Photo Editing is a unique process for each photographer. We all have different styles and ways to achieve the look we want. In photography groups there is sometimes the argument of, are pre-sets cheating? This is all opinion because everyone has different thoughts and there is no right way to get from RAW/straight out of the camera to a finished product.
As someone who still has a full-time job, running my own business, and training for a marathon, I like anything that helps me find more time. Pre-sets are just that, a time-saving tool. You can’t get a pre-set, slap it on a photo and call it a day. You can find one that with a few small tweaks gets you to finished product much faster than doing everything by hand/individually.
My style has slowly evolved over the years and I am slowly working to return to my roots… black and white. I first learned photography on black and white film in high school and continued into college.
Editing a digital image is like sticking your photo paper in solution and slowly watching your image appear.
So how do I edit a document living session in black and white? I use various pre-sets and for these images, I used MCP Actions Portrait Black and White Lightroom Presets*. I do most of my editing in Lightroom and only occasionally take photos to Photoshop. Photoshop Actions can be used similarly to presets to help speed up editing. I don’t use actions since my photoshop work is minimal.
The presets include files for both JPEG and RAW files. I only work with RAW files so those are what I used throughout these images. What else is included? A few options to do selective coloring, exposure adjustments, five black and white conversion options, and a few other creative presets.
How do you decide what to do when photo editing?
If I am experimenting or trying a new preset, I preview them in Lightroom. There is a small preview in the upper left corner of Lightroom. If you hover over your preset choice or other Lightroom adjustments, you can see the changes that will be made. See image below for what the navigator looks like.
I went through all the options using the navigator and decided I wanted to use the Silver pre-set. According to the MCP Actions website silver is to, “Give your photos a clean and sharp metal liquid edge”. For me, it looked best with this part of the session. Some of the other options required a lot more adjustments because of the two different skin tones and indoor lighting I had to work with. I made a few adjustments to exposure, contrast, and clarity. They were a bit too high for my style. I also added a slight vignette and grain. Because I love grain. That was probably the only thing missing from this pre-set collection. I prefer medium format grain. It’s noticeable but not too much.
Before (no adjustments) and after using the Silver preset.
For the outdoor shots, I decided to try out the outdoors preset. One click and the photos were pretty much perfect! I adjusted the exposure and this time increased the contrast. I added my vignette and grain. Boom. Done. It took about 2 minutes if that.
Before (no adjustments) and after using the Outdoors preset
Overall I had fun playing with these presets. There are several I know I will never use. They just don’t fit my style of shooting and photo editing but I love the silver and the outdoors. They work well with my shooting and editing. I plan to work them into my sessions in the future. The BW Soft also would work well with my style and vision. I may have to use that one for my next session!
And who knows? Maybe my next session will work well with another one of the presets. If I’m undecided what preset will work best with a session I have a tendency to preview all of them because I want my images to be perfect for my clients. I want my editing to bring out the emotions of the session. Sometimes a more dramatic preset will be needed and there are a few of those I see in there that would definitely work for added drama! There’s also some if you want to go more vintage, like yellow tinge. I have ideas in my head for when I could use something like that. I’d also like to shoot some photos to try out the high key preset. I love high key portraits but it didn’t work with this couple sessions, maybe a headshot session would be more appropriate for the high key.
MCP Actions sells the entire set of Portrait Black and White Lightroom Presets for $29.99. That is an incredible price for everything you get. Some presets run into the hundreds of dollars. Even if you only use a few of the options it is worth the $29.99 price. And you never know, you may see potential in the presets you don’t use at first!
The only ones I don’t ever see myself using are the selective color ones. I am not a fan of that trend and will not do it to my images. I will honestly say when I read the description for those, I rolled my eyes. I even attempted them on the photos just to see and quickly reset the photos.