Photographic Proof That You Should Never Be Afraid of Playing With Lightroom Presets

Original Photo

The other night, I was going through my portfolio and was looking around for images to play with. Then I stumbled upon a bunch of portraits I shot of gorgeous cosplayers and decided to try out some of my favorite Lightroom editing techniques and film renderings. Though I used to be of the school of thought that Lightroom presets are for people that don’t know how to edit, I am now a convert that says that they can teach you even more about editing, and by not playing with them, you’re only limiting yourself. Here are some images that we’ve worked on to show you just that.

PS: I’m aware that all of these images could use even more editing to make them really pop. Retouching does wonders for everyone no matter how gorgeous you are.

Kodachrome 25 Rendering of the lead image in this story. This preset let me quickly make things look better without my having to go in and experiment with different sliders in Lightroom. Notice how much more the greens and Demetra's skin tones pop.

Here's the original photo of Katie. When I shot it in camera with my Canon 7D, I thought it looked amazing. Then when I imported it into Lightroom, the program neutralized any settings that my 7D had already dialed in.

Here's Katie's photo rendered to look like Fuji Reala 100. Notice how much nicer the overall tonality looks. If I didn't want to use this preset though, at least it opened up my eyes to one possible look.


Here is the original photo of Jessica. While this photo is made great simply by her presene, it could always be made better. Especially if you want to put it in your portfolio

After a crop and straightening, I applied the Portra 160 VC filter to bring out her skin tones a bit more and make it really look like film. Combined with the light from the Orbis camera left, it really works for the image because of the reds in her uniform.

In this photo, the Orbis's light really emphasized the red channel. And working with it is actually really tough to do. So instead of fighting it, a good idea is to sometimes embrace what you have and just work with it. This is an idea I've had for a while in my workflow.

So instead of fighting those colors, I embraced them. This photo was rendered to look like Kodak Ektachrome with its purplish tones. As you see, it once again gave me an idea to embrace said flaws vs fighting them.

When I shot this image I looked at a couple of key factors: warm toned skin with olive undertones, red hair, brown Princess Leia garb, and blue and red in the background. This would take a while to edit manually because I wouldn't be able to mess with each channel. Instead, I'd probably have to work with the photo pixel by pixel to get the colors right.

Rendering the image in the Kodachrome 200 mix gave me a fair compromise, though it's still not as perfect as I'd ideally want it.

This image looked absolutely awesome and stunning in camera. But I wanted to see if I could make it better anyway even though after I imported it, it still looked great.

I applied my favorite new film, Fuji Pro 400H to it. Man, did it step the image up in ways I wouldn't have even have thought of.

So in the end, don’t fight tools that are given to you. You should embrace everything that you can to give you a better image. In the end, no one except a gear head will ask you about the process. They’ll just comment on how wonderful your image looks.

Want More Resources on Photo Editing?

First off, we used Adobe Lightroom 3 and I recommend purchasing an ExpImaging Expodisk to white balance everytime We also used the Canon 7D, 430 EX II, 35mm f1.4 L and the Orbis.

Want to learn more about editing? Check out our resources

Solving White Balance with the Expodisk

Creating a Better Black and White Image

Film Emulsion Presets for Lightroom 3

Cross Processing an Image in Lightroom 3

The Golden Spiral Method of Composition

Sharpening with the High Pass Filter in Photoshop

How Not to Suck at Retouching

Histograms Part 1 and 2

Getting the Cross Processed Look in Photoshop Elements

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Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.