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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Tutorial - Part XV - Speeding Up Your Workflow Using Presets and the Painter Tool

Part I - Index and Introduction
Part XVI - Saving And Migrating Your Adobe Lightroom Presets

In previous parts of this series we've already seen how Lightroom lets you save a set of configuration options into a reusable entity. In Part XIII and Part XIV, for example, we've used two adjustment brushes to improve both the iris and the sclera (the eye white) of our model. As you've seen, you can save the definition of a brush and reuse it whenever you need it.

In this part, we will see how we can use a similar technique to speed up and greatly simplify your workflow when using Lightroom presets.

What a Preset Is

A preset is a set of configurations that can bulk-applied to a group of photos at a time, which is something you find yourself doing more often than not. Lightroom let you define two kinds of presets:
  • Develop preset.
  • Metadata presets.

As their names imply, a develop preset is a set of develop configuration options and a metadata preset is a set of metadata values such as EXIF and IPTC metadata. In both cases, Lightroom lets you specify a value for every option available in the corresponding set. If you're defining a develop preset, for example, you will be able to specify the value for each and every option that you find in the Develop module.

Every time you find yourself during repetitive work it's a good opportunity to consider creating a preset. Common situations in which you can take advantage of  a preset are, for example:
  • Adding location, contact or copyright metadata.
  • Applying the same basic tone adjustment to a set of photos taken under the same exposure condition.
  • Applying the same color temperature and tint adjustment to a set of photos taken under the same lightning conditions.
  • Applying the same lens correction parameters to a set of photos taken with the same lens.
  • Applying the same camera calibration parameters to a set of photos taken with the same lightning conditions.

How To Create a Develop Preset

To create a develop preset, you have to follow the following steps:
  • Open a photo in the Develop module.
  • Apply the settings you want to save in a preset. During this step you can safely ignore the values for the options you don't want to include in the new preset.
  • Select the Develop/New Preset… menu item or click the "+" button in the upper right corner of the Presets panel, as shown in the following image.

Develop Module - Detail of the Presets Panel

  • Lightroom will show you the New Develop Preset window.

New Develop Preset Window

  • Introduce a name for your new preset.
  • Choose the folder where you want to store your preset. By default, Lightroom suggests you use the User Presets folder but you may create a folder hierarchy using the Develop/New Preset Folder… menu item or the New Folder… item in the Folder listbox of the New Develop Preset window.
  • Choose the settings you want to save in your preset. In the previous image, for example, we've chose the Noise Reduction settings, the Lens Corrections settings and the camera Calibration settings because we want to automate this corrections for a set of photos taken to the same subject in a single session with the same camera, the same lens, the same ISO sensibility and the same lightning conditions.
  • Select the Create button to create the new preset.

Once you've created a new preset, it will appear in the presets hierarchy shown into the Presets panel of the Develop module.

How To Create a Metadata Preset

The steps you need to follow to create a metadata preset are conceptually very similar to those required to create a develop preset: you need to customize the metadata of a photo and use it to create a new metadata preset. The procedure is the following:
  • Choose a photo in the Library module.
  • Apply the metadata you want to save in a preset. During this step you can safely ignore the value for the metadata key you don't want to include in the new preset.
  • Select the Metadata/Edit Metadata Presets… menu item or the Edit Preset… item in the Preset listbox at the top of the Metadata panel (shown in the following picture).

Library Module - Detail of the Metadata Panel

  • Lightroom will show you the Edit Metadata Presets window.

Edit Metadata Presets Window

  • Check the metadata keys you want to include in the new preset.
  • Select the Save Current Settings As New Presets… item in the Preset listbox at the top of the window and introduce a name for the new preset.

Once you've created a new metadata preset, it will appear in the Preset listbox in the Metadata panel.

Using Presets

Presets can be used in a variety of way, depending on the stage of your workflow you're in.

In the Library module, you can apply presets in three ways:
  • You can select one or more photos, right-click on them and choose the preset you want to apply from the Develop Settings or from the Metadata Presets submenus. Be aware that Lightroom will show user defined presets at the bottom of the submenus. If you've got plenty of them, don't panic: there they are, but you will have to scroll the entire submenu down. While this is pretty easy on a Mac, it is a pretty clumsy procedure on Windows.
  • You can choose the metadata preset you want to apply from the Preset listbox in the Metadata panel.
  • You can use the Painter tool (which is found in the toolbar, see Part II of this tutorial) to paint a preset on the photos you choose. If you can't find the toolbar, enable it using the View/Toolbar menu item or directly select the Painter tool using the Metadata/Enable Painting menu item.
You will choose the most suitable method depending on the situation. If, for example, you need to apply a preset to all of the photos in a folder or to a large set of easily selectable photos, choosing them all and right clicking on them is surely the quicker way to do it. If, on the other hand, you're reviewing your photos one by one in the Library grid view, the Painter tool will be more appropriate than an infinite series of right clicks.

Using The Painter Tool

The painter tool, although somewhat hidden, is a pretty powerful tool that will let you "spray" not only presets, but a larger set of adjustments over a photo. In the current Lightroom release (v. 3), the painter tool lets you apply the following kind of adjustment to a photo:
  • Keywords.
  • Label.
  • Flag.
  • Rating.
  • Metadata.
  • Settings.
  • Rotation.
  • Target Collection.

This tool is very handy when you're reviewing your photos on the Library grid view in whichever stage of your workflow. Sometimes, you will use it at the beginning, for example to fix an incorrect rotation of some photos or to apply some metadata preset. Other times, you will use it at the end, during the rating process. By its own nature, it's very easy to use: just pick up an adjustment to apply, and keep on clicking on the photos you want to modify.

To activate the painter tool you can click on the "spray" icon on the toolbar, as shown in the following picture:

Toolbar - Painter tool (Highlighted in Red)

Once the painter tool is activated, your mouse pointer will change to the spray icon shown above and the toolbar section of the painter tool will expand to make place to other controls that will appear. The first one of these controls is a listbox that lets you choose the kind of adjustment you want to apply. The complete list of available adjustments is provided at the beginning of this section. The other controls are contextual and will depend on the kind of adjustment you choose, as shown in the following pictures.

Painter - Develop Presets

Painter - Keywords

Painter - Rating

As you can see in the first of the previous pictures, you can use the Painter tool to choose a preset, in this case a develop preset, and apply to every photo you click.

When you're finished painting, just dismiss the painter tool pressing the Esc key or clicking once again on the Painter tool in the toolbar.

Applying Presets During Import

So far we've seen how presets can enhance your Lightroom experience by speeding up any phase of your daily workflow. Sometimes, however, presets can be useful even before your photos have entered your Lightroom catalog. During the import phase, Lightroom will give the option of:
  • Applying a develop preset.
  • Applying a metadata preset.
  • Applying a set of keywords.

This is handy when the set of photos you're importing share common characteristics and you can apply the corresponding presets while importing them into the catalog. I always use this option to:
  • Apply basic metadata, such ownership, location and copyright.
  • Apply camera calibration settings.
  • Apply lens correction settings.
  • Apply noise correction settings.

Let's suppose you're importing a set of photos from a portrait session. Based on your experience, you know you can take advantage of bulk-applying the following presets:
  • A specific clarity adjustment (maybe slightly negative).
  • A specific camera calibration setting, such as Camera Portrait or a custom one of yours.
  • The lens correction profile for your lens.
  • A set of keywords.
  • Additional IPTC metadata of your session (model, location, etc.)

During the import, Lightroom will apply the presets you chose and then you'll begin working on the already adjusted photos.

In the following picture you can see a detail of the Import window, the Apply During Import panel.

Import Window - Apply During Import Panel

As you can see, this panel lets you choose a develop preset, using the Develop Settings listbox, a metadata preset, using the Metadata listbox, and a set of keywords, typing them into the Keywords text box.

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