Prolost Graduated Presets for Lightroom

Promotional Video Script

Hi, I'm Stu Maschwitz.

I love photography. I love the "taking pictures part," but I also love what, for me, is the other half of the process—developing my photos in Adobe Lightroom.

The Lightroom Develop module is incredibly powerful, with dozens of sliders to control every aspect of your shots. There's so much power and control that it's easy to get overwhelmed.

That's why I created a collection of presets designed to change my Lightroom workflow from sliding and specifying to simply seeing and reacting.

Every photographer is constantly honing their "eye." We find our position, frame up a shot, and then, when we see something we like, we capture it.

Wouldn't it be amazing if developing shots in Lightroom could work the same way?

Lightroom has a powerful system of customizable Presets. A Preset can alter as many or as few settings as you like. You don't have to commit to a Preset to try it out—you can preview its effect in the Navigator pane by simply hovering your mouse over the Preset name.

I took advantage of this and created Folders of incremented presets for common adjustments. Now, instead of moving a slider until I find a setting I like, I can simply hover my mouse over the list of Presets, and click only when I see an image that feels right to me.

Working this way allows me to use my photographer's eye to "frame up" and "capture" the right settings. It keeps me making visual decisions with my eye and gut, instead of numeric decisions with my head.

It's fun, easy, and it feels really creative.

To install the presets, just follow the instructions in the Readme file. It's simply a matter of unzipping the Presets folder and dragging the Preset folders to the correct location. This folder is in a different location depending on your operating system, so check the Readme.

Once the Presets are properly installed, launch Lightroom, and you'll see them in your Presets section of the Develop module. The Prolost Presets are the ones that start with "plus L."

A common workflow for me is to import a new photo, and then immediately use the White Balance presets to select an overall color tone for the shot.

Then I'll skim my mouse over the Exposure presets to make sure my overall exposure value feels right.

In these cases, each preset is only adjusting one slider. You might still be wondering why I prefer using the presets and making my decisions in this tiny window, rather than using the sliders and the full-sized image.

  • One reason is performance. On a big screen, Lightroom has to process a lot of pixels. The Navigator window updates much faster than the full-sized image.
  • Another reason is that the small window can encourage you to make better decisions. On a large display, the main image viewer can fill enough of your peripheral vision that your eye can actually "correct out" color casts. But the little Navigator is small, and surrounded by lots of neutral gray. Decisions you make there have more context.
  • There's also a real value to making your image "pop" at small sizes. A quick trip to Flickr can demonstrate this—some images just leap off the screen as tiny thumbnails, begging you to view them larger. These days, many of our photos are likely to be seen first as thumbnails, and then, we hope, expanded for larger viewing. So whether you're posting vacation snapshots to Facebook or building a business on a stock photography site, making the thumbnail pop is a good strategy for getting your photos seen.
  • But ultimately, it comes back to that notion of "seeing and reacting." With the Prolost Presets, I can use the same "frame, react, and capture" impulses I've developed as a shooter, to process my shots.

As much as this preset workflow is an improvement over choosing and moving sliders, there's even more power in the presets that adjust multiple color controls at once.

For example, here's a set called Dynamic Range Compression. These presets adjust both the Highlight and Shadow controls together, to compress or expand the dynamic range of your shot using Lightroom's powerful adaptive tone mapping method.

Or they can control effects that you don't often use. The Cool Shadows set gradually brings in a blue tone to the shadows of your image, using the Split Toning controls. This takes a multi-slider, multiple-click operation and makes it simple and easy. You'll be surprised how often you use this one—almost every shot can benefit from a little cooling off in the shadows.

Another example of the presets making easy work of something that could be rather fussy is the Post-Crop Vignetting set. Post-Crop Vignetting is a powerful tool in Lightroom that allows you to add vignetting to a cropped image. I've carefully adjusted the controls to create a photographic, organic-looking vignette. You can easily dial-in just the right amount.

And you can quickly choose between a vignette that's circular, or one that matches the aspect ratio of your shot. Look how easy it is to test both and make a creative choice of which works better to your eye.

Maybe the most powerful set is called Color Contrast. This set ramps in a color contrast curve, using Lightroom's RGB curves control. This curve adjust contrast separately in each color channel to cool shadows, warm highlights, and enhance colors. It makes people look great, by causing skin tones to pop out against backgrounds.

Speaking of skin tones, there are a few controls just for them. One of the best things you can do in processing a photo is to make skin tones pleasing and consistent.

The Skin Hue set gives you one easy adjustment for the color of people in your shot. Just hover up and down until you find a setting that's not too pink, not too yellow.

If your subject has tricky skin, with ruddy patches or uneven coloration, you can correct for this using the Skin Squeeze set. This squishes reds and yellows toward the ideal skin hue.

Controlling the saturation and hue of individual colors in Lightroom is a powerful way to put a unique stamp on your images, but it can be a time-consuming, complex experience. I've included a few presets for color tweaks that I find really handy.

  • Ruddy Buddy is a strong version of that same Skin Squeeze correction. If your subject needs some skin TLC, this is a quick way to provide it.
  • Blue Down is a trick I use often to mute strongly saturated blues. For some reason, I find they can be distracting in shots without skies.
  • Blue to Cyan squeezes blue hues toward a consistent blue-green color.
  • Red Up is a quick way to punch reds into a strong, saturated, candy-apple hue.
  • Green Green Grass can help take yellowish foliage toward a more natural hue.
  • Skin Solo is a fun trick for removing all color from the image except skin tones.
  • Some of these are available in combinations too, like Blue to Cyan plus Ruddy Buddy.
  • And if you want to see your image without any of these color adjustments, just hover over Zeroed Out.

There are two presets in the Prolost Technical set. Both are designed to create a neutral transfer of a raw file's light values to the destination color space. This is nerdy stuff, but some folks need it. The most accurate one is labeled "True."

And then there's the Prolost Creative set. These are presets in the traditional sense—just fun looks that you can apply with a single click. Have fun with them, and remember that you can use the graduated presets to adjust the results.

That's a lot to digest, but the important thing to remember is that with the Prolost Presets, you don't need to be a Lightroom expert. All you have to do is know what you like. Just twirl open the presets and let your eye tell you what's right.

Thanks for watching this demo of the Prolost Presets! They've helped me crank out better looking photos faster, and with a more creative and fun experience along the way. I hope they do the same for you.