Presets Don’t Have to Be Lame

Good old-fashion presets are more powerful when combined with AI-assisted subject masking.

Yeah, I’ve been that guy in the past who quietly sneers at all the photo presets that are peddled by photographers and YouTube personalities. Why would I want to make my photos look like someone else’s?

At some point I saw the light: presets aren’t just shortcuts, they’re automation. Instead of aping someone else’s style, I can save a set of edits I make and ripple those to other similar photos in my library. That can be a powerful time saver when you have lots of photos from the same photo shoot.

But presets typically apply to an entire image. If you wanted edits that affect only a subject, you’d have to go back, create a mask, and do manual edits. Now, apps are starting to incorporate AI-assisted edits into presets, which means you can target specific areas with automation.

In my latest Smarter Image column at Popular Photography, I look at how Lightroom Classic and Lightroom are doing this with Adaptive Presets that take advantage of the Select Subject/Select Sky masking features in the latest versions. In one example, I show how you can create a preset that applies universal edits to an image, such as adding a vignette and softening the Clarity amount, but also lightening the shadows just in the subjects.


Here’s a direct link to the column: Edit stronger, faster, better with custom-built AI-powered presets.

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  1. So true! AI masking and presets are great! And you can also copy-paste them across a group of images and ACR and Lightroom will recalculate the mask for each image!


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