The Importance of Settings Presets

Between writing my eBooks and teaching my photography workshops, I’ve used a lot of processing tools in a variety of ways.  Usually, when I’m teaching, my students will be frantically writing down settings that I use to try to remember the various techniques for sharpening or color enhancement.  Certainly, it’s important to keep notes of the settings that you use often, but many people overlook the simplest way of them all to maintain your commonly used settings– saving presets.

Let’s face it, post-processing isn’t something that we want to spend hours doing.  Time saved in post can be time used for making more photographs.  Almost every image editing suite I’ve used offers the option of saving custom settings so that the next time you edit an image, you can quickly reproduce the exact color or sharpness setting that you took hours to create the day before.

The mechanism by which you store saved settings will depend on your editor, so you’ll need to familiarize yourself with the appropriate help topics or the user manual to determine the way to save settings.  Once you do that, you can quickly reproduce certain “looks” and other effects without having to consult your handwritten notes.  The other nice thing about using presets is that they provide you with a viable starting point for further fine-tuning.  For example, you might have a generic tone curve that you use to adjust image contrast for portraits.  Once you apply the basic tone curve, you can tweak it to suit the nuances of your specific image.  Other times, the factory default settings can be a bit extreme, and a user-defined preset can allow you to use a tool with a starting point that is more to your liking.  Often time you’ll see this with special effects filters.

Good candidates for saved presets:

  • Sharpening: USM, High Pass, or Smart Sharpen
  • Levels & Curves (contrast)
  • Saturation/Vibrance (color)
  • Black & White conversion
  • Special Effects filters
When a tool lets you save your settings, take advantage of this time-saving feature!

Happy shooting!


One thought on “The Importance of Settings Presets”

  1. Jason, I definitely agree with you on this. I use Lightroom for most of my editing, including its slideshow and web gallery features. Presets are incredibly valuable to me in Lightroom. I especially found your “Good candidates for saved presets” list extremely valuable and useful. Thanks for this informative and helpful post!

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