Lightroom Tip: Install & Manage Presets Like A FANATIC

by Gavin Seim. Updated 01/2010:

Most of us use and love Adobe Lightroom. One of my favorite features is presets. One click WOW & workflow for our photo’s. I even make some very popular preset collections that I sell over on Seim Effects.

So there’s a couple of ways to install Lightroom presets and today I’m gonna show you both, including the guru method. I’m talking about develop presets, but it should be noted that these methods are essentially the same with any user preset, such as print presets, gallery presets etc. If your installing brush presets see this article. Also, I’m using a Mac, but the same process will work on Windows.

How to install lightroom presets

Start by going into the Develop Module (shortcut D) On the left panel you'll see your presets.

#1. The Basic (lame) method:

With the presets panel expanded you’ll see the current folders of presets. Right click anywhere in that area and you’ll see the popup menu (see 001 & oo2, below) Click “Import” and you’ll get a browser window from which you can select any preset file on your computer. Click import and Lightroom will bring them in. You can also make new new folders via the presets panel, into which you can drag presets into once imported. This method works fine, but does not give you much control. It just dumps them in.

import presets

001: Basic method: Right click in the presets panel, then import your presets.

Import preset panel

002: This is the "Import Presets" browser window. Select your presets, then click import.

#2. The Lightroom GURU method (for cool people)

There’s more advanced way to manage your presets and it’s really easy. This is far better way to stay organized by moving presets around right where they should be. First we need to get to the folder in which Lightroom stores all your presets.

You can get to the master presets storage location by simply going to Lightroom Preferences (Settings) then go to the “Presets” tab. Click the button that says “Show Lightroom Presets Folder” (see 003, below).

003: You can get to the preset folder via preferences (settings)

Once you have this folder you have your presets at your fingertips (see 004, below) Add and rename folders, move presets around and get that collection of presets in order to save time when editing. If you want to rename an actual, preset you should do that in LR itself, but everything else can be done here. Make sure you install presets into their correct folder, ie. Develop Presets, Print Presets etc. When your finished tidying up, you simply need to restart Lightroom, and all those organization changes you’ve made will take effect.

It should be noted that you cannot currently have hierarchical folders (folders inside of folders) in Lightroom. Hopefully Adobe will add this in a future version.

orginaize lightroom presets

004: Once you've found the presets folder you can organize them easily. Make sure you install them into the correct folder, ie. Develop Presets, Print Presets etc.

#3. Store Presets With Catalog:

You may have seen this option in the preferences/presets window (see 003, above). In most case you will NOT want to use it. If you check this box your presets are stored with each catalog and you’ll have to re-import them every time. The only for this would be project based presets that were only to be used with a particular catalog. Unless you have a situation where this makes sense then keep it un-checked.

#4. Back Up Your Lightroom Presets (seriously)

I get emails all the time from customers who bought my Seim Effects presets and lost them when their drive crashed. Of course I always take care of them, but they go thru hassles because they were not prepared. It’s not just photos folks. Anything that will cost you time to track down and replace should be effectively backed up. Drives WILL fail and I backup all important settings. Also see this article on backing up Photoshop settings.

So You can export presets from within Lightroom, but now that you have this presets folder open, you can just copy everything inside it over to your backup disk, thereby by protecting up your precious presets in their current order.If you have a crash and lose them it’s as simple as copying the folder back into place. It feels really good to be backed up.

That’s about all there is to it. You’ll find that keeping your presets organized will make your editing go faster and help keep you sane… Gav

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