Lightroom presets can be a photographers best friend. With just a click of the mouse, you can apply a specific effect to your photos. They work by applying specific settings to the slides in Lightroom’s Develop Module. And best of all, you can still edit the photo as needed after applying the preset.
Presets are to Lightroom what actions are to Photoshop. You can apply a preset to your photo and achieve a certain look or effect quickly. In fact, presets generally are applied faster than Photoshop actions. When you run an action in Photoshop, it will carry out step-by-step, and in some cases, it is not very quick. Lightroom presets apply the effect simply by changing specific settings, which allows them to be applied almost instantly.
You can use a preset to get exactly the look you want, or use it as a starting point by continuing to adjust the sliders after you’ve applied the preset.
Presets are also a lot of fun to experiment with because the results are never quite the same on different photos. Since each photo represents a different starting point, the results will vary a bit from one photo to the next. If you have a nice collection of presets, you can quickly try a bunch of different looks to see what you like best.
While Lightroom presets are often sold for high prices, some of them are available for free. Here, we’ll highlight more than 40 of our favorite freebies that we know you’ll love too.
If you want to learn more about the specific tools in Lightroom, please see our collection of Lightroom tutorials.
At the end of this article, you’ll find instructions on how to install Lightroom presets.
Free Lightroom Presets
This preset will lighten the shadows and darken the highlights to increase the dynamic range. The result is a bold, colorful photo that really pops. This is one of our favorite free presets and it works very well with a wide range of photos.
Here is another HDR preset that is another great option. It’s a very bold and aggressive look. It can be used with portraits, as shown below, or with other types of photos like nature and landscapes.
This HDR preset will give some added life to your photos, but it’s a softer effect as compared to the previous two presets that were shown. It’s more of a realistic look and somewhat subtle for HDR.
If you’re working with a photo that has dull colors, this preset will apply the HDR effect to increase dynamic range and it will also boost the colors by adding a strong vibrance effect. The result is a very colorful photo. The preset may be too strong for some photos since it is intended to be used on photos with dull colors to begin with.
This HDR preset will also give photos a sharpened look in addition to increasing the dynamic range. It does that by boosting contrast, clarity, and sharpness settings in Lightroom’s Develop Module.
This HDR preset was created specifically with landscapes in mind. It’s a fairly strong and bold effect, but it won’t be too overpowering with most landscape and nature photos. With just one click, you can give a flat or dull photo a lot of life.
When your photos come out a little dull, an easy way to improve them is by boosting the colors. This preset will do the trick for you. It’s a strong effect, so you should only use it when the colors are very lacking to begin with, or you may need to reduce the saturation and vibrance a little.
This prest was inspired by the work of Andrej Dragan, who is known for bold and intense portraits. The preset desaturates the photo a little and also boosts contrast and clarity significantly in order to achive this strong look that is sure to be noticed.
If you love black & white photos, this is a preset you’ll definitely want to download. The right contrast is essential to have a black & white photo that looks great and this preset nails it. It’s easy to convert your color photos into stunning black & whites with the help of this preset.
This preset is perfect for recreating the look of film photography. It’s not a film emulator that attempts to replicate the look of a specific film, but it does give your photo a nice film-like appearance with just one click.
This is another option for getting the film look. The result is different than the previous preset so be sure to try them both and see which one looks best with your photo.
Black & white conversions are easy with this preset. It works well with just about any type of photo and could serve as your go-to option for color to black & white conversions.
This preset will perform a nice black & white conversion that includes a sharper look. The detail is a little hard to tell in the preview because it’s a smaller image, but it does add a nice level of sharpness that makes the photo look crisp.
If you like the vintage look, this preset is one you don’t want to miss. It works well with a wide variety of photos for getting a genuine vintage look.
Applying a cross processing effect is a great way to make a photo stand out. This look replicates cross processing that was done intentionally to film photos. It’s looks great without being too bold like some cross processing effects.
This is another option for getting a beautiful cross processed look with your digital photos. Try them both and see which one you like best.
If you’re after the trendy film look, this preset is ideal. You can take any digital photo and give it a film-like appearance with just a click of the mouse.
Here is another film preset that you won’t want to miss. This one is a bit more subtle than some other film presets, and it works well with just about any photo.
Want a sharp and bold black & white photo? Try this preset.
If you want a vintage look without doing anything overpowering, this preset is an excellent option. It’s a bit like some of the film presets and gives you a photo that looks great without an overly-processed look.
This black & white preset was created with landscape and nature photos in mind. Use it when you want strong contrast and a black & white photo that will make a statement.
Need to boost the colors of your photo? Try this one that will also add some contrast and clarty.
Here is another option for boosting colors without going too crazy. It’s good for dull photos but may be a little too much for photos that already have pretty strong colors.
This collection of presets from FilterGrade gives you 10 unique options that were created for portraits.
When you need to boost color and contrast in a big way, this preset is an option. Be awae that it will be too strong for some photos, but when you’ve got a really dull or flat photo, this is a great option.
This small pack allows you to do things like adjust white balance, correct exposures, and more.
This is a small set of stackable presets that serves as a sample of a larger pack.
Sometimes you want to boost colors and other times you may want to go after a faded look. When the faded look is your choice, this preset is perfect.
Here is another free faded preset that you won’t want to miss. It’s similar to the previous one but you can try both and see which one you like better.
This pack includes 5 presets with creamy, velvety tones.
Soften those colors and create beautiful images with the help of this free preset. It doesn’t have a strong fade like some of the others, but it does give a nice softened look.
Here is another option for creating a retro or vintage effect. The result of this one is a little stronger so it might not work well with every photo.
Give your photos a bold and sharp look with high contrast and boosted warmth. The effect is amazing on the right photo.
With this one, you’ll lighten the colors and boost contrast pretty significantly. It’s a bit like a high contrast fade.
Here is a unique preset that we think you’ll love. It gives you photo a nice matte look but then also adds some film grain. The grain is hard to see on the preview image because it’s small, but it’s much more visible on a higher-res photo.
This is a simple matte preset that is ideal for quickly giving any photo a basic matte appearance.
This is another matter preset, but the effect is pretty soft and subtle. Nothing overpowering.
When the tones of your photos are too cool and you want to warm them up, try this preset.
Get the vintage toy camera inspired look with the help of this preset. It’s a fun effect that you’ll love to play around with.
This preset is an excellent alternative to the faded colors look. It does soften the colors but also applies a subtle pastel tone that works really well with some photos.
Give your photos a nice soft and hazy look with this preset. It’s ideal for outdoor photos like natural light portraits.
This is a strong option that will give your photos a look inspired by cinematic effects. It will be too overpowering for some photos but looks great with many images.
This is a fun preset that has a subtle blue tone. It’s not overpowering but can add just the right touch to your photo.
This one will fade the colors and add a warm orange tint or hue. It can look great in the right situation.
If you like the cinematic look, this is a preset you’ll definitely want to download. It also desaturates that photo, giving it a nice moody look.
This one will be too strong for some photos, but when you have a dull photo and you need to bring it to life, this is an easy option.
How to Install Lightroom Presets
If you haven’t used Lightroom presets in the past, you will need to make sure that they are properly installed before you will be able to use them. The installation process isn’t complicated, but there are a few steps that you will need to take. The first step is to download the preset or presets that you want to use. There is plenty of quality presets list above to get you started, but this process can be followed with any develop preset. For this example, I’ll use the HDR preset from PhotographyPla.net that was showcased above.
Once you have downloaded a preset, you should see a .lrtemplate file. You may need to unzip the download and open a folder, but ultimately the file or files that you are looking for will end with .lrtemplate.
Copy the .lrtemplate file or files to your clipboard. Then, in Lightroom go to Edit > Preferences (PC) or Lightroom > Preferences (Mac). This will open a window like the one you see below. Click on the button that says “Show Lightroom Presets Folder”.
Now, open the “Lightroom” folder.
Then open the “Develop Presets” folder.
Once you open the Develop Presets folder, you will see a “User Presets” folder. The presets that you create and use yourself will go in this User Presets folder. If you have not installed any other presets yet, you will see nothing here except for the User Presets folder. If you have installed other presets, they will show up here.
You can now paste the preset file that you copied.
You can either paste the preset files as shown here, or you can add them in folders. The last step is to close Lightroom and re-open it. Now when you go into the Develop Module of Lightroom, you will see all of your available presets listed. Just click on one to apply it (if the presets are in a folder, you will need to open the folder first).
And now you are ready to start using the Lightroom presets that you have downloaded!
Frequently Asked Questions
What Are Lightroom Presets
Adobe Lightroom is popular photo editing software that is used by professionals and hobbyists alike. Presets allows you to apply saved settings to any photo with a single click. Many presets were created to give a photo a particular type of effect or style. You can create and save your own presets, download some for free (like the ones on this page), or purchase presets.
Can I Use Presets in Lightroom Mobile?
Yes, and there are a couple of different ways to do it. If you use Lightroom (CC) on a desktop, you can install presets in the desktop version and they will be automatically synched to the mobile app. If you do not use the desktop version, presets can be saved in the mobile app directly, although you cannot use the same .lrtemplate or .xmp files that you would use on a desktop. Some presets come with a DNG file, which is what you’ll need in order to save them to the mobile app.
Why Does My Preset Look Different on Different Photos?
Each photo represents a different starting point. The preset determines what the settings will be adjusted to, but since each photo is a different starting point, no develop preset will look exactly the same on different photos. After applying the preset, you can adjust the settings and sliders as needed to get the look that you want.
Will Old Presets Work in the Current Version of Lightroom?
Yes, you can use presets that were created in a previous version of Lightroom. However, the presets from an older version of Lightroom may use a different process version, which means you may see some different sliders and settings after you’ve applied the preset to your photo.