My Tips For Using Lightroom Presets

After seeing so many people on Instagram start using Lightroom presets and creating such a beautiful and cohesive theme for their feed with them, I decided to make the plunge and purchase a set. I only knew of two blogger preset packs - the Jaci Marie presets and the Tezza Presets. While both seemed to be really great, I went with Jaci Marie's set because they seemed a bit more girly and colorful, while Tezza's were more desaturated and slightly grungy. Tezza has more options of different sets/packs you can buy, whereas Jaci Marie has one pack for $100 that comes with 5 different presets. I actually got the set on sale for $80, though. I decided to make this post because Lightroom presets are super popular and seem incredible, but $100 is a steep price to pay. I wanted to share the honest truth about my experience with Jaci Marie Presets to help you make a decision if you are on the fence about making the purchase! 

Overall, my opinion on them is positive, BUT they aren't all sunshine and rainbows like the bloggers selling them depict them as. Truth is, those people have probably $7,000 worth of photography equipment and are Lightroom wizards who could probably edit a photo perfectly in their sleep. A little bit about my situation - I have a professional level camera (but definitely on the lower end of professional) and have been using Lightroom for two years now. I am pretty familiar with the application and its features but am by no means a pro with it. By the way, for those of you who do not currently have Lightroom, it is the best investment ever! I believe it's about a $10 subscription (in a package with Photoshop) per month, but whether you are using presets or not, it makes a world of difference in photo editing. 

Why presets are worth the money

You can't recreate them on your own - One of my original fears in purchasing these presets is that I would find that it was all simple edits I could have done by myself and would have wasted $80. I was also afraid the presets only worked well for the bloggers selling them because they had such expensive equipment. However, this did not end up being the case. Like I said before, I am pretty good with Lightroom but there are some aspects of the preset edits that I CANNOT figure out. There is a certain element of the editing that I can't really describe and I can't find the source of it on Lightroom either. Sorry, that's not a very helpful statement, but my point is that you can't just recreate these presets on your own. 

They add dimension and beauty to each photo - When I compare photos I edited by myself to ones I edited with the presets, the difference is huge. My edits look so flat and lifeless compared to the preset edits. A good example is this blog post. When I originally shot the pictures, I thought they looked so boring and simple. The presets completely transformed them, though! The presets added so much color and dimension that really made the photos pop and look more interesting. I know a lot of bloggers don't feel this way, but to me, blog photography isn't just about the outfit. I love when my pictures look unique, creative and aesthetically pleasing! 

They give your Instagram a cohesive theme - When I edit photos by myself, I choose different coloring and features every time depending on what fits the mood and photo. This leads my Instagram feed to look like a mismatched mess. Lightroom presets give you a nice cohesive base to work with when you apply the preset to all your photos. I've noticed that a lot of people doing well on Instagram lately are the ones who have a theme for their feed. I think the reason is that a lot of your followers come from them seeing your overall feed and not individual photos. Better feed definitely correlates with more followers to some extent. Of course, it's not all about the followers. I also feel more satisfied and happy with my Instagram work when I think my feed looks good. 

They work with iPhone and professional camera photos - The twist to this is that the outcome of the photo really depends on the individual edits you make after applying the presets. I'll talk about this is the next part of the post, but manually editing after applying the preset can make or break the photo. 

The cons to presets

They require lots of manual editing - Occasionally, I will apply a preset to a photo and it will look almost perfect and require just a couple of quick adjustments. Most of the time, though, I have to do a lot of manual editing after applying the preset to touch up the photo. This also segues into my warning that these presets probably aren't the best for beginner Lightroom users. If you aren't very familiar with all the tools in Lightroom, it would probably take you an hour to toy around with all the adjustments to make the preset look good. 

They don't work well with all photos - The outcome of the presets varies vastly depending on the inherent lighting and coloring of the photo. I typically use the "jacimariecool" preset because the other ones often look too orange and filtered. The "jacimariecool" preset sometimes works beautifully, but sometimes makes the colors of the photo look really weird and awful. A lot of times I can go in and fix this, but sometimes I just trash the photo because I can't make it look good enough. Maybe a super pro Lightroom user could make it look fine but I'm just not THAT good with Lightroom. 

They can make your skin look weird - I'm not sure if this is the case with all presets (same with every other claim I'm making in this post), but the Jaci Marie presets can often make my skin look super orange or even give me splotchy orange patches where the shadows on my face are. I usually fix this by using the paint tool to paint my skin in the areas that are super orange and desaturate those areas. This is an example of why the presets may be harder to use for less experienced Lightroom users. 

Ok, now lets look at some before and afters! 


I think this is a prime example of why editing after applying the presets is critical. As you can see here, the photo with the preset alone is way too dark. I used my own editing to brighten the photo up. I also reduced the amount of blue/purple tones in all the green areas of the photo. 


This example demonstrates how the presets can make your skin look orange and blotchy. Other than my skin, though, the preset worked really well and I didn't need to make many other edits! I used the paint tool to highlight the orange parts of my face (mainly just my cheek) and then used the desaturation tool to bring the color back to normal skin tone. I think other than that, I just adjusted the colors, contrast and brightness slightly. 

So while there are definitely some frustrating things about presets, I think they are overall a great investment! Keep in mind that I only have used Jaci Marie presets, so if you are looking into other presets, look up specific reviews for them! My comments may be completely irrelevant to them. I hope you guys found this post helpful and if you have any other questions about presets that I didn't address, please leave a comment or send me a Instagram/Tumblr message! Let me know if you want to see more before and afters as well :)

1 comment

  1. Kate, thanks for this post! I've been thinking about getting Jaci's presets.
    xx, Lauren | http://misslaurenalston.com

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