Are Lightroom Presets Cheating?

Are Lightroom Presets Cheating?

Images processed with Vintage Film presets

Is using Lightroom presets cheating?

The answer to this question will vary from person to person, but my opinion is pretty clear.

I say no. Using Lightroom presets is not cheating.

So now we know where we stand, I’d like to explain my view.

And I’d like to begin by addressing a wider question.

Is using Lightroom and Photoshop cheating?

Before we narrow the conversation down to just Lightroom presets, it’s important to talk about the software – and the idea of editing your photographs – as a whole.

Some people believe post-processing your images in Lightroom, Photoshop, or any other program is somehow cheating.

I’ll be honest here. When I first began shooting, I felt the same.

I had some strange idealistic notion that it would ruin the authenticity of my images. That if I wasn’t good enough to capture a scene as I wanted it to look then I shouldn’t be able to use any software to fix things later.

But the more I got into photography, the more I realised this was a stupid attitude to have taken. Especially in relation to the edits I would have been making.

Edits like contrast, vibrance, shadows and highlights, straightening horizons etc.

It was a stupid attitude because people have been playing with these things since the days of the darkroom.

Actual dodging and burning on prints, using lens filters to accentuate certain tones, and even something as simple as using different films to give a different aesthetic.

In their own way, they’re all manipulating how the image looks.

Fujifilm Velvia, for example, gave high colour saturation.

If we’re going down this rabbit hole, is monochrome film also cheating?

While I wasn’t shooting film at the time, I was using different camera settings.

So how is using a Vivid mode any different to changing the saturation in Lightroom afterwards?

It isn’t.

The word Photoshop has become a verb and is often used with negative connotations.

I do agree that in this sense, when actual image manipulation rather than image enhancement takes place, it can be dishonest.

Removing people from a photograph and claiming you were on a deserted beach is being dishonest.

Swapping out grey clouds for a blue sky and claiming it was a sunny day is being dishonest.

But playing with the contrast, vibrance, and shadows and highlights to just make an image pop?

That’s not being dishonest.

That’s not cheating.

Is using Lightroom presets cheating?

So if using Lightroom and Photoshop isn’t cheating, can using presets be considered so?

Before we can answer this, we need to know what they are.

You can think of Lightroom presets as you would filters on other photo editing software but with far more power and flexibility.

All they do is move the sliders and other settings to pre-determined positions to give your photograph a certain look.

When you apply a preset, you get to see what adjustments it’s made. You can even then tweak them if you want. It’s not doing anything you can’t do yourself manually.

So if you don’t consider Lightroom itself to be cheating, I don’t see how you can consider presets to be so either.

They’re like telling Google Maps your start and end points and letting it give you directions instead of figuring them out yourself.

You’re still going to arrive at the same place (hopefully). Google just saves you time and makes it more likely you won’t get lost.

If you still think Lightroom presets are kind of cheating, then ask yourself whether your morals are more important than your time.

Because that’s what presets do. They save you time.

So if you already know how you want your images to turn out, why not use a tool like my Vintage Film Lightroom presets to get you there quicker?

It’s not cheating.

It’s just being smart.


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Hi, I'm Lee - creator of My Favourite Lens and the one whose work you're seeing whenever you read a post on here.
I shoot as much film as I can in as many different cameras as I can, and I enjoy playing with vintage lenses on digital cameras also.

Everything I do and what I learn along the way gets shared on here, to inform and inspire you to get out and shoot as much - and as well - as you can too.

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