How to Install Lightroom Presets

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How to Add Presets to Lightroom

If you have downloaded the free Lightroom presets from this site, or from elsewhere, you next need to install them on your PC or Mac.

This quick tutorial will cover how to install Lightroom presets, including how to import Lightroom presets, in a few quick and easy steps. I’ve also included a quick guide for how to use Lightroom presets, and a simple workflow using them.

1. What are Lightroom Presets?

Lightroom presets are found in the Develop module of Lightroom, on the left-hand toolbar. When clicking on one, it will automatically modify the various develop sliders in the right-hand toolbar, according to the settings in the preset.

Most presets that you will find online are ‘one-click’ recipes. That is, each preset sets every single one of the sliders in the Develop module, from exposure and tone curve to hue, saturation and luminance of the colours. Clicking a second preset will overwrite the effects of the first.

Some presets, like the free Lightroom presets from this site are cumulative and stackable, meaning that presets do not overwrite each other, and can be stacked one on top of another to build up your image.

In the Lightroom Develop System, presets are formed into groups (eg. Dynamic Range, Colour, Tone Curve) that only affect their respective develop sliders, giving you much more control over your final edit.

Free Downloads for Lightroom and Ph...
Free Downloads for Lightroom and Photoshop

To get a better idea of what Lightroom presets are, take a look at the video below:

2. Free Download Lightroom Presets

The best free Lightroom presets are contained in the Lightroom Develop System, a complete system of over 1000 fully stackable Lightroom presets. This system contains free film Lightroom presets, teal and orange Lightroom presets for a movie-style look, and light and airy Lightroom presets, among much more.

You can download free Lightroom Presets, along with free photography eBooks, after joining my mailing list, along with full instructions of how to load presets in Lightroom. Just put in your email below to get sent a download link:

3. How to Import Presets into Lightroom

To add presets to Lightroom, follow these instructions for both PC and Mac.

Lightroom Presets: How to Install in Lightroom Classic CC and Later Versions (including current Lightroom Classic)

Recent versions of Lightroom use the XMP file format to store Lightroom presets. Once you have downloaded your Lightroom presets, find the XMP files in this download on your computer.

  1. For the Lightroom Develop System, extract the file: Photoshop & Lightroom Resources.ZIP. Double-click the XMP folder.
  2. Select all of the .XMP presets and Copy All.
  3. Navigate to the folder where Lightroom stores its presets. This is different in Lightroom Classic CC to previous versions of Lightroom. In Windows, the default folder location is:

    C:\Users\[Your Name]\AppData\Roaming\Adobe\CameraRaw\Settings

    In Mac, the default folder location is:

    [Your Name] > Library > Application Support > Adobe > Camera Raw > Settings

    If you are struggling to find either of these folders, open Lightroom, go to Develop and create a new preset, then right click on that preset and click Show in Explorer. This will open the presets folder.

  4. Paste the Lightroom presets that you copied in step 2, into this Settings folder. The main develop presets are now installed. To install the brush presets, see below.

To Import Presets into Lightroom in Versions Prior to Lightroom Classic CC

Older versions of Lightroom store their presets in .LRTemplate files. The Lightroom Develop System contains both these file types and the newer .XMP files. If you have an older version of Lightroom, you should follow these instructions.

  1. For the Lightroom Develop System, extract the file: Photoshop & Lightroom Resources.ZIP. Double-click the LR Template folder, then double-click on the Lightroom Develop System folder.
  2. Double-click the folder called Develop Presets, select all of the .LRTemplate files, then Copy All.
  3. Open Lightroom.
  4. On Windows, select Preferences from the Edit menu.

    On Mac, select Preferences from the Lightroom menu.

  5. Select the Presets tab, then click on Show Lightroom Presets Folder, or Show All Other Lightroom Presets.

  6. This will open the file explorer, with a folder named Lightroom highlighted. This is the folder where Lightroom presets are stored. Double click on this Lightroom presets folder, then double click on the Develop Presets folder.
  7. Paste the Lightroom Develop System, that you copied in step 2, into this Develop Presets folder. The main develop presets are now installed.

4. How to Install Brush Presets in All Versions of Lightroom

  1. To install the brush presets, open the Local Adjustment Presets folder that you extracted from the ZIP file (or the brushes you downloaded from elsewhere), Select All, and Copy All.
  2. Open Lightroom.
  3. On Windows, select Preferences from the Edit menu.

    On Mac, select Preferences from the Lightroom menu.

  4. Select the Presets tab, then click on Show Lightroom Presets Folder, or Show All Other Lightroom Presets.

  5. This will open the file explorer, again with the Lightroom presets folder named Lightroom highlighted. This is the folder where Lightroom presets are stored. Double click on this folder, then double click on the Local Adjustment Presets folder.
  6. Paste the local adjustment presets that you copied in step 1 into this Local Adjustment Presets folder. The brush presets are now installed.
  7. Close all open folders and quit and restart Lightroom. The Lightroom Develop System is now available in the Develop module.

5. How to Use Lightroom Presets

Once you have installed the Lightroom presets, you then need to figure out how best to use them. If you have downloaded ‘one-click’ presets from elsewhere online, you simply click on each one to activate it. If you are using the Lightroom Develop System on the other hand, you have much more power at your command.

The Lightroom Develop System is probably not like any other free or bought presets that you have or might have used in the past.

Most other presets are simple, one-click presets, that overwrite each other and require luck to use and get the most from. The Lightroom Develop System is a series of over 1000 active presets that are nearly all stackable, and are designed to be applied on top of each other in layers to build up your final photo in a guided way. There is no luck needed, as each preset is descriptively named to let you know exactly what it does, before you click on it.

The Lightroom Develop System will appear in your Develop tab of Lightroom, as in the screenshot below:

Unfortunately, the design of Lightroom means that the Lightroom Develop System cannot be contained within one folder in the Develop tab, even if you place it in a separate folder on your hard drive. The preset groups (which you can see above) will all appear above your existing presets, so scroll down to access these.

Every preset group you see above is either a header or a spacer. To access the active presets within each group, click the arrow to the left of the group, as highlighted in red below:

This opens the group, containing a number of inactive spacer and header presets, along with the active presets. In the screenshot below, all of the active presets are marked in red. Every other preset will not have an effect on your photo, if you click on it. They are there to divide the presets into logical groups:

If you want to hide any of the empty preset groups that form the headers, such as those highlighted in red below:

Then, click on the small plus symbol at the top of your presets bar, and select Manage Presets:

Then, uncheck the boxes for the header groups:

You will now no longer see those groups in your preset sidebar:

I would recommend not doing this, unless you are very tight for screen real estate. Although you won’t lose any functionality by removing these header and space groups, the visual white space will help you to navigate the system.

The Five Areas of the Lightroom Develop System

If you look through the Lightroom Develop System, you will notice that it is divided into five areas, all of which independently control sliders in the Develop tab:
1. Global Effects:

– Recipes contains one click presets, like those you are familiar with from other presets you may have downloaded.
– The Film Pack contains film emulations, and the Filter WB Overlays contains targeted white balance adjustments to overlay colour onto your photos.
– The Quick Effects and Lens Corrections groups contain basic global adjustments that are useful to correct large problems in your photos, such as an incorrect exposure, or lens distortion.

2. Dynamic Range & Structure:

– Quick Dynamic Range lets you easily set the overall dynamic range across your photo. If you are happy with the results from this, you do not need to go any further into this group. Otherwise, you can use the remaining presets to perfect the dynamic range.
– Brights, Darks and Structure & Detail let you modify these parts of your photo independently. These stack on top of the Quick Dynamic Range.
– Dynamic Range, Contrast & Clarity and Exposure are the constituent parts of the Quick Dynamic Range group, and give you fine control over each area.

3. Colour:

– Quick Colour contains a number of basic, stylised and black & white colour grades. If you are happy with the result, you do not have to go any further into this group.
– Overall Colour Recipes lets you set saturation and white balance.
– The two HSL Colour Grades groups give you access to colour grades specifically designed to enhance landscape and cityscape photos. Simply choose the appropriate situation for your photo (such as ‘Sunset / Sunrise with Red Clouds’) to accurately set the colours. You can then use the slider presets in this group to set hue and luminance.
– The Colour Toolbox contains presets that are not designed to be applied. If you instead hover over them, you should be able to see how much of each stated colour is in your photo, and where it is. This is useful for the following group.
– Individual HSL Colour lets you modify each colour channel separately, using a slider system to set hue, saturation and luminance.
– Camera Calibration controls the calibration section of the Develop sliders.
– The two Split-Toning groups control the split-toning sliders in fine detail.

4. Tone Curve:

– Curves sets the overall tone curve, for both the basic and RGB curve.
– The two Recipes groups let you control each individual section of the tone curve. These will stack on top of the main Curves group.

5. Stylisations:

– Graduated Filters gives you a number of landscape photo specific ways of applying graduated filters to your photo, to enhance clouds and sky in either the top third, or top half, of your photo.
– Image Stylisations contains tilt-shift effects, light leaks, and similar.
– Vignettes contains classic vignettes, as well as coloured and stylised vignettes.

6. How to Process a Photo

So, a complete workflow using the Lightroom Develop System might go like:
1. Fix lens distortion:
Lens Corrections -> Enable Lens Profile

2. Set dynamic range:
Quick Dynamic Range -> High Contrast Mild

3. Perfect dynamic range:
Brights -> Highlights +30, Whites -30

4. Set colour:
Quick Colour -> Natural Colour +

5. Enhance the sunset with red clouds:
HSL Colour Grades – Core -> Various presets within Sunset/Sunrise with Red Clouds

6. Set the tone curve:
Curves -> Bright Contrast

7. Add a slight vignette:
Vignettes -> 1c

These workflows can be as simple or as complex as you want. Remember that the presets in the Lightroom Develop System are designed to stack on top of one another, each cumulatively adding something to your photo.

If you want to see the Lightroom Develop System in action, then take a look at this video:

Follow Tim Daniels:

Hi, I'm Tim Daniels, photographer and photo trainer, founder of Lapse of the Shutter and creator of the totally free Lightroom Develop System. I've travelled to (probably) 30 countries over the last few years, taking photos and licensing them around the world, and creating lots of free photography learning resources. Read More ...

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