Better Pictures Project: Lightroom Presets (and my new tattoo!)

Hi! I’ve been really busy lately: teaching at extra schools for a month while we waited for more staff to be hired, taking two courses online, organising three posts a week on the Sewcialists, AND sewing and blogging for myself! So while I’ve got plenty of summer sewing projects still waiting to be blogged, I wanted to show you a really simple project I made recently. The project is nothing special and the pictures are nothing special, so it seems like the perfect time to also play around with Lightroom Presets!

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What are presets? They are basically Instagram filters made for Lightroom editing software. One click, and you get a photographic “look”!  Sometimes subtle, but often a little heavy-handed for my taste… but they are a fun way to play around!

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The idea behind presets is that you can edit pictures quickly with one click. Once you’ve applied the preset, you can also layer other presets (such as a vignette effect), or you can tweak the picture a bit more so it’s exactly to your tastes. For the pictures in this post, the far left version is as-shot (sometimes with some exposure adjustments to brighten things up), and the other three versions are presets.

In Lightroom, you can also create your own presets if you have consistent edits you like to make on all your photos. Using one preset consistently gives a uniform look across all your posts, and helps if you want a consistent visual brand.

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Presets are also a great learning tool. If you’ve ever played around with the presets on Instagram or other social media filters, you’ll know that part of the fun is seeing how your picture changes! For example, the three black and white versions above are all subtly different, with more shading, contrast, or warmth. Once you apply a preset, you can look at the adjustment sliders to see how the effect was created, which gives you strategies for creating similar results in your own edits.

I got fascinated by presets this summer when Facebook started showing me endless family portrait sessions that a friend has “liked”. I got really fascinated by the very particular style that seems to be popular now, like this, this or this. (Everyone always seems to be frolicking in nature at golden hour!) It reminds me a lot of wedding photography, and my wedding pics have some of the same vibe, which I’m sure will look very 2010’s in a few more decades! I started studying the pictures to figure out how they were getting that specific look: high contrast, warmth cranked up, matte blacks, and whatever else is going on. I decided that as an academic exercise, I’d see if I could find the preset that would recreate that look!

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For these photos, I’ve downloads two free sets of presets: “15 Must-Have Presets” from Cole’s Classroom, and “The Starter Pack” from SleekLens. I also used some of the built-in presets from Lightroom. I don’t really have any favourites – I’m not sure there are any I would use regularly, but I enjoyed the exercise anyway! If you are curious to learn more about Lightroom, I’ve blogged about it here and here.

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I guess I should tell you about the dress? It is an ITY Groove dress, just like this one I made at the start of the summer. You were all right about that one – it’s not as short as I thought, and I have worn it lots! I’ve seen this print in several Fabriclands over the last couple of years, and finally just decided to buy it already! It was $5/m, and combines my love of cobalt with my love of leopard!

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And the fun part: my first tattoo! I planned this out over the summer, and finally got it done a few weeks ago. My husband has a matching one on his forearm. It’s actually a Fantastic Four logo (his obsession), and depending which hexagons are black, it represents married superheroes Reed Richards and Sue Storm. He has the original logo with two all-black hexis, but I changed one of the black ones to have sashiko stitching instead. We met in Japan, I love sewing, and it reminds me of quilts and Jamie of his grandfather’s bees, so it’s really all things to all people!

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I wanted a location that I could easily cover at work (especially if I decide to work my way up to principal), but currently I just wish it showed more! Come summer, I’m going to have to make some shorter shorts, skirts and dresses!

So… chat with me! Presets! Photo editing! Tattoos! Short skirts! Feeling way too busy! I’m pretty sure we all identify with at least one of those topics, right?


13 thoughts on “Better Pictures Project: Lightroom Presets (and my new tattoo!)

  1. I don’t know if paint.net is a “pre-set”? I’ve been using this free program since I took a course on digital photography – very basic – at the Kitchener downtown community centre with http://www.bitsbytes.ca/links.htm – the program is called “paint.net”.

    If anyone is interested in downloading this free program PLEASE use the link to it off his web site! There are SO many BAD links that show up first on a google search that will take you to the wrong site. These WRONG SITES could potentially cause a mess on your cpu.

    This is a GREAT program – although free with an option to donate, it’s produced by a photography class somewhere in the US and is continually being improved and upgraded. It does all that you mention here in your post and more 🙂

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    1. I think Paint is like a parallel program to Lightroom? You can crop, edit, etc? It’s so great that there are free options out there!

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  2. I have to be honest, I am really glad I have someone else editing my photos, LOL! I only care about whether I think I look okay–everything else is up to my photographer. It’s all a bit tedious to me, and my eyes kind of glaze over! It’s nice that our hobbies dovetail like this though, because we both get to handle the parts that we enjoy when it comes to doing stuff for my blog.

    Hopefully things settle down for you soon! (I’ve had a busier-than-usual few weeks as well, and all I want to do is nap and be left alone for the next month!) And I am all about short skirts, especially when you’ve got a tattoo to show off. 😉

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    1. Does your husband edit your photos? That’s a great deal, especially if he likes it! I’ve realised over the years that I quite enjoy it too – and editing pics is something I can do on the couch when I’m too lazy to sew!

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  3. Life’s too short to edit photos! I just pose, the missus clicks, I delete the ones where I look especially old/fat/manky and that’s it lol
    I’m all for tattoos and will eventually get another, but right now I’d rather spend my cash on more fabric! Go as short as you want, why the hell not? And as for busy…well, teaching, what can we do?

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  4. Woo Hoo! It looks like your tattoo turned out just like you envisioned!

    The too busy I can sort of identify with. I’ve been feeling overwhelmed recently, but I think it’s more emotionally based than actually being too busy. Weirdly, I think that if I actually slot in times to do some of the online courses I’ve purchased and neglected to do…I’ll feel more balanced. Does that make any sense at all? No matter, your post is inspiring me to sort myself out. xo

    I do most of my photo editing in Picasa that I have downloaded to my computer. It has a few presets, but I’m rarely happy with them, LOL.

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    1. I hope you can make time for some of your online courses! I”m taking one in Indigenous Canadian history, which is theoretically something I’m passionate about, but in practice I get bored watching an hour of lecture videos each week. I’m also taking a course for teachers on ESL, which again, I am passionate about but OMG the online format is so superficial and dull! It’s supposed to be 6 hours a week or so, but I’m having trouble fitting that in as well as working full time!
      BUT – first world problems! I’m lucky to have a job, hobby, home and partner that i love!

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  5. Looking lovely, Gillian. I really love that fabric and your dress is gorgeous. What a fab and unusual tattoo. Nice that you and the Mr. have got (almost) the same ones. I have been thinking of getting a new tattoo for ages but it took me so long to choose this one that I will be 70 before I have decided my next one. What a great idea to use pre-sets. I have Lightroom as part of Adobe CC but I never ever use it. I haven’t taken any photos for ages (except for work) and I just edit everything in Photoshop as most stuff is off my phone. I have my digital SLR down at last as Sprogzilla is doing photography at school so I might persuade her to take some shots for my next blog post. Adobe have some fab tutorials. Have you had a look at them? Xx

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    1. OOh, definitely rope your daughter in as photographer! I’m sure she owes you for years of favours! 😉 And I have to say, I’ve never watched any Adobe tutorials, but I clearly should! I always head straight to Youtube, but I should explore more official tutorials too! Thanks!

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  6. I’ve been considering either acquiring or creating presets, actually.I bought a subscription to lightroom (ouch that is not cheap!) because I was just having rages trying to even just resize and crop my photos in Windows 10’s garbage fire photos, and it was stopping me blogging and also making it hard to manage the hundreds of photos I take for every item. I also bought a monitor I can plug my laptop in so I can actually see what I’m doing! Much easier than a tiny screen. I figure it’s bringing real value to my hobbies so it’s worth it to me, although I wish I’d gotten in when you could actually own the software instead of paying for it constantly.

    I am still doing just very basic things in it – one of the main things I do which I used to do when doing super basic editing in Photoshop for a past job is just to ‘flatten out the mountains’ – in the little sidebar where you have the hills telling you what’s going on in the photos, I try to make it so there’s no extreme peaks (I’m sure there are proper words to describe this! This is how rudimentary my edits are…) Because I take photos in the same place every time, in similar lighting conditions, it’s almost always the same set of edits – pumping up the shadows and the contrast, because otherwise I’m washed out and the colours aren’t true. I try to resist doing too much else because it’s easy to get carried away but I think it would be handy to have a standard preset to apply to a whole photoshoot to even those hills out, and then I can tweak from there if I need. It would certainly speed things up. Now to work out how to do it… boy, I feel old age approaching. New software used to be easy to learn!

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