How To Properly Import & Edit With Presets in Lightroom

Lightroom presets are some of the most misunderstood concepts in photography. Beginners often think they can simply apply a preset and export immediately. That’s not actually how they are meant to be used. Lightroom presets are meant to give you a starting point to help you achieve a specific look to your images.

This article is going to teach you exactly how to import and use Lightroom presets by walking you through my actual editing process as a professional photographer. If you’d like to follow along, check out our Creatives for Christ shop for the presets used in this tutorial – a purchase of our church photography preset pack comes with the actual RAW photo file used in this tutorial! With that in mind, let’s dive in.

What Are Lightroom Presets?

Lightroom presets are files that tell Adobe Lightroom what settings to use to edit a photo. Every setting used by photographers to edit photos can be included in a Lightroom preset including exposure, HSL, lens profiles, masking, AI adjustments and more.

Presets can save time by providing a quick and efficient way to enhance photos with consistent settings. They are created by photographers or editing professionals to streamline their editing process and maintain a consistent aesthetic across their work. Users can customize presets to suit their preferences or create their own presets from scratch within Lightroom.

Presets can range from subtle tweaks to dramatic transformations, catering to various photography and editing styles. They can mimic film styles, vintage effects, modern aesthetics, or specific colour-grading techniques.

Presets are compatible across different versions of Lightroom, ensuring consistency in editing workflows, including Lightroom Classic and Lightroom CC. Presets can also be used on the Lightroom iPad app. They can be applied to individual photos or batches of images, speeding up the editing process for large projects. You can even set Lightroom to apply a specific preset as soon as photos are imported.

Presets often come in packs or collections, offering a variety of styles and options for users to choose from. They are prevalent among photographers, such as wedding or event photographers, who edit large volumes of photos.

Users can preview presets in real-time to see how they affect their photos before applying them by hovering their mouse over the preset without clicking on it. Presets can be adjusted after application, allowing users to fine-tune the edits to suit each specific image. Presets are meant to be starting points for editing, providing inspiration and guidance for achieving desired looks, but not the end look.

Sometimes applying a preset can have your desired look without any adjustments but, in general, you will have to do some tweaking to exposure, white balance, and saturation values to utilize presets properly.

Users can organize presets into folders or categories within Lightroom for easy access and management. They are often shared and exchanged among photographers, creating a community of users who collaborate and learn from each other’s editing styles.

Presets are a versatile tool used in every type of photography to maintain a cohesive visual identity across a series of photos, such as in branding or marketing campaigns. You can purchase presets from online marketplaces, download them for free from websites and blogs, or create them yourself.

Lightroom presets empower you as a photographer of any skill level to achieve professional-looking, consistent results with your photos, regardless of your editing experience.

How To Install Lightroom Presets

Follow these simple steps to install Lightroom presets quickly so you can get started editing right away. Some photographers prefer to install presets by navigating their file explorer, but this method is significantly faster and easier, it’s also how Adobe intended for presets to be installed.

It’s important to note that you have two options when importing presets; you can import individual presets or groups of presets. This means that you can upload presets all in one go if you have bought a preset pack like our Church Photography Lightroom Presets.

Step 1: Download Your Desired Preset(s)

There are lots of Lightroom presets on the internet all with different styles and purposes. For this tutorial, I’m going to work with our Church Photography Lightroom Presets offered in the Creatives for Christ shop. The images for this tutorial are taken from Adobe Lightroom Classic, but the process is virtually the same in Lightroom CC.

Make sure your presets are saved in an accessible location and that you know where they are. I recommend having a backup of these presets in case they somehow get removed from Lightroom in the future. While it is usually possible to re-download your presets from the same place you initially found them, I don’t recommend relying on them still being available. This is especially true if you are using free presets online. Back them up to a Dropbox or Google Drive account, just to be safe.

Step 2: In Lightroom, Navigate To the “Develop” Page

Next, open Adobe Lightroom and click the “Develop” label in the top menu bar.

In Lightroom CC, the Develop page is on the left menu bar as shown above.

Step 3: In The Presets Panel, Click “+” Then “Import Presets…”

The next step is to click the plus sign (+) in the Presets panel, then click “Import Presets…”.

If you get the error message “All items were already imported.”, try clicking “Manage Presets…” instead of “Import Presets…”. Then, check and see if your preset has already been installed. You need to have the checkbox enabled to use imported presets.

Step 4: Find Your Presets in The File Browser

Back in Step 1, I told you to save your presets in an easily accessible place. The reason for that is to make finding them easier in this step. Use your file browser, whether on Windows or Mac, to find where you have saved the presets you are installing.

Note that the place you save your presets is not their final location once you import them. The process of importing these presets into Lightroom is the program copying them into a dedicated location on your computer. What this means is that, if you saved the presets to your desktop, you can move or delete them after importing them to Lightroom without affecting the editing software.

Step 5: Select The Preset(s) You Would Like To Import & Click “Import”

The final step is to select the presets that you would like to import into Lightroom by clicking them, then click “Import”. At this point, you have two options: import a single preset or import a group of presets. To import a single preset, simply click on it then click import. If you import a single preset into Lightroom without a dedicated folder, from your desktop for example, it will show up in your Presets panel under “User Presets”.

To import a group of presets, hold CTRL (Windows) or CMD (Mac) and click on each of the presets you would like to import. After importing a group of presets, they will be organized in your presets panel based on the name of the folder they were stored in on your computer before importing. Put simply, if you import presets from a folder called “My Presets” on your desktop, they will be organized into a folder called “My Presets” in the Presets panel of Lightroom.

How To Use Lightroom Presets

Left ImageRight Image

By far the biggest misconception when it comes to Lightroom presets is that you can just “set it and forget it”. Even with presets that I have created for my professional work, I can’t remember the last time I was able to just apply the preset and move on (if it’s ever actually happened).

Lightroom presets are meant to be a starting point to help you achieve a certain style or look and to keep your photos edited consistently. This means that, once you have applied a preset, you still have some work to do to ensure your photo looks as the creator of the preset has intended.

With this in mind, I’m going to walk you through the process of editing a photo using our Church Photography Lightroom Presets. This preset pack comes with the RAW file of the photo we are editing in this tutorial. Check out the preset pack in our Creatives for Christ shop if you would like to follow along.

Step 1: Import & Cull Your Photos

This step is more important than you might think. You don’t want to waste time and your computer’s processing power editing photos that aren’t going to be used, so it’s important to cull your photos. Culling is the process of selecting which photos you are going to edit. This can be done by using Lightroom’s flagging system, its rating system, or by adding photos to collections in Lightroom.

This step can be done in the “Library” tab or the “Develop”. I prefer the “Library” tab because it tends to respond quicker and it allows you to look at your photos in a grid.

Step 2: In The “Develop” Tab, Select The Photo You Would Like To Edit

Next, navigate to the “Develop” tab using the top menu bar, then select the photo you would like to edit from the photo roll at the bottom of Lightroom. You can set Lightroom to apply a specific preset on import but I don’t recommend it. Each photo may need a different preset depending on its composition, blankly applying the same preset to every photo will just waste time and processing power.

Step 3: In The Presets Panel, Click The Preset You Would Like To Apply

The Presets panel is located on the left side of Lightroom Classic and the top right of Lightroom CC. You can hover over various presets to see a preview of them on your image. Once you have decided on a preset, simply click it to apply to your selected image.

If you don’t see a preset that you have already imported, click the plus sign (+) in the top right of the Presets panel and click “Manage Presets…”. You want to make sure any preset that you’d like to use has the blue check box visible to indicate that it is enabled. If it isn’t showing up in this menu, try importing it again by following the steps above.

Step 4: Make Exposure Adjustments

Now that we have imported our photos, selected one to edit, and applied our preset, we can begin to tweak our settings to our liking. The first thing I always start with when editing with presets is exposure adjustments. While doing this, I mainly use the photo I am editing to expose to my specific taste while using the histogram as a reference.

I always start in the “Basic” panel with the “Exposure” slider. For this specific image, the white of the Bible pages was too bright and the shadows of the finger were too dark. To fix this, I brought the “Whites” slider down and the “Blacks” slider up. I also pushed the “Exposure” slider to +0.70 for a small boost to the image’s exposure. I also boosted the contrast to +10 because the image looked a bit washed out after adjusting the “Whites” and “Blacks” sliders.

At this point, I’m pretty happy with the exposure. I don’t see a need to adjust the tone curve at all, so I’ll move on to the next step. Remember, you can always go back and make adjustments as needed.

Step 5: Adjust Your White Balance

Next, we’re going to adjust our white balance. Sometimes presets have white balances already set; I’m not a fan of this because each image has different lighting and colour casting so there isn’t a single white balance that works universally. For this reason, we set the white balance in our presets to “As Shot” so you as a photographer can get as close to the right white balance as possible while shooting, and then make minor adjustments while editing.

For our image above, I thought the white balance was set pretty well while shooting. All I did was shift the “Temperature” slider slightly to the right, warming the image up, and shift the “Tint” slider slightly to the right to subtract some green from the image (adding magenta).

You may notice that the skin tones look a bit too saturated, or orange. Don’t worry, we’ll fix it later.

Step 6: Make Crop, Transformation, & Lens Profile Adjustments

Before we continue to edit we need to make sure our composition is dialed in. To do this, I first decide whether I need to use the “Transformation” panel or the “Crop” panel. The Transformation panel comes in handy when you have straight lines that are tilted or skewed. This is especially important when trees or buildings are in your image.

If you need to, you can either click “Auto” in the transformation panel or manually draw parallel guides to tell Lightroom which lines should be used as a reference for correction. Be sure to select the “Constrain Crop” button to ensure any blank space is automatically cropped out.

Lens Corrections are profiles built by lens manufacturers that adjust for distortion. With some camera body and lens combinations, these profiles are applied in your camera body so no action is required on your part. In some cases, often with third-party lenses, you will have to manually apply lens corrections.

For the image above, the Crop tool will work perfectly. The composition is pretty close to what I want for this image so I’ll only make minor adjustments. Using the rule of thirds as a guide, I cropped this photo a little bit to make sure the finger on the Bible is in the top left intersection. And adjusted the rotation to ensure it lays flat on the guideline shown above. As for lens corrections, our presets are set to automatically apply the profile as long as it is installed in Lightroom.

Most major lens manufacturers have profiles pre-installed in Lightroom. If yours doesn’t show up, check your lens manufacturer’s website for the lens correction profile download.

A quick tip: if you would like to switch an image between portrait and landscape, tap “x” on your keyboard with the crop tool selected.

Step 7: Make Saturation Adjustments

The next step is to make adjustments to the global saturation slider. One common mistake I see with new photographers is that they often oversaturate their images. We are using the global saturation slider in the Basics panel which affects all colours uniformly. Your goal in this step is to get most of the colours to be at the right saturation level based on your personal preference.

For the image, we are editing, I increased the saturation a bit. You may notice that, after adjusting, the image looks properly saturated except for the skin, which looks oversaturated. It’s okay for one or two colours to be over or undersaturated at this step because we are going to target specific colours in the next step.

Step 8: Make HSL Adjustments

HSL stands for hue, saturation, and luminance. The HSL panel in Lightroom allows you to target each of these values for specific colours. You can make the reds appear more orange or yellow depending on the hue slider. You can also saturate or desaturate the reds using the saturation slider. Using the luminance slider, you can decrease or increase the exposure of your reds.

For our image above, I desaturated the oranges which fixed the oversaturated skin tones. I also lowered the luminance of the purples to take focus away from the arm holding the Bible. Again, to avoid drawing focus from the subject, I desaturated and lowered the luminance of the blues by a bit to take care of the blue jeans in the background.

Step 9: Make Healing Adjustments

Next, we’re going to click the bandage logo in the top left of our Lightroom window to get to the healing menu. At this point, you can use the Eraser, Healing, and Clone Stamp tools to remove any distracting elements or dirt on your lens.

In our image above, I didn’t have anything I wanted to remove, so I didn’t use the healing adjustments tool. Remember, not every one of these steps is going to apply to every photo you take. Feel free to play around with the healing tool on this image if you are following along.

Step 10: Make Masking Adjustments

Masks are used to target and edit specific parts of your image. You can use preselected shapes such as radial or linear gradient masks, or draw masks yourself. You can also use Lightroom’s AI detection features to select subjects, backgrounds, skies, or specific people.

When it comes to our image above, my main goal is to draw focus on the Bible in the center of the image. The composition itself does most of the legwork for me because the white pages of the Bible are bright and the surrounding elements are somewhat dark. Also, the finger and Bible are in focus while the rest is out of focus which helps draw the viewer’s attention. All I did was create a single radial mask and lower its saturation, exposure, and clarity slightly to help emphasize the finger on the Bible.

Step 11: Adjust The Vignette Slider

The vignette effect in Lightroom is used to darken or brighten the edges of your image, drawing focus to the center of your image. Notice that Lightroom uses a “Post-Crop Vignette”, this means that the vignette is applied after you crop the image. You can make changes to your crop without worrying about cropping out your vignette.

For our image above, I didn’t feel it needed a vignette so I went without it but, if you’re following along, feel free to experiment with the vignette settings in your edit.

Step 12: Make Sharpening, Grain, & Noise Reduction Adjustments

Now that we have our exposure and colours nailed down, we just need to do the final touches. I usually start with sharpening which increases the contrast in the edges of your image. These edges are high-contrast points in your image. To see exactly what is being sharpened, you can hold Option (Mac) or Alt (Windows) while dragging the “Masking” slider.

Next, we’ll adjust our noise reduction. Make sure you don’t apply too much noise reduction or else your image will look too smooth and “plasticky”. I like to zoom in using the Navigator panel in the top left of Lightroom to see the noise reduction in effect.

Finally, we can adjust the grain in our image. In general, I like to have more grain in black-and-white images and enough grain to add texture but not be noticeable in coloured images.

In our image above, all I did beyond the preset values was increase the sharpening slightly using the text on the Bible as a reference point. Some people like to have more grain than others, some prefer no grain at all. Experiment with the grain size and roughness in your images. It is common to have larger and more rough grain in black-and-white images as they are more stylized and “filmic”.

In terms of noise reduction. I thought this image was at a pretty good level after applying the preset. Any higher levels of noise reduction and skin tones would look too artificially smooth and “plasticky”. Also, we would likely see some artifacts in the text of the Bible.

Step 13: Export Your Image(s)

Finally, right-click on your photo in the bottom photo roll and click “Export” > “Export…”. As for specific export settings, this depends on where you are going to use the image. If you purchased our presets from the Creatives for Christ shop, then you will have received our export presets included with your purchase.

Let’s say you intend on exporting for Instagram, simply select our export preset labelled “Instagram”, select where you would like the image to be exported to, and fill in the file name. You can even select multiple export presets at once and batch export for every platform. It’s as easy as that, and you have an upload-ready photo!

Where Do I Find Lightroom Presets?

Lightroom presets can be found all across the internet, both amateur and professional photographers upload and sell their presets on websites and blogs globally. There are even specific photography forums dedicated to Lightroom presets.

While these presets can be fun to play around with, a lot of them can be very experimental. What this means is that they haven’t been tested for photos from different camera brands, or different composition types.

If you’re looking for quality church photography presets, check out our Creatives for Christ shop. I personally crafted and continue to use these presets for my professional photoshoots. I have also tested them on shots from different camera brands and lenses.

When you purchase these presets, you will get:

  • Our Church Photography Lightroom Presets pack
  • Our comprehensive eBook Guide To Lightroom Presets
  • The actual RAW photo file as well as the exact Lightroom settings I used in this tutorial
  • Our Lightroom Export Presets including Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter (X), and Website optimized export presets

This preset pack is a must-have for every photographer shooting in church environments. The presets and accompanying resources will help you develop the creative vision and editing skills of a professional church photographer. They’ll help you achieve a clean, natural look consistently and efficiently.


Our Church Photography Presets are meticulously crafted to elevate your church photography to new heights. They’re more than just a filter – they’re a gateway to creating impactful images with ease and consistency. Using these presets and their accompanying resources, you are going to develop the creative vision and editing skills of a professional photographer.

  • Church Photography Lightroom Presets
  • Comprehensive Guide To Lightroom Presets eBook
  • Professionally Shot RAW Practice Photo & Editing Tutorial
  • Lightroom Export Presets Pack

Jeremy Goh

Jeremy grew up volunteering at church and has also worked in a church setting. Along with working as a freelance creative, Jeremy is studying for a business degree in finance and international business.

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