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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Tutorial - Part XVI - Saving And Migrating Your Adobe Lightroom Presets

Part I - Index and Introduction
Part XVII - Tone Curve

As we've seen in previous posts of this tutorial, many aspects of Lightroom can be customized by users and saved into a preset. There are many kind of presets and the most commonly used are:
  • Develop presets.
  • Export presets.
  • External editor presets.
  • Import presets.
  • Metadata preset.
  • Watermarks.

Instead of repetitively applying the same configurations over and over again, you can permanently store them in a preset and load them when necessary. You can, for example, save a commonly used develop configuration (such as a color temperature setting) in a preset and apply it with just a click to a bunch of photos at a time. Or you can save metadata configuration into presets and automatically apply them during an import operation.

There are many reasons why you should know how and where Adobe Lightroom stores your presets. Some of the common scenarios where you would want to save and migrate them are:
  • Safeguarding your data against loss.
  • Sharing them across different Lightroom instances, probably because you're using more than one computer.

Imagine, for example, you create some custom adjustment brushes and save them as presets. You then migrate your catalog to resume working on another computer only to discover that your brushes are gone.

Maybe you thought that a Lightroom catalog was self contained: it is, but only to a certain degree.

Where Are Presets Stored?

Lightroom version 3 can store and use presets in two places:
  • In the preset folder, a unique folder per user account.
  • In the catalog directory (only if explicitly enabled).

By default, Lightroom only uses the user presets folder, unless you select the Store presets with catalog checkbox in the Lightroom preferences window, as shown in the following picture:

Lightroom Preferences Dialog

The user-wide presets folder is called Lightroom and its location is platform dependent. Fortunately, there's a quick way to determine which folder it is: open the Preferences dialog, navigate to the Presets tab and push the Show Lightroom Presets Folder… button (shown in the previous picture). In the case of the OS X operating system, this folder is located in ~/Library/Application Support/Adobe/Lightroom:

Lightroom Presets Folder in Mac OS X

If you decided to store the presets in your catalogs, you will find a copy of this directory into your catalog root directory.

How Can I Backup And Migrate My Presets?

This is really easy: copy them to a folder that Lightroom recognizes as a preset folder and they're will be ready to use. Just pay attention to your Lightroom configuration, as detailed in the previous section, to copy presets from and to a correct location:
  • If you're storing the presets with the catalog, just synchronize the catalog across computer and no more action is needed.
  • If you're storing the presets in the user wide presets folder, you need to back it up manually and synchronize it across computers.

An effective way to synchronize files across computer is using rsync. Using rsync you can efficiently keep in sync a folder across different machines with almost no effort and transmitting the minimum amount of data to keep in sync the target with the source. This is a specially important factor to take into account since catalogs can get in the gigabytes range very soon.

Which Approach Should I Use?

If you're using only one or few catalogs, maybe its convenient for you to change the default Lightroom behaviour and store them with your catalogs. Every time you back up your catalog, you're presets will be backed up as well. And if you synchronize a catalog to another computer, all of your presets will be available on the other machine without further effort.

However, if you're using many catalogs, you may want to store commonly used presets outside the catalogs: otherwise, you would have to create them again to any new catalog you create.

You can also use a third and completely manual approach: you can manually manage which presets you want to store and at which level. Just look for the corresponding files (the presets folder structure is pretty self-explanatory) and copy them to where you need it.

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David Gómez said...

Nice post. I've recently reorganized my lr catalogs into just one (giving more important to the Collections tag instead just the Folders section to organize my photos).

That means that there are still a bunch of configurations (such export configurations, develop settings or import presets) that I need to merge from the former different catalogs into my brand new unique Main catalog, and that's where this posts will become handy.

Grey said...

I'm glad you found this post useful.

Yes, I started synchronizing my Lightroom catalog across different devices using rsync and I soon discovered that my presets were missing. I started testing the Lightroom behaviour and finally stuck with synchronizing my Lightroom presets folder as well.

Although it's not documented, it seems you can safely you a "mix and match" approach: I tried to manually copy some preset file around, and Lightroom just uses it if it's in one of its presets folders.

Very handy to know and very easy to sync.

Since I'm rsync-ing a lot of different folders across devices, I also developed a very small rsync UI for Mac OS X in which I can configure the sync schedules and real-time syncs, using the events generated by the OS X kernel. If you feel like being a beta tester, just ask me and I'll be glad to send it to you.

David Gómez said...

Of course, I will be happy to help as beta tester... just send me your rsync tool