Preset Systems: Why Wedding Photography Is the Exception

Preset Systems: Why Wedding Photography Is the Exception

Depending who your friends are, you either love or hate Lightroom preset systems like VSCO Film, Mastin Labs, or the ever-so aged RAD Labs. The argument on one side of the fence is that everything becomes cookie cutter and lacks unique emotion. The other group of people say that it brings consistency and speed to an otherwise long-winded project. I’m primarily a wedding photographer so I understand both sides of this very reasonable argument. I’ve always hated trying to understand preset systems. I mean, since when is a preset supposed to be harder to get right than doing it all yourself?

Why I Use a Preset System

Consistency is important when culling through and editing 1,200–1,500 images. Wedding clients typically have a “look” they’re going for and the companies putting out all of the major presets are very much so in that same range of style. Plus, culling and editing that many images from a wedding is a nightmare if you’re trying to finish other weddings by the promised deadline. All of this being said, I still take an hour or two to tweak my preset for that particular wedding to get the look I'm going for.

The Right Preset System Is Important

As much as I like my preset system, I do understand that it’s not a “fix all.” It’s taken me quite some time to find one that suites my needs and style. Not all of them are created equally and your shooting style has everything to do with it. I personally am not a giant fan of VSCO or Mastin, but some photographers make them look phenomenal. I personally like LXCN from Tribe Archipelago. So much, that I use LXCN 04 (with some edits of my own) for every wedding I shoot at this time.

Know Your Target Client

If the clients you want are fashion models or art directors, preset systems most likely won’t really do what you want. If your target audience is an engaged woman between the ages of 19-35, it’s worth looking into.

Do you hate presets? Love them? Which ones work for you?

Zakk Miller's picture

Zakk Miller is a wedding and portrait photographer based in Lake Charles, Louisiana. He is known for his unique blend of natural and artificial light. Zakk has built his career by shooting many genres of photography such as weddings, seniors, families, live events, as well as concert and commercial work.

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I guess you could say I hate them. I've never found any that I really like the way they look. For family and child portraits, I have my own preset that is "my style" that is applied in import and I then make minor adjustments from that.

No harm in that! I felt the same way for a long time. For me and my primary jobs, it ends up making the most sense. It's not just geared to this look though. Making your own preset system is another way to save time in your workflow.

like you, I have my personal preset, I make minor adjustments from that for each images

I am a big fan of the SLR lounge preset system too, its very fast and its good, damn good

I have literally thousands of presets. I used to search the internet for any presets I could get. Unfortunately, they all proved to be useless. I bought presets once and it was the last time I ever did. It was over $80 and most of them were simple split toning.

I have about 20 of my own that I use but even then, depending on the camera, lens and day conditions, there is always work to do.

be careful with "thousands" of presets, every preset that you have loaded into lightroom will slow it down by a tiny amount as everytime you change to a new image in your develop window, lightroom loads a thumbnail of how the image looks under each of those presets to memory for faster scrolling in your sidebar. I used to be one of those people looking through forums on how to speed up lightroom but deleting all but my main 10 presets has made lightroom so much faster. If you don't like the preset, delete it, or at least move it out of your preset folder...

Thanks Rob! I only keep about 100 presets in Lightroom. Even that might be too much. I collected thousands of them but never kept all of them active. I should delete some more. Cheers.

How about making your own presets, so that your look doesn't copy every one else?

I'm a wedding photographer as well, my work is consistent, and I don't use anyone else's presets.

I have a base preset for my cameras that I use based on common settings, then I drill down per photo to make sure they all match and look consistent.

I have no problem getting my weddings delivered on time.

Presets sets are generic and water down the individuality of each photographer that uses them. It doesn't teach photographers how to work with color or develop better post editing techniques.

Yeah I mean all the photographers in the last century developed and coated their own film stocks. As soon as Steve McCurry found out that other photographers used Kodachrome he immediately developed McCurrychrome. If I found out that another photographer had the same green shades as me I would be LIVID.

Film stock is more like the sensor, I'm pretty sure McCurry had a team of developers and printers (and later photoshoppers) that got his images looking the specific way he wanted, you could cal that team his preset. Just because he and I both shot on Kodachrome doesn't mean that our images immediately look the same, but if his team had a roll of my film and thought it was his, I imagine they would develop and print it in his style.

"If the clients you want are fashion models or art directors, preset systems most likely won’t really do what you want. If your target audience is an engaged woman between the ages of 19-35, it’s worth looking into." Why? Are engaged women somehow less discerning? What if your client is an engaged man between 19-35? What do you do then?

I have been through your post and it seems your tips will help to all those persons who are planning for hiring photographers. One of my friends also planning for hiring a photographer at Canada" and already chose a photographer from Jon-Mark Photography I will suggest him these points which are mentioned in this post

I use presets and then make adjustaments. But I don't like to strong effects, I prefer something light.