Lightroom has become more and more powerful with every version released. What started out as a basic tool for managing images and making quick, minor edits has evolved into a powerful, feature-rich tool for all types of photographers with Lightroom 4.
A couple weeks back, SLR Lounge sent over their Lightroom 4 Presets for me to review and below are my thoughts.
I’d like to preface this review by saying that I’ve had many presets and photoshop actions sent to me in the past, and none of them have been worth my time to write about. I’m actually pretty pleasantly surprised by the structure and range of Lightroom 4 Presets that SLR Lounge have put together though.
Would you rather take a photo, than sit behind a computer and edit one?
Do you find post-processing to be complicated and time consuming, and difficult to make look professional?
But, do you understand that post processing is a necessary aspect of photography, only you wish there was an easier way to get through all your photos?
Well, this is where Lightroom presets come in, because they take the leg work out of editing, and leave you with professional looking photos, in just a few clicks.
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Included: Over 189 develop presets, 27 brush presets, 28 mixologies and 44 high definition tutorials.
And what exactly is it?
It’s a Lightroom preset system (examples below) and digital DVD training, which will allow you to make professional looking adjustments to your photos, with just a click of the mouse.
There’s 189 develop presets, which is the core processing. Then there’s 27 brush presets, where you can make more minor adjustments to your photos, ranging from retouching to special effects. Finally, there’s also over 6 hours of digital DVD training, which walks you through the whole process, to help you get the most from the system.
Why I Recommend These Lightroom 4 Presets
If you’ve been following Expert Photography for any real length of time, you’ll know that I really don’t like spending my time processing photos.
For me, it’s not what photography is about, but unfortunately for me, it’s a necessary process for every photographer, especially when it comes to shooting in RAW.
The result is that I process my photos to a minimal extent, and sometimes I’m left feeling like I could maybe do a better job if I took the time it required.
The great thing about these presets is that they take the leg work out of processing my photos and I can focus instead on the aspects of photography I enjoy, such as taking photos.
I approached this product with skepticism of presets in general, as I’ve had a lot of mixed results when dealing with them. However, after playing around with the SLR Lounge Lightroom 4 Presets, I realized that they were actually very good and a huge time saver. Here are a few things I like about them:
Good Structure & Sensible Names!
The first thing I notice with most preset systems is that they’re laid out poorly, and have ridiculous names. After all, who knows what things like “ruby red” or “ocean freeze” is going to do until you actually click it.
These types of systems encourage trial and error, with hundreds of clicks before you actually get what you want. And as we’ve discovered, I’m an impatient editor. However, the SLR Lounge presets simply make sense.
As you can see from the screenshot below, the presets are well organized, with intuitive and clear naming structure.
‘Mixologies’ and Tutorials
Another cool aspect about these is that they include a full set of videos (7GBs worth) as well as additional videos that they put out every couple of weeks or so that they call “mixologies.” This will be particularly useful for those who do not have much Lightroom experience and enjoy the online learning process.
These videos serve as a guide, from installation and getting started to the basics of using the presets and the brushes. The “mixologies” teach you how to combine different presets and different brushes to achieve your advanced effects.
This extra step is what distinguishes the product from the other presets and Photoshop actions I’ve been sent in the past.
You’ll have to forgive my ignorance, but I wasn’t even are that I could create custom brushes in Lightroom 4. When I was sent these presets, I thought that they were all going to be on the lefthand side of the develop screen. I didn’t realise that there were brushes too.
The brushes that Lightroom provide you are pretty good, but the ones that you get with these presets are fine tuned, and more useful. Here’s some of my favourite brushes:
- Detail Enhancer- Sky | Cloud | Ocean
- Detail Enhancer- Hair | Lashes
- Skin Softener
- Eye Brightener
- Iris Enhancer
- Lip Enhancer
- Teeth Whitener
- Color / Temperature- Desaturate
As you’ll see from the examples below, these presets can do some pretty powerful things. You can get faux HDRs, vintage fades, and even tilt-shift effects. Need more pop in the colors of the clouds? There’s a brush for that. Need to smooth out the skin? There’s a brush for that too.
It’s important to note that all of these looks and effects can be achieved without the SLR Lounge Lightroom presets if you have the proper knowledge of Lightroom and the time to make every minor adjustment. However, I would say that most photographers are not at that level and those that are can still benefit from the time these presets will save.
The effects applied in the images in this article are achieved with one click of a button + minor adjustments. Each took about 3-5 minutes to process (but part of that time was spent playing around with the image and learning the process).
If efficiency were important to your type of photography, i.e. wedding photography or event photography, these will really save you a lot of time over the thousands of images that you have to process.
Sit me at a computer with an internet connection and I’m very easily distracted, so speed is very important to my workflow.
The first image I chose was a portrait that I took of a gorgeous model in a field. I thought this would be the perfect scene to test out some of the vintage fades offered in the presets, as sunset lighting and scenes of nature generally go well with the vintage look. See the results below.
Faded Black and White Vintage Fade (Love the grain):
Vintage Fade with Pop:
I wanted to show this example because of two interesting elements in this scene 1) rocks and 2) clouds. As I was playing around with the presets, I really liked how the HDR Boost brought out all of the detail in the rocks and clouds. It has the effect of a subtle actual HDR.
Black and White Film Preset:
I thought this was a fitting demonstration of the capabilities of these presets during a sunset. As you can see from the original raw below, there are a lot of highlights (near the sun) and shadows (in the ocean) in this image of the San Francisco Bridge.
My original process included three photos, which I turned into an HDR photo in Photoshop. This has done just as good of a job.
Working with the RAW file in Lightroom, I was able to bring back a lot of the detail in both the highlights and the shadows within a few clicks. See the results below.
Black and White Film:
There’s not much about these Lightroom 4 Presets that I don’t like, but there are is one thing that stand out to me.
As I like my photos to accurately represent what I captured, some of the presets are a bit lost on me. There’s a few that just do not suit my style, as they look too drastic and I can’t turn them down, so be aware that even though you’re purchasing 200+ presets, they’re not all going to be to your liking. Some of them are just a little bit too intense, but to each their own.
I’ve spent the last half an hour looking for more possible cons to these presets, in an effort to make this review more balanced, but I just seem to find any.
I didn’t expect to like using presets, as I use NIK software a lot, but to be honest, I don’t think I’ll be using it as much anymore.
Long story short, these presets are the real deal.
Not only do you get hundreds of presets, but 7GB worth of video training too (which proved to be very useful). If 7GB is too much for you to download, you can purchase the DVD for an additional $10 (it’s shipped worldwide).
After trying many different presets in the past, I would say that they are the new industry standard.
I’ve tried a lot of other presets, but after a few minutes of use, then end up getting deleted, because the free presets I’ve found in the past just aren’t up to scratch.
Not only are they powerful and effective, but their organization structure makes them very user friendly and useful as part of your workflow.
Lastly, the videos and continuing education show that the creators are continually providing support and education around the product, helping their users achieve the most out of the tools.
If you’re interested, please click here for more information.