Tool Presets in Lightroom

Lightroom's Develop module comes with a variety of presets created by Adobe. You can also make your own Develop settings and save them under User Presets. But did you know there are also presets for several of the tools in the Develop module? These can be very helpful when you are first starting to use local adjustments on your images. Here's an overview of some of the helpful tool presets in Lightroom.

Tool presets for the Graduated Filter, the Radial
Filter and the Adjustment Brush helped create this image.


The tools are located right below the histogram in the right-hand panel of the Develop module. And tool presets are available beginning with Lightroom 2 and newer.

Tools in Lightroom CC 2015

Crop Tool Presets
Let's start with the Crop tool. Its presets are called "aspect ratios" and they let you change the proportions of your image to a common paper or frame size. After you choose the Crop tool, you can see these preset ratios by clicking on the word "Original" next to the padlock icon. This produces a list of choices such as 1x1 for a square crop or 4x5/8x10 and 5x7 for standard US print proportions.

Crop Tool Options with Original Aspect Ratio Selected

You  can save custom aspects of your own. From this same list, choose Enter Custom at the bottom. Then type in the proportions you want to save. (Remember, these are just the shape of your picture, not its actual measurements.) For example, I have a panorama crop of 1x3 as well as a medium format aspect of 6x7.

Creating a Custom 1x3 Aspect Ratio

Next are the Spot Removal tool and the Red Eye Correction tool. These do not have any presets.

Graduated Filter/Radial Filter/Adjustment Brush Presets
The Graduated Filter, Radial Filter, and Adjustment Brush each has the same list of presets to get you started with making changes to parts of your photos. When you select one of these tools by clicking on it, a new panel opens. Depending on the version of Lightroom you are using, you will see slightly different sliders in this panel.

Adjustment Brush panel in Lightroom CC 2015

Just above the sliders is the word Effect and next to it the name of the slider or preset you have chosen. If you click on this word, a long list of choices appears. Near the bottom of the list are five presets:
  • Burn (Darken)
  • Dodge (Lighten)
  • Iris Enhance
  • Soften Skin, and
  • Teeth Whitening
Each preset moves one or more sliders to produce an effect you can paint on your picture with the Adjustment Brush or apply to rectangular or circular areas with the Graduated or Radial Filters, respectively.

The cool thing about these presets is that they get you started with a type and amount of adjustment specific to the preset's name. For example, the Burn (Darken) preset adjusts the Exposure slider to -0.30 while the Teeth Whitening preset moves both the Exposure slider to +0.40 and the Saturation slider to -60. To use these presets, just select the one appropriate to your goal and click and drag away.

Teeth Whitening Preset Sliders in Lightroom CC 2015

If you don't like the effect, you can adjust the sliders yourself to add more or less of the effect or change it altogether. Maybe you need to darken the area more than the Burn preset does. So just drag the Exposure slider farther to the left. You can also add other adjustments to this starting point. When you make a change to any of the preset sliders, Lightroom adds "(edited)" after the preset name.

You can save your own tool preset adjustments as well. Just move one or a combination of sliders to produce an effect you use regularly. The name of the Effect changes to "Custom." Then click on the word Custom and choose "Save Current Settings as New Preset." Lightroom opens a window where you can name the effect. Give it a descriptive name but don't worry about including amounts since those can be changed.

Adjustment Brush Sliders set to Darken Highlights
and Add Orange

For example, I adjusted the Highlights slider to -25 and the Color swatch to a saturated orange. Then I saved this as "Darken & Warm Highlights." Your new preset appears in the list along with Lightroom's default presets. And you can update, rename and delete any presets you've created.

Creating a Custom Adjustment Brush Preset

All the tool slider positions are "sticky," meaning Lightroom remembers where you left them the last time you used that tool. So if you want to start fresh, hold down the Option key (Mac) or Alt key (Windows). Effect changes to Reset. Click Reset and all the sliders return to the middle where no effect is being applied.

If you have been feeling intimidated by the Develop module tools in Lightroom and uncertain how much to lighten or darken an area, start with the presets and go from there. I find they are often a perfect amount.