How I improved my photos using Lightroom and presets.


**First, a little disclosure. I will always be completely honest with my readers and very transparent, no fakery here..ever! This post contains an affiliate link to Contrastly, which means I receive a commission if you make a purchase using the banner below.**

When I started taking pictures, I didn’t edit at all! I started out with a Canon Powershot AS590 a typical point-and-shoot camera. I, then, moved on to a Nikon Coolpix L810 which worked out for a very long time. Finally, I upgraded to a Nikon D3200 which I love! I started out taking pictures of any and everything (mostly the kids.) I played around with macro settings once I had them but slowly found a niche that I’m sticking with. In terms of post-processing,  I knew nothing about lighting, composition, camera settings…nothing! I actually started this blog shooting with the Nikon L810 and while some of my photos were ok I knew they could be better and I needed to start using some software.

Every photographer has a preferred look for their photos. It doesn’t matter if you’re a hobbyist or seasoned professional, we all know what our photos should look like in our heads but that doesn’t always translate when we upload to Photoshop or Lightroom (or whatever editing software you use). For the longest time, I was just using Photoshop Express on my computer. It was a free app and I had zero budget to buy any sort of software. If you look at some of my earlier blog posts, they’re all done in Photoshop Express. That was working for a while but after I took a few online workshops, watched some webinars and read A LOT, I decided that I should try Lightroom.

Lightroom is part of the Adobe Creative Cloud that includes Photoshop CC and some other applications that can help with web design, illustration etc. You can read more about the entire package here. I went with the free trial because…it’s free. I didn’t really know what I was doing because all I really ever did in post production editing was apply changes to exposure and contrast. I took a gamble and went for it and if I didn’t end up liking the app, I’d let the free trial expire and just go about my merry way with Photoshop. During the free trial period, I read a lot and experimented a lot with different edits of my photos. I had a test file of shots that I knew I’d never publish and I decided to make those my guinea pigs. Fast forward 30 days and my free trial was about to expire. I became more comfortable with editing and best of all loved my photos! I made the decision to purchase the package that contains both Photoshop and Lightroom and I’m so glad I did. I am happy with how my photos are turning out and I’m learning and growing with each photoshoot and trip I make.

One of the things that I like most about Lightroom is that you can buy presets to make your photos look even better. I started reading a lot more about what all you can do with the app and how presets work and I stumbled upon this website called Photzy. I signed up for their newsletter which gives photography tips, One day, this email popped up about Lightroom Presets from a company called Contrastly.

Contrastly is a company that offers presets, ebooks, tutorials and all kinds of information for photo enthusiasts like myself. They were offering a crazy deal on Lightroom Presets that honestly I didn’t believe at first (because it was a really good deal!). So, back on the internet I go to research this one. After several searches, I found out that it was legit but I closed the laptop and forgot about it. A few days later, another email from Photzy about these presets so I decided to purchase them. Now I will be totally honest, I was completely comfortable using the presets that came with Lightroom but I still wanted to add more creativity to my photos. I decided to purchase the Contrastly presets and I have to say I’ve been very pleased.

These presets have helped me tremendously with achieving the overall look and feel of my photos. What I like most about them are the categories for seasons and especially landscape since that is what I shoot the most right now but there are presets for all types of photography. I think my favorite are the Sunset and Sky presets. I take pictures mostly outside so these help a lot when adjusting lighting. I prefer for my photos to be as close as possible to how you’d encounter them if you were walking down the trail or driving down the road. Nature and landscape photography, in my opinion, is less about angles and symmetry and more about color, light and shadows. I can achieve this with the use of countless hours of editing or simply applying one of the presets and tweaking here and there to get what I want. I’ve cut my editing time way down, although I’m still behind the computer for hours. Presets don’t replace the photographer’s eye but are a way to help you get to your desired result faster.

In the pictures below you’ll see a photo taken on the lake. The first shot was uploaded straight from my camera with no edits, retouching or anything. In the second picture, I applied the Contrastly Landscape Enhance preset General 5, adjusted the clarity slightly and dehazed a little bit of the sky and water. Nothing else needed to be done to achieve the look I wanted.

After: using Contrastly preset for Landscape General 5

Before: no edits

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have been working with these presets for a while now and have grown pretty comfortable with which I will use for what. I have even started to take more photos of people (gasp!) and play around with some of the portrait settings. I don’t use presets for all of my photos but when I do need one I can always find a preset that fits the look and feel of that I’m trying to create. I have received so many complements about my photography lately and I’ve actually had a few requests for purchases. (woo hoo!!!) My best-selling photo to date was done using a portrait black and white preset that I literally did nothing to but adjust the clarity a little. I wouldn’t and couldn’t stand behind a product unless I use it myself so I highly recommend that if you’re a Lightroom user and were thinking about adding more presets, click on the banner below and check out Contrastly. If you’re currently using some of these, let me know in the comments.

Thanks for reading!

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