Adobe Lightroom Presets

This guest post is by the CEO and co-founder of Sleeklens, a rapidly growing company based in Copenhagan, Denmark, Daniel Chabert who kindly offered to write a post explaining how to get the most out of Lightroom presets when working with landscape photographs. Over to you Daniel!

When working with Landscape Photography there are several elements that we ought to take into consideration, if our aim is to bring out the best from the work we’re doing. Either by enhancing greens, boosting the amount of detail or even adding “natural” light to our scenes, such work requires skill, patience and creativity. 

The main problem when aiming for great quality settings in Lightroom, in manual mode, lies in the fact of how much time it takes to apply each adjustment, especially with tools such as Adjustment Brush and Gradient Filters, per photo – and you could say it only gets worse, if we have to process a large number of pictures in a short amount of time. So then, is there a way in which we can speed up this whole process?

Fortunately for us there is a cool, user friendly way to speed up our editing workflow, and that’s thanks to Lightroom Presets and Brushes. What does this mean? Well, let’s just say you created a nice looking adjustment for an image; and then, it turns out that you want to apply it once again to another picture. Instead of writing down every single parameter used, with the risk of changing some values, as you can’t perfectly copy adjustments like Tone Curve or Gradient/Radial Filter, you can save all the adjustments made in Lightroom to use them later on. Depending on the tools used they can be labeled as Presets or Brushes.

Presets vs Brushes

Before defining desired values for these two categories, we should start by explaining the differences between presets and brushes. One of the main differences between them is the application mode.

Presets, after they are saved, can be reused countless times, but whenever you use them you will affect the entire image you’re editing – which in some cases can be a bit of a nuisance.

On the other hand, brushes are known to be Selective Adjustment tools, which means that in order to make them work for you, you need to define a work area as long as you use the tool. Brushes can be used in a wide range of diameter sizes, as if they were real life brushes. This not only allows us to go into detail, but also to create custom adjustments as you can vary the amount, intensity and radius of application whenever you want.

The other aspect you need to consider is that brushes are limited in the amount of tools that can be used – you can’t use tools such as Tone Curve, Split Toning or Filters with it; however, you can accomplish tint adjustments, sharpening, clarity, the basic adjustments, etc.

Essential Parameters for a Good Landscape Preset

Prior to defining the parameters for the landscape preset, we need to consider the kind of scene we’re going to have post production. For instance, it won’t be the same parameters used for editing a lake or river with mountains surrounding it, as a forest scene.

In order to illustrate this point better, I’m going to create two presets, one for a mountain + waterfall scene and another one for a forest scene.

1. Case One – Mountain + Waterfall scene

Start by importing the image into Lightroom and switch to the Develop Module

As you can see, this image has a bit of everything: water, good green tints in the grass, an occluded sky with what we know as “God rays” (the effect of sunbeams coming straight from behind the clouds), rocks and a background plane with mountains. My aim for this preset is to boost the overall tints of this image, as it can do wonders for the image, and also to enhance details mostly to the water area. Let’s start then, by applying the essential adjustments to this image!

As I want to warm it up a little bit, I’ll move the Temp slider towards yellow values.

Go now with Contrast, and move the slider towards positive values – don’t use values of over +40 as it would look too intense.

Reduce Highlights as we have strong reflections in the scene. 

As we have a considerable area filled with stones + occluded/stormy sky conditions, we need to reduce the Shadows – move the slider towards positive values.

Increase Whites to add more illumination to this scene.

Reduce Blacks to keep the tonal balance of this scene, otherwise shadows won’t look realistic.

Next, we need to achieve two things – one, give a soft mist to the scene, mostly to blur out the background plane; then, we need to boost the tints.

Move the Clarity slider towards negative values to blur the image a little bit.

To finish up with the basic adjustments, add Vibrance to this preset. You will notice that the yellow tints seem to be a bit intense, we’re going to correct this issue in the next step.

Go all the way down to Split Toning. As we want to remove some of the yellowish tints, we need to apply a Split Tone effect to this image. In my opinion, the reason why this image looks so yellow is due to its illumination conditions; therefore, I’ll tweak the Highlights values, leaving shadows intact.

By using these values you’re giving the image an autumn feel that is quite becoming for it, in my opinion.

Finally, we’re going to sharpen details with the Detail panel. Following up the adjustments that I’m making to the image.

By doing this, small details such as branches, grass or leaves are now noticeable, and if we do a quick Before/After, this is the overall result.

Not only do the details look sharper, but also, the image has an inviting atmosphere with a noticeable autumn effect applied to it. In order to save the adjustments made, you need to click the ‘plus’ icon next to the Presets menu – select the adjustments you want to save as a preset and give it a name. Finally, click ‘Create’.

2. Case two – forest scene

Let’s try to use the preset we created in the last image with this next image that I plan to edit. First of all, import a new picture into Lightroom and get back to Lightroom’s Develop Module

As you can see in the result below, the preset looks way too yellowish for this kind of scene

So then, we need to modify the preset in order to match our conditions, as in this scene we have almost clear illumination conditions; a close up scene with a water area in the background plane that only adds highlights to the scene.

First, I want to reduce the amount of yellow in the scene – the easiest way to do it is by reducing the Temp slider and giving a certain amount of green tint to the scene, like I did on the image below.

Change the Highlight color in the Split Toning effect – prefer hues close to blueish values.

And finally I’m going to tweak the Tone Curve a little bit like this.

Our final result can be appreciated with this Before/After image.

Some final thoughts

As you can see, it is quite easy to create a preset for enhancing our landscape images. By changing the values of parameters such as Split Toning you can quickly change the mood of your image in a few seconds.

Remember that the values of Clarity above +60 should be reserved for HDR images as the end result won’t look realistic. If you need to add more detail, go to Sharpening options instead.

I hope this guide was useful - happy editing!

Find out more about Sleeklens and their wide range of products by clicking the link.

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