Lightroom Presets That Give You a Good Starting Point? Fstoppers Reviews the Essentials Pack by Photography-RAW

Lightroom Presets That Give You a Good Starting Point? Fstoppers Reviews the Essentials Pack by Photography-RAW

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.

First Impressions

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.  

A window with a river in the background
A window facing a river

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.

Two men crossing the road in London
Two men crossing the road in London

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.

A person holding a leaf
A person holding a leaf

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. 

London skyline at night
London skyline at night

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. 

Office buildings in London
High rise office buildings in London

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. 

Boudoir shot of a woman
A boudoir shot of a woman

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

Conclusion

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. 

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25 Comments

John Adams's picture

I only once purchased a preset-pack for Lr and for anybody who's interested it is not worth the money ever. Lr already has presets so just start off from there, don't waste money on presets, ever.

Rayann Elzein's picture

I agree. A few weeks ago I was feeling like a bit in a "rut" from an editing point of view, so I tried a preset-pack, oh boy, money not well spent at all!

I think people would be better off trying to find what works and how LR and each slider works, but I guess they are too lazy for this.

Luke Adams's picture

I once purchased a jar of pasta sauce. Worst purchase ever. Honestly, people need to take the several hours to chop up the tomatoes, boil them down and spice them just right. I can’t understand people who would just grab a jar of pasta sauce off the shelf. They would be better off learning to master making all the different pasta sauces and figuring out what each little ingredient does. But I guess people are just too lazy.

John Adams's picture

I like that comparison.. pre-made pasta tomato sauces are almost always shit.

Luke Adams's picture

So you’re saying presets should be just fine for your photos then?

John Adams's picture

I didn't say that at all.. what are you reading?

Dirgha Raj Shrestha's picture

A professional must be able to master making all the different pasta sauces and figuring out what each little ingredient does. But a maid can be lazy and buy a jar of pasta sauce.

Greg Wilson's picture

Sounds like "I only purchased a non-kit lens once and it is not worth the money ever".

But we all know that all the lenses are different. From cheap plastic things with muted colors and awful aberrations to the real engineering masterpieces that profoundly affect your visual output and shooting style.

Same is true for presets. Personally I'm not impressed with the pack above—looks cheap and basic with no real use. But if you google for something like RNI or DVLOP presets—you'll be surprised.

First—they are not really presets any more. They do not "preset" your Lightroom sliders. Instead tey are built upon profiles and achieve color transformations not achievable with just Lightroom or Photoshop built-in tools.

Second—they do lots of other cool things, like strength adjustment (DVLOP, RNI), clipping prevention (RNI), film-like highlight compression (RNI shines here).

And those profile-based products/plugins/tools, whatever you call them, provide an excellent starting point. Using them is no different to choosing a certain film stock for the shoot. And I'm yet to see an RNI or DVLOP user saying "it is not worth the money".

John Adams's picture

Firstly, your comparison is poor, even with cheap lenses, a good photographer can achieve so much more than a mediocre photographer equipped with state of the art lenses and equipment. Secondly, You can achieve any look with Lightroom and one does not need to pay $175 for those looks like a total fool.

Kenneth Muhlestein's picture

I'm gonna have to agree with John on this one. With proper knowledge, there's nothing you can't achieve with the tools in photoshop. I can't say the same about lightroom as i don't use it.

Johnny Kiev's picture

And which side of each example is the preset?

Anete Lusina's picture

The original on the left, preset on the right.

Nada Ivanova's picture

i understand some people use preset they buy , but i preffer spend time and make my own... after all i am photographer , and what i sell is my "eye" and my "unique" way of making photo.. if i start to use , same accessorie , same preset , cam on auto ,same pose , same evrything like next random joe , well in the end , me and random make same photo... why customer would come to me ? for me , as photographer , you need to work your style, and create it by making stuff youself...

Nitin Chandra's picture

Presets are useful when starting and help visualise the possibilities. I have created a small, generic preset for my wildlife photography that I apply on import to all images. Like any preset, it just gives me a better preview for culling and a good starting point to develop the images. I have shared the link to the preset in the description of the video here and how to use this...Might be useful for others like me...

https://youtu.be/ktsrkxvLeDE

Luke Adams's picture

Just because presets aren’t for you doesn’t mean they are not for everyone. As a wedding photographer dealing with high volume of images, varying lighting conditions, and a preference for film-like aesthetics, presets are a God-send.

Look, I know how to use the sliders in Lightroom and what they do, but would I have had the time, the technical know-how, and the reference material to make presets as beautiful as Jose Villas Fuji film presets? Nope. Would I have had the ability to build the presets right into color profiles that not only meticulously match colors of different camera brands, but also apply the preset on a master opacity slider still leaving the full range of manipulation on the Lightroom sliders? Nope.

Or how about Pye Jirsa who spent countless hours developing presets which could be chosen based on the different lighting scenarios one could encounter for a consistent look? Hey, maybe if you’re a landscape or bird photographer who just loves to tinker or is dealing with a limited number of images, presets aren’t really that useful to you. But honestly, I don’t know a wedding photographer who doesn’t use them.

I will concede however that you need to be careful what you are buying or yes, you likely will have buyers remorse. Several people selling presets honestly just take a single photo, give it some sort of extreme look, name it something cool like “Cinnamon Spice” and call it a preset - even though it will likely only work well on very specific photos. The worthwhile presets are ones that work very well across the majority of the photos and aim for consistency.

Dave Morris's picture

Precisely. If talking about reputable preset/profile vendors, the "do your own" argument sounds like "get yourself a guitar, play whatever you want and never spend a penny on the records of Mick Jagger and alike."

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

1. That was 2018
2. Different Author
3. The authors write their own opinions/experiences.

John Adams's picture

Well I just give her my opinion using that article, which as an article is still very valid, nothing really has changed.

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

They are both valid. This article doe not negate the other one, and vice versa.

John Adams's picture

One is more valid than the other.

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

Yep. Just depends on which side of the fence you're on.

John Adams's picture

Not really, it's more of a waste of money because instead of learning how to edit photos you just mindlessly apply some presets that 90% of the time are useless for your particular photos.

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

No, not really a waste of money:

1. if you can learn from it, like by "reverse engineering" the adjustments.

2. time saver especially for people like Luke Adams (above your orig post) where time is money. However, if you are a hobbyist editing just a handful of photos, it's understandable how this is of no benefit to you.

John Adams's picture

It is a waste of money like I said:

1. You spend money for nothing.

2. You don't learn how to make your own presets.

Also presets are good for your work-flow but if you learn how to create your own presets for your own needs, that's the point, not just buy them and change them completely because ultimately each photo is different and you'll always have to tweak the presets you purchased and at the end of the day you spend more time adjusting those presets you purchased, so those presets don't even work well for saving time.