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?