Are you looking for a subtle preset collection that gives you plenty of flexibility to adjust it to fit your style? Take a look at this "Essentials" preset pack for Lightroom.
Some photographers might have strong opinions about using presets, but the truth is, once you find or create ones that truly fit your workflow, they can become an integral part of your post-processing. I have heavily relied on using presets this month, as I spent most of it shooting stock photography and needed a quick starting point for my editing without spending hours deciding the best way to post-process each photograph.
In my opinion, there are two ways to approach presets. On one hand, presets can help photographers refine their unique editing style or give an inspiration on what appeals to them, which can then be taken into future editing workflows. This applies more to "heavier" presets, which have a more distinct final look.
On the other hand, presets can act as a time-saving step that performs quite simple alterations to the image but can be a good starting point both for beginners as well as professionals. The latter is where the "Essentials" Lightroom presets pack by Photography-RAW falls in, and today, we get to review them with real examples, which all have had the presets applied with just one click; no other adjustments have been made.
About 'Essentials' Pack
Created by professional photographer Peter Dam, the "Essentials" Lightroom preset pack is one of several available by Photography-RAW. Other packs include presets for Luminar, Capture One, and others. This pack includes 22 color presets that are compatible with Lightroom Classic CC and Lightroom CC and are designed to work both on raw as well as JPEG files. These presets are aimed at giving you a "beautiful and polished starting point" rather than a strong and unique look. The pack can be purchased for $19.
This pack definitely took me back to when I first started out and wasn't very proficient in using Lightroom. Each preset is quite subtle, which works great when you only want to make minimal changes to the image or want a slight nudge to help you decide which direction you want to go when editing.
As someone who shoots a variety of subjects, such as weddings, street photography, fine art, and still life, I quickly realized that these presets work well for scenes that focus more on objects or wider street photography scenes. In the shot above, I used the "Deep Blue Wonder" preset, which gave just enough of punch to the image and still left plenty of room for adjusting the white balance or split toning to change the mood. I found these presets work very well for a variety of still life shots where getting the skin tone right is of no concern.
In the shot above, I used preset "Monk's Clarity," which adds just a touch of clarity and contrast among other changes. This preset and similar ones to it in the pack work well for street scenes where you want the image to "pop" a bit but don't want to take away the feel of raw reality, similar to the shot below, where I applied "High Contrast & Wild Colors" preset. There are a few presets in the pack that are similar in that they focus on increasing contrast, clarity, and vibrant colors.
In the pack, you will also find a few more distinct looks given by two split toning presets "Pastel Split" and "Outdoor Fall Split." Personally, I wouldn't use these for most of the daytime shots, because they are quite strong, but I found "Outdoor Fall Split" to work nicely with nighttime photography, as per the example shot below, where such strong toning doesn't take away from the image or make it look unrealistic. This type of preset I would have preferred as a color profile instead where the user can adjust the strength of the look; otherwise, it can be too overbearing.
A less colorful and thus more utilizable preset is "Teal Orange Workout," shown below, which falls somewhere between the two split toning presets and the rest of the pack. Again, I didn't find this to work on shots where the skin tone is concerned or of importance, but it gave a nice touch to street photography scenes, which can afford to slightly depart from truly realistic colors. As someone who often shoots street photography myself, I've found that I am not always looking for anything but a few simple adjustments, because I want the shoot to still look realistic and to retain the colors.
In regards to photographs featuring people, I slightly struggled to make the presets work for me. This is fine if you are a photographer who primarily documents travel, landscapes, street scenes, still life, and others, but if you want to start shooting portraits, you will need to work harder to achieve an appealing shot. In the example below, the only preset that worked for me was "Forest Peace," and clearly, it is just a basic starting point, which admittedly, is what this preset pack is meant for. If you are looking for a more unique look, you will need to start using the tone curve, split toning, and make other adjustments in Lightroom.
What I Liked
- Good starting point primarily for realistic color editing
- Works very well with still life, landscape, street scenes
- Doesn't push the image look too far and gives the flexibility to build on the look
- Competitive price
- Would be well suited for beginners and hobbyist photographers
What Could Be Improved
- Addition of black and white presets would make this pack a good essential package
- Some of the presets are quite similar; more split toning looks could be added instead
- Presets aren't well suited for portraiture
For the price, this pack is certainly worth the money for people starting out in editing and for those who only use subtle changes in post-processing. It is easy to fall for trendy preset looks, which will age very quickly, but this preset pack gives a more lasting look, because the changes made on each image, except in the two split toning looks, are quite simple. I understand that not everyone sees the appeal of heavily edited images, which is where this preset pack shines.