Why is my Lightroom Presets not working?

Why is my Lightroom Presets not working?

July 28, 2017

 Why is my Lightroom Presets not working?

Take a picture, apply Lightroom Preset and boom, magic.

If you think that's how presets work then you are using it wrongly! 

Have you ever wondered why after applying the presets on your shots, the picture actually gets worse instead of better? Well in this article, we will discuss some of the things you can do to bring out the full potential of a preset! 

1. Try Auto White Balance and Auto Tone

Sometimes out shooting, we change the settings of our camera to suit the situation. It may be from AWB to Shady or Cloudy etc. So when editing in Lightroom, the presets applied might have a different outcome. 


This is a shot applied with a street preset. The preset actually bumped up the highlights and vibrancy of the picture making it too bright. One way to fix this is by using Auto White Balance/Tone. What this does is Lightroom automatically determines whether the picture should be darker/brighter in accordance to the original picture and preset applied. 


After applying the preset, right click on your picture and go to Settings. There you will be able to find the two options Auto White Balance and Auto Tone. For this particular image, Auto Tone was selected and look! The picture has suddenly turned more dramatic, giving it more depth and a slight moody look.

This is just one example, go ahead and try it with the rest of your pictures! 

2. Adjust Graduated Filter

Another reason why presets might mess your pictures up might be due to the Graduated FIlters present. 


The image on top, you can see the raw image captured. Below it is the image after the preset is applied. Aint it a tad too dark? Might be due to the Graduated Filters!


Go to the adjustment bar on the right side of Lightroom and look for the rectangular icon that reads Graduated FilterIf they are present, they will appear as gray circles on your image. What you would want to do is find out which direction the filters are applied to, as it will change how your image looks significantly.


As for this image, we just had to flip the top filter around and bam! A much brighter sky and foreground, with beautiful blue and magenta hues. 

3. JPEG vs RAW

Another reason might be the format of the files. 

A RAW file is an image captured as seen by the camera's sensor. This means no processing was done by the camera at all, leaving you in full control of how you will like it to be edited. 

A JPEG file would then be the opposite. To save data for storing and transmission, the camera decides on information to discard and compresses it into a JPEG file. 

That is where the difference comes in. A preset applied on a RAW vs JPEG file would have entirely different results. That is due to the lack of information the JPEG file has recorded. A RAW file would have all the settings captured during the exposure. 

4. Experimenting with the Settings/Images

Alright, if you've done everything and the presets still aren't working... probably means it's time to start experimenting! Presets are meant to be a starting point for one to further experiment with it and see where it can take you. Learn as you edit, slowly understand how presets actually work. If it doesn't work on a particular image, try another one! Play around with your Tone Curves, HSL, Split Toning etc, something magical might happen. 

Hopefully, this article has helped clarify and give you an insight of why your presets are not working. If you enjoyed it, do drop a comment below! Also if you're interested, here are some Lightroom Presets you can check out to kick start your journey. Till next time!

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