What are free Lightroom presets?

Matthew James Oxlade
Updated on

Adobe Lightroom is a staple for most photographers, but if you’re just starting out or are short on time, there are presets that will apply settings at the simple click of your mouse. There are lots of paid presets out there but there are also free Lightroom Presets. But are the free Lightroom Presets any good? And why would you use them? You might even want to know what they even are.

Lightroom presets are just like your Instagram filters – settings which are applied to your photo without you needing to do anything. Unlike your Instagram photos, these settings are applied individually, and you can’t decrease the potency of the preset with a single slider. You can use a preset to change only simple setting or multiple settings.

Use case 1

You have no idea where to start editing your image and want to spend more time practising photography first before learning more about how to edit photos. You could download Lightroom presets to fast track your photo editing without needing to know what slider effects what setting. Make your image dramatic and eye-catching without knowing a single thing about editing.

Use case 2

You always perform a certain action on your images, such as sharpening. You apply your sharpening values to an image and save the effect as a preset, leaving only the sharpening checkbox ticked when you save the preset. Now, rather than applying the preset to each photo as you’re editing, you can apply your sharpening preset to all images as they import. Set and forget!

Free Lightroom Presets

How do I download free Lightroom presets?

There are many free Adobe Lightroom presets available online, but the best presets often cost money. PresetLove and PresetsHeaven are two examples of free Lightroom preset sources.

Members of My Best Lightroom Presets can download free Lightroom presets for a few weeks after each of them are released. If you aren’t a member you can either sign up to download the Lightroom presets for free, or purchase individual presets or preset packs.

How do you install Lightroom presets?

Depending on whether you’re on a PC or a Mac, your Lightroom presets belong in the following directories:

PC: C:/Users/[user name]/AppData/Roaming/Adobe/Lightroom/Develop Presets
Mac: Users Macintosh HD / Users / [user name] / Library / Application Support / Adobe / Lightroom / Develop Presets

If you’re having trouble finding your Library folder on your Mac, there’s a quicker way to get to the presets folder:

Open Lightroom / Click on the word Lightroom in your menu bar / Click on Preferences / Click on Presets on the top row / Click on Show Lightroom Presets Folder

Lightroom does a poor job at folder structures and can’t tell the difference between a folder and a subfolder. This means that you should create meaningful folder names that all sit within the ‘Develop Presets’ folder. It won’t break anything if you have subfolders, but your parent folders will appear as empty in Lightroom. Doesn’t sound that annoying, but Lightroom sorts the preset folders by alphabetical order rather than by folder grouping. So I wouldn’t recommend you structure your folders this way.

Is it frowned upon to use Lightroom presets without knowing how to edit?

Yes and no. Some photographers believe that editing a photo using presets is ‘cheating’. The way I see the use of Lightroom presets is that if you’re learning from the settings the preset applies, then there’s no harm done. After all, that’s why you’re reading this article, right?