Guide to Using Lightroom Classic Develop Presets

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If you are new to Lightroom Classic or not yet totally comfortable with the Develop module then you may be wondering if there’s a way to speed up the process of developing your photos.

The good news is that there is. The answer is to use Lightroom Develop Presets.

What are Lightroom Develop Presets?

A Lightroom Develop Preset is a record of the Develop module settings used to develop a particular photo.

Saving the settings in a preset lets you apply those settings to other photos.

The end result is that Lightroom Develop Presets give you a quick and easy way to develop your photos in Lightroom Classic.

Types of Lightroom Develop Preset

There are three different types of Develop Presets.

Single-click presets

These are presets that you apply to your photos with a single click. Afterwards you can tweak the settings by going into the right-hand panels and moving the sliders.

For example, our Vintage Portrait Presets are single-click presets.

Modular presets

These are designed to help you develop photos without having to touch the tools in the right-hand panels.

The best systems are designed for speed and aimed at professional wedding and portrait photographers who develop large numbers of photos in a short time.

Some Develop Preset packs offer a combination of both systems – single click presets combined with modular presets that let you adjust settings such as contrast and Clarity from within the Presets panel.

Advanced presets

It is relatively easy for advanced Lightroom users to create their own single-click and modular preset systems.

But there are some preset systems that take specialist knowledge to create. A good example is the film emulation presets made by Mastin Labs.

Each preset is created after carefully analyzing photos created with film. The company’s founder is obsessed by film and creating accurate presets that replicate specific films. This is a resource heavy process that most photographers can’t replicate.

With this type of preset you are paying for somebody else to do the hard work.

Advantages of Lightroom Develop Presets

Lightroom Develop Presets have lots of benefits, particularly for newcomers to Lightroom.

Develop Presets work within the Lightroom workflow

You can create several versions of the same photo in Lightroom by applying presets. Because of the way Lightroom works, the extra versions take up virtually no hard drive space.

Learn more: What is the Lightroom Classic Catalog?

Compare this to using plugins, where Lightroom has to create a 16 bit TIFF file to send to the plugin.

Plugins are versatile and do a lot of things that Lightroom doesn’t. But the workflow advantages of using presets means that, for a simplified workflow, Develop Presets should be your first option.

It’s a good habit to only use plugins to gain access to tools that Lightroom doesn’t have.

Develop Presets teach you how to use Lightroom better

The great thing about Develop Presets is that nothing is hidden. You can look at the settings a preset changes to see how it works.

This makes Develop Presets a great learning tool. I have learned many techniques by applying presets then analyzing the settings used.

For example, here is a photo that I developed using the Vintage 30 preset from the Vintage Portrait Presets.

Lightroom develop presets

The preset gives the photo a kind of faded look. There are several factors that contribute to this, but a major one is the Tone Curve. A quick look at the Tone Curve panels shows us what is going on.

Lightroom develop presets

The way the curve is lifted on the left-hand side means that there are no true black tones in the photo.

This technique is fully explained in How to Create the Black & White Matte Look in Lightroom Classic.

Develop Presets are a great starting point

You can use presets as a starting point, then go to the right-hand panels to make more adjustments and apply local adjustments. The preset is a shortcut that gets you to the starting point more quickly.

Develop Presets make bulk processing easy

If you take lots of photos of the same subject during a shoot you probably want to develop them in a similar style. This is easy to do with Develop Presets, as you can apply them to as many photos as you want in one go.

Develop Presets help you develop a consistent style

Style is a mixture of photographic and Lightroom technique. It’s possible to use such a wide variety of developing techniques in Lightroom that there’s little cohesion to your photography portfolio.

Presets can help you achieve more consistency. Once you’ve found a look you like, you can create a preset from it to apply to other photos.

Consciously using the same look or style (encapsulated in a preset or set of presets that are similar) helps you create a body of work that is consistent in style.

For example, I developed these three photos in a similar style using Develop Presets.

Lightroom develop presets
Lightroom develop presets

Develop Presets are adaptable

Let’s say you buy a Develop Preset from somebody else. You apply it to a photo, then adjust some settings specific to your particular image.

Now you can make a new Develop Preset using those new settings. In this way you are building on the work done by somebody else, adapting it to suit your needs and style.

Where can I buy Lightroom Develop Presets?

Develop Presets are designed so that they are easy to share with other photographers. Some photographers give presets away for free, but the best ones usually have a price attached.

A Google search for Lightroom Develop Presets brings up a list of websites that create and sell presets for you to buy.

Unlike plugins, it isn’t possible to use Develop Presets on a trial basis. That means there’s an element of guesswork when it comes to buying presets.

Most presets websites offer some free presets in return for signing up to an email newsletter. This is a good way to test out the product without committing to a purchase.

Some websites also offer a money back guarantee for peace of mind. I’ve purchased several products over the years (thankfully not many) that I wasn’t happy with and each time the seller refunded my money without any hesitation.

You can learn more about the Lightroom Develop Presets I sell here at Mastering Lightroom in my tutorials:

Lightroom Develop Presets

I’ve also reviewed a couple of Lightroom Develop Preset systems created by other photographers. You can read about them here.

Where are Lightroom Develop Presets saved?

Your Lightroom Develop Presets are saved in a specific folder. To find the name and location of this folder go to the Presets tab in Preferences and click the Show Lightroom Presets Folder button.

Lightroom develop presets

Your computer opens a folder called Lightroom in Finder (Mac) or Windows Explorer (PC). It contains several folders. One of these is called Develop Presets. All your presets are stored in there.

Develop Preset file are easy to recognize as they end with .lrtemplate.

When you buy Develop Presets made by somebody else you need to copy them to this folder. They appear in the Presets panel after you restart Lightroom.

Applying Develop Presets

Start by opening your photo in the Develop module. Go to the Presets panel and look at your list of presets.

When you move the mouse cursor over the name of a preset Lightroom displays a preview in the Navigator panel.

Lightroom develop presets

Click on the preset to apply it to your photo. If you need to make adjustments to the settings by going to the right-hand panels. You can do this in the Presets panel if you are using a modular preset system.

If you don’t like the preset just use the Undo command to reverse it.

Develop Presets in the Library module

Applying Develop Presets in the Library module is an under appreciated feature. It’s a quick way of developing photos in Lightroom that will appeal to advanced users.

Start by going to Grid View and selecting the photo you want to develop.

Go to the Quick Develop panel on the right. You’ll see a menu called Saved Preset at the top. All your Lightroom Develop Presets are listed here. Select the preset you want to apply to your photo.

Lightroom develop presets

This method works best when you’re so familiar with your Develop Presets that you know which one you want to apply to your photo.

Learn more: Take Control of Lightroom Classic’s Grid View

Applying Develop Presets to multiple photos

This is easy in both the Develop and Library modules.

In the Develop module, select the photos you want to apply the preset to in the Film strip.

In the Library module, select multiple photos in Grid View.

Then use the methods outlined above to apply a Develop Preset to the selected photos.

Creating Develop Presets

Now let’s look at how you can create your own Develop Presets in Lightroom Classic.

The first step is to select a photo and develop it in the Develop module.

When you’re ready go to Develop > New Preset or click on the + icon in the Presets panel.

Lightroom Develop Presets

The New Develop Preset window appears. There are three important parts to it.

Lightroom develop presets

1. Preset Name and Folder

Here you decide what to call the preset and where to save it. The default folder is User Presets but you may want to create new folders with relevant names (such as Black & White presets, Vintage presets etc.).

You can create a new folder by going to Develop > New Preset Folder. You have to do this before going to Develop > New Preset.

2. Auto Settings

Tick the Auto Tone box if you want Lightroom to automatically set the tones of any photos that you apply the preset to.

If you are creating a preset for a black and white photo then you’ll see the additional box Auto Black & White Mix. Tick this if you want Lightroom to automatically adjust the B&W sliders in the HSL / Color / B&W panel.

3. Settings

This is where you decide which settings you want to include in the preset.

It’s important to understand the implications of what you are doing here.

You need to think about what settings you want to include in the preset, and what you are going to use the preset for.

For example, if you are creating a preset that you want to apply to photos taken with any camera, then you should leave out settings like Lens Corrections and Transform as these are specific to the camera and lens used to take the photo.

Likewise, you would only tick the Calibration box if you have set Profile in the Camera Calibration panel to Adobe Standard. This is a universal profile you can apply to photos taken with any camera profiled by Adobe for Lightroom.

You would probably also leave out Radial and Graduated Filters as these are local adjustments specific to the photo.

Are there any downsides to Develop Presets?

The only practical downside of Develop Presets is that a large number of presets may make Lightroom run more slowly.

That’s because when you open a photo in the Develop module Lightroom generates a thumbnail for each preset to display in the Navigator panel, if needed.

According to Adobe, if you have more than 2000 presets in your collection it can make a noticeable difference to Lightroom’s speed.

This is not necessarily a bad thing as it encourages you to buy or create presets in moderation. It’s better to have a few sets of presets that you know how to use well than lots of presets that you never use.


Lightroom Develop Presets are a powerful tool that every Lightroom user should learn how to use. They have a wide variety of applications and help make your Lightroom workflow more efficient.

Do you have any questions about Lightroom Develop Presets? Please let us know in the comments.

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Ian Douglas December 25, 2017 - 10:34 pm

Hi. Is there any way that you know of — perhaps a third party script — that would allow me to see a grid of previews derived from all my presets when working on a single image? I find going through all my presets to find the one I want at any given time very tedious. But if I had a grid of all possible options, I could scan and select the one that fit my needs. Presets are great, but if you have several hundred, it becomes unwieldy in a normal workflow.

Andrew S. Gibson December 26, 2017 - 11:31 am

Hi Ian, yes there is! You need the Excessor plugin. It does exactly what you need. I wrote about it here:

Ian Douglas December 26, 2017 - 12:29 pm

Thank you, Andrew! I really appreciate it. Excessor works very well!


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