Do All Photographers Use Presets?

Photo editing presets are something you’ve probably heard a lot about, but do all photographers use them? Editing presets offer a helpful way to speed up the editing process by applying pre-made adjustments to your photos. Their advantages are clear, but there are also many arguments against using presets as a photographer. So is it true that all photographers use presets for photo editing?

The majority of professional photographers use photo editing presets to help limit the time spent editing photos. Many photographers will create their own photo editing presets based on their personal style. However, it’s also common to buy presets from other people since it saves the time of creating the presets. Photographers may not use a preset for every photo they edit, but they are a valued tool for improving one’s editing workflow.

Are Presets Necessary For Photographers?

A preset is a combination of pre-made photo editing adjustments that control exposure, brightness, clarity, contrast, etc. There are also sliders that turn the greens bluer, mute out the reds, crush the shadows and add vignettes. You can develop your own or even buy various presets for the kind of photography you shoot. These presets can be made to apply subtle brightening adjustments or go more in-depth with selective adjustments and other creative effects. Every preset you create can be developed according to what you think fits your style or niche.

Presets are not necessary for all photographers to use, but you can’t dismiss the fact that they’re incredibly convenient, especially time-wise. Applying a preset with just a click is as easy as it gets. But there’s a catch: you still have to make some fine-tuning.

Presets are not a one size fits all approach, nor are they a magic wand that will automatically make all your photographs look perfect. You have to adjust them according to the particularities of each picture. You have to consider many factors when using a particular preset on a batch of images –  the light,  the colors in the photographs, the textures, or what mood you want to convey.

While some desaturated greens may look good in a particular photograph, applying the same combination of settings on others may not give off the same vibe. Likewise, a vignette works for some pictures but can be an eyesore on others. Just because a preset looks great with one photo doesn’t mean it will look the same on another. 

In a nutshell, presets are a very convenient way to edit many photos more quickly while only worrying about the minor changes you have to make afterward. They provide a quick starting point for any edit and are among the best time-saving tools available for photographers.

Why Presets May Not Be Ideal For You

With that said, presets aren’t necessarily suited for every photographer. For example, if you mainly use Photoshop to meticulously edit your photos, then a preset wouldn’t offer much since every photo requires something different.

On the other hand, if you’re batch editing photos in Lightroom, presets will quickly enhance a large number of photos with a single click. It ultimately depends on how you approach your photo editing.

If you treat every edit a little differently, then presets probably won’t be super helpful.

But if you want to make your photos have a consistent feel, then presets are the easiest way to achieve that!

What Is The Advantage Of Using Presets?

The main advantage of using preset for photo editing is that it saves time. Rather than manually adjusting your photo to give it a certain look, presets will get you there in one click. Presets also prove useful when batch editing images or giving your photos a consistent feel. 

Editing presets shorten your time investment significantly and reduces repetitive work across multiple photos. Let’s say you just imported all the photos from a trip you just went on, and now you want to edit them. Rather than going through all 100+ photos and editing them manually, you can apply a single preset to the entire batch. Now in one click, you’ll have enhanced an entire folder of images. All that’s left is to go through and make some subtle tweaks depending on the brightness of your images.

How freakin’ awesome is that?

Another advantage to using presets comes with developing your editing style. Every professional photographer knows the importance of having someone recognize their work. Presets help your photography become more recognizable as you begin to establish a style that coincides with your brand. This way, your portfolio can be something that people will notice INSTANTLY. If most of your photographs have the same “feel” to them, then you’re on the right path to creating your own editing style.

Besides just improving your work, your presets can help others do the same. After you’ve developed presets of your own, you may consider selling them to help others achieve a similar look in their images. This is an extremely common thing to do in the photo industry and helps many casual or newbie photo editors. Rather than spending years mastering photo editing, they can get the results they want in one click. 

After all, if selling presets you already use adds revenue to your business, then why the heck not? Your presets can not only help you improve your editing workflow but also add actual money to your pocket. Score!

Do Presets Work On All Photos?

Although presets can be applied to any photo, that doesn’t guarantee it will look the way you want. Since every image has different exposures and colors to work with, it’s difficult for a single preset to look perfect every time. Instead, try developing groups of presets for specific types of photos, such as a sunset preset group or a portraits preset group, for example.

You can apply any preset on any photo, albeit that doesn’t mean that it will turn out great every time. Your preset is not the only thing that is responsible for the final result. Unfortunately, when it comes to editing, there’s no easy way out. You can simplify your work by applying a preset to your photos, but you still have to do some refining to make your presets look perfect. This will all depend on the image you’re working with!

Before you use a preset, there are a couple of things to consider. First, the picture has to be reasonably good before you apply the preset. The best preset ever made still won’t make a bad photo good, so get it right in camera!

Second, the preset has to fit the feel of your photos somewhat. For example, a preset that was made for enhancing beautiful sunsets won’t look good on a photo of the milky way. This is simply because the contents of the photos are completely different and require different adjustments to look their best.

Although presets can be applied to any photo, that doesn’t mean every preset will look good with any photo. A preset with low contrast can make a portrait unexpressive, while that low contrast combined with muted colors might make that portrait beautifully moody. Learning the right combinations between your presets and images will ultimately help you establish your own personal style. Not to mention help make your edits look amazing every time!

Who Should Use Presets While Photo Editing?

Both beginner and professional photographers can use photo editing presets. Regardless of your skill level, presets offer the advantage of results in less time. Rather than spending 10-30 minutes editing a photo, a preset could cut that time down to less than 5 minutes. This is a big advantage for all photographers, which is why presets are suitable for absolutely anyone.

Photographers who want to edit many photos in a limited amount of time and demonstrate a consistent style will feel like they are getting a lot out of presets. It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner or a professional.

Professional photographers frequently use presets when time is of the essence. For example, they are perfect for wedding and event photographers. If you have thousands of photographs to pick from and edit, it just saves you so much time. After importing and culling your photographs, all you have to do is apply the preset – either someone else’s or yours – to all your pictures and make some minor adjustments.

It’s a good idea for photographers to experiment and play around with presets to see if they’re something they can grow accustomed to. You can also buy presets and use them to reproduce a specific style of editing or mood that you aren’t sure how to replicate otherwise.

Is It Cheating To Use Presets?

Using presets for photo editing is not considered cheating as a great preset will not make up for a bad photo. Presets will not make up for poor technical skills as a photographer. Therefore they offer no advantage beyond altering brightness and color. Presets will achieve the best results when matched to a well-composed and technically sound image that requires real skill to capture.

Presets essentially do one thing. They affect the mood and the color scheme of your image. The rest of the charm lies in the story behind your photography, and that’s where your personal style can shine through. Photography is all about combining a set of skills into a comprehensive, visually pleasing result, not about adding a filter or just pressing a button. More often than not, if you lack the technical abilities to take a great photograph, your preset isn’t going to do any good.

So don’t worry; using presets doesn’t make you a cheater. No matter how great the preset you’re using is, it will never make up for a badly composed photo. Sometimes you will have to make minor changes to a photo; other times, you will have to change every initial setting.  As you experiment with your presets, you can do your best to refine them over time. But no matter how consistent it may be, you will still have to make some additional alterations to your image.

It’s okay to use presets, but you need to make sure you’re using them for the right reasons. You shouldn’t use other artists’ presets for the sole purpose of editing your photos as quickly as you can, without learning anything from the whole process and without further developing your skills. 

Like many things, when used for good, presets are a thing of great value. They can help define your editing style, make your photos stand out, and best of all, save you some time along the way!

Happy editing,

– Brendan 🙂

Article By

Brendan Williams

Hey, I'm Brendan! I'm a professional photographer and photo retoucher who has spent the majority of his career shooting or retouching outdoor lifestyle and social media campaigns for brands like G-Adventures, xoxo Bella, P&G, Fitbit, Chevy, Tourism California, and more. You can view my photography portfolio here.

These days I primarily focus my efforts on this site, creating guides and tutorials that I wish I had earlier in my career. Each week I publish new tutorials on Photography, Photoshop, Lightroom, and Canva to help you unlock new skills and bring your creativity to new levels! Everything you learn here is backed by real experience, so you can finally skip the fluff and focus only on what matters.

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