Make your photos go from ‘ok’ to ‘wow’ with one click.
Just a few years ago, I started working towards being a professional photographer. I’ve always had an interest in the field and have loved taking photos, but it wasn’t until late 2017 that I really started pushing forward in the profession. Any photographer will tell you that capturing the photograph is only half of the process. The second half is editing. Years ago, that used to be the development process in film labs, but now, the editing takes place digitally and touch-ups, colorization, and exposure are controlled in applications like Adobe’s Lightroom. For a couple of decades now, I’ve been a student of Adobe Photoshop, but I’ve discovered that the development of a digital photo can be handled within Lightroom – especially when you are utilizing presets and brushes.
What is a preset?
At this point, you might be asking yourself, “What is a preset?” A preset is a configuration of settings that creates a certain style for your photos. When you apply a preset, it automatically adds those settings to your selected photo or photos. For example, let’s say I created a preset that increased the exposure on a photo and decreased the saturation at the same time. I could save that as a preset and whenever I wanted to achieve that same look on another photo, I would just select the preset for that photo and tweak the settings as necessary. The problem with most presets is they are designed for a certain look and lighting condition. Most presets are not designed for every photo. Because of this, you are left with a group of presets that can’t be used on most photos just the ones that match that condition.
For the longest time, I was adjusting photos’ individual settings by hand. After a while, I did end up saving some presets for myself because I was using the same type of set-up for my product photography and I knew that certain settings would always need to be adjusted. Even though you can create your own presets, there are hundreds of presets floating around in the Internet ether. Some are free and while they aren’t a bad thing to practice with, I believe that when you are ready to get serious about using presets, you want to get the best. That’s why when I finally decided to add a preset library to my Lightroom set-up, I chose to go with Visual Flow Presets (VF Presets). They are intuitive, fast, and powerful. And in the short time I’ve had them, I’ve already seen the presets make a big difference in my final edits.
Why VF Presets?
Even though there are tons of options out there for presets, I ultimately decided to work with VF Presets for two main reasons. First, the installation process is streamlined so that you don’t spend a lot of time manually installing each individual preset pack, and second, the presets are ‘lighting-condition based,’ which means you spend less time editing because the presets provide a consistent look and style no matter what the lighting conditions were where you shot the photos. VF Presets work off of a patent-pending process where a single click can get you the desired look. You select the preset based on the lighting condition and let the technology do the rest of the edit. The team at Visual Flow took many hours and the knowledge of lighting science to create these stunning presets. They work to enhance your photos based on the lighting condition you shot your photos in. So, you can rest assured that these tools are up to the challenge of any professional who wants to create a workflow that saves time and gives you an end result that’s just stunning.
The preset packs (there are 5 of them) can be installed using the VF Presets installer utility, which is by far the easiest option available. The installer automatically puts the presets into the right location on your CPU so that Lightroom can find them. The second option is to attempt importing directly from Lightroom. There is an “Import Presets” option which should allow you to select the folder where your presets are living and Lightroom does the rest. Both of these options – especially the installer utility – provide users with the flexibility to install the presets without having to go through the manual process, which can be a real headache. You have to find the exact location of the actual folders where the presets are stored. This article from Adobe will direct you on how to install custom, third-party presets, and profiles in Lightroom. Trust me, using the installer utility from VF Presets is a much easier process.
While these are my top two reasons for working with VF presets, there are quite a few additional perks. One of those is the knowledge base that VF Presets provides. They have a vast library of tutorials and How-to articles that are easy to follow. Even before I had the presets I was looking to them for pointers on how to use Lightroom and photography workflows. Another reason to work with them is that updates on the preset packs are free. Yes, you read that right. They are free. Updates will be available over time and when adjustments are made to them.
What are the different preset packs that VF Presets offers?
VF Presets currently has 4 preset packs and 1 toolkit. Each preset pack (not including the Retouching Toolkit) includes 10 one-click presets to use while editing photos. All presets are compatible with Lightroom CC, Classic, and Mobile as well as Adobe Camera Raw, but the Retouching Kit can only be used with desktop versions and the brushes can only currently be used with Lightroom Classic. Here is a rundown of the different preset packs and what they are designed for.
Mood: Applies a warm, organic, wanderlust style to photos. These presets provide a cinematic matte finish for visual storytellers.
Crush: Helps photos maintain skin tones, but also creates a bold, vivid style.
Pastel: Bright and airy, this preset pack creates soft, filmic styles for photos. This is a great option for wedding photos. Emulation inspired by Fuji 400h.
Modern: Creates a warm, vibrant, natural style.
The Retouching Toolkit: While this isn’t really a ‘preset’ pack, it is a huge companion piece for photo editors. This toolkit includes 47 retouching brushes and 26 tools that make it possible for you to eliminate Photoshop from your workflow. With these tools, you can fix skin blemishes, dodge and burn within Lightroom, enhance skies and sunsets, and even add sun flares.
As far as pricing goes, VF Presets sells each one of these packs as individual downloads or you can select a bundle option. If you purchase multiple products from VF Presets, you will get a discount. There is a note along with the pricing options that reads: Save $30 when you buy any two products, $45 when you buy three, and $60 when you buy four. This applies to all packs and the retouching toolkit. Just add each product to your cart, and you will see $15 off each item. No codes necessary. If you already purchased packs or bundles and you want to purchase again, VF Presets gives users the option to receive a $15 off discount to new items as long as the user logs in prior to purchasing. The pricing chart for the VF Presets products are listed below. All prices current at the time of publishing this article.
|Individual Pack/Toolkit||Bundled with Retouching Toolkit|
|Mood Pack||$95||$160 (was |
|Crush Pack||$95||$160 (was |
|Modern Pack||$95||$160 (was |
|Pastel Pack||$95||$160 (was |
|Retouching Toolkit||$95||$160 (was |
What presets and tools did I use?
I ended up having two photoshoots that I used the VF Presets with while I was testing them out. Both shoots involved a single subject, shot outdoors with off-camera lighting. I shoot exclusively with the Canon EOS-R and Tamron lenses. The lenses I used varied between the shoots.
The first shoot, “Kaylor,” included a two-light set-up and a Catchlight reflector. I have included one behind-the-scenes photo below as a set-up example. You can see that each of the lights that were used included modifiers.
For this shoot, I was really trying to capture a nice portrait to highlight the Catchlight and its usefulness as a specialized reflector. The purpose of that reflector is to eliminate harsh shadows on the face of your subject and to really make the eyes pop. When I sat down to edit these photos, I had the VF Presets already installed. After weeding out the selects from the photos I captured, I used the Modern Pack presets to enhance Kaylor’s photos. The photos below represent the before and after of her ‘hero’ shot.
I felt like the photo had good lighting and composure. I did, however, feel that I wanted to see Kaylor’s eye’s brightened up, her hair color enhanced, and the general tone of the photo be warmer than what I was seeing in the original RAW file. After applying the Soft Light option from the Modern Pack, I used the Dark Mode option under tools to give the photo a moody look. From there, I used Dodge & Lift to paint the light back in, and then I used the different Eye enhancement brushes to make her eyes stand out. After that, I gave the lips a bit of a shine with the Lips: Increase Shine brush. With Kaylor, I didn’t have to smooth out her skin as she has a beautiful natural tone and smoothness already. I did, however, use the Diminish Lines brush to reduce the bags under her eyes a bit. Finally, I used the Details + Clothing brush to enhance the color and texture of Kaylor’s sweater.
With just one click, the photo went from ‘ok’ to ‘wow’. The second shoot, “Maria,” featured my daughter in a local park setting. In this instance, I used only one off-camera light (the Godox AD 300 Pro) with a modifier. We had several different set-ups and this photo ended up being one of my favorites.
You’ll see that this photo unedited falls a little flat. The early evening light in the background and the GoDox AD 300 Pro as the key light get a gentle soft light. I went directly to the Modern look presets and ultimately decided that the Soft Light option made the photo ‘pop’ the best. After the look was applied, I moved to the Retouching Toolkit to use the brush sets like I had done with Kaylor’s photo. With Maria’s photo, I wanted to draw attention to her face so I added a radial burn and vignette before I moved on to the ‘fine tuning’ tools. I ended up brightening her eyes, enhancing her hair, and smoothing out her skin. The video included with this review shows the full edit of Maria’s photo – sped up, of course. I consider this edit as ‘quick and sloppy’ as I really just wanted to highlight how powerful the VF Presets are as a system.
I’ve been doing photo editing for close to 20 years now. I’ve always liked modifying them and even adding special effects to them – it was all done in Photoshop. In the past couple of years as I’ve tried to build my skills as a photographer, I’ve also tried to move into Lightroom as my primary photo organization and editing tool. Until I added Visual Flow’s Preset Packs, I felt like Lightroom was missing something. Now as a photo editing tool, it feels complete. I love that by having these presets and the Retouching Toolkit within Lightroom that I very rarely need to switch over to Photoshop. This saves me a ton of time and it’s worth the investment.