Everyone’s heard of Lightroom presets, but Lightroom profiles are relatively new. So first of all, what’s the difference, how do they work and which ones should you use? You get a whole bunch of presets and profiles as standard, but you can always get more – so how do you install Lightroom presets and profiles once you’ve got them?
Profiles vs Presets in Lightroom
Essentially, presets are preconfigured settings for Lightroom’s editing tools, while profiles are pre-processing adjustments that change the appearance of the image ahead of any editing adjustments you make. You can change profiles AFTER you’ve used the editing tools, but that can change the adjustments you need to make to perfect the photo.
• Lightroom profiles are shown in the Basic panel in the Develop module (right sidebar)
• Lightroom presets are shown in panel alongside Folders and Collections (left sidebar)
Presets are easy to adjust and reverse-engineer because you can see and change the settings they’ve applied. The disadvantage is that some of the processing leeway in your editing tools has already been used up. It’s also quite easy to move the effect in the wrong direction once you start trying to change it.
Profiles don’t give you any control at all. They shift the tones and colors in the image in a fixed way, ahead of any editing adjustments. The advantage is that the full range of the editing tools remains available, and you get to preserve more of the character of the profile even if you make changes.
How to install presets and profiles in Lightroom Classic
With Lightroom Classic, you just need to copy the folders into the correct folders on your computer, and the simplest way to find where these are is to:
- Open the Lightroom Preferences
- Select the Presets tab
- Click ‘Show Lightroom Develop Presets’ button for Lightroom profiles (yes, the wording is confusing), or ‘Show All Other Lightroom Presets’ for the Presets folder
- Lightroom will display the folders where these are stored
- Simply drag across the folders containing the presets or profiles you want to add
How to install presets and profiles in Lightroom
With Lightroom, the process is slightly different:
- Use the File > Import Profiles and Presets menu command to display an import dialog
- Navigate to the location where the Profiles or Presets are stored
- Lightroom will import them and store them in the appropriate place (Basic panel for profiles, Presets panel for presets)
Some older presets may have an .lrtemplate filename suffix. This is how presets used to be distributed. Now the preset adjustment data is stored in the .xmp format, and if you see a message in Lightroom to say that your presets have been converted to .xmp, that’s why.
How to sync profiles and presets between Lightroom versions
• From Lightroom Classic to Lightroom: IN THEORY, when you launch Lightroom for the first time it should sync with your Lightroom Classic presets. AFTER THAT, you’ll have to import any new presets into both.
• From Lightroom to Lightroom mobile: In theory also, any profiles and presets you have in Lightroom desktop should sync automatically to Lightroom mobile via Creative Cloud.
Best photo editing software for presets
Lightroom is not the only photo editor that has presets. There are other that go way further:
- DxO Nik Collection: Color Efex Pro, Analog Efex Pro, Silver Efex Pro and HDR Efex Pro between them offer huge range of preset looks with effects that go way beyond Lightroom’s
- Exposure X: A large collection of really good analog and contemporary effects presets with borders, textures, light leaks and more – and it will work as a Lightroom plug-in
- ON1 Photo RAW: It’s not just the most complete end-to-end editing tool on the market, it comes with a larger library of rather good effects presets too
- CameraBag Pro: It’s not one of the big names, but this standalone app comes with a large collection of analog-style presets and all the tools you need to make your own