Lightroom Presets

Presets – How to Steal a Preset and Make it Your Own

First off, I hope you had a Merry Christmas weekend. I had a great time with my family and, of course, my kids got way too much stuff. Anyone else have in-laws that, even though you try to moderate how much you buy your kids (sorry, that Santa brings your kids), they still go out and buy crazy amounts of gifts for them? Its all good though and they had a blast which is what counts.

Anyway, its a vacation week for me but I had an idea for a quick article so I wanted to write about it. Its about stealing. Yep, I said it. Stealing! A while back there was a bit of controversy about a little program that let people see what Lightroom settings were applied to your photo on Flickr. If you followed back then, you may remember that my position on it is that its not stealing. So how can you actually steal a Lightroom preset? Its really not hard and I encourage you to try it. Lets look at mine for example (skip to Step 4 for the real education in this whole thing):

1) First install the preset just as you normally would. We’ll take the Develop module as an example. Let’s say you’ve installed my Fairytale Glow preset from this past November.

2) Now what happens when most people install some one elses preset is that they apply it and it looks cool, but not quite what they imagined. Maybe its too bright. And maybe the vignetting is too strong.

3) Then they apply it to another photo and ya know what? Its too bright again and they’re not crazy about the vignetting.

4) That’s your cue that its time for your own preset. All you have to do is change the Exposure setting and/or change the Vignetting setting to something that seems to work better for you.

5) Then right-click on the preset name in the Presets panel and choose Update with Current Settings. First, give it a cool name – you’re stealing remember, so you don’t want the same name as I use. If you haven’t made any other changes to the preset then its fine to just check everything and click OK. If you have made changes then just turn on those checkboxes and click OK.


That’s it. You’re now a thief 🙂 You’ve taken something that wasn’t yours and made it your own. I’m joking of course. You didn’t steal crap did you? You’ve merely taken a recipe that I use and modified it to fit your own needs. Happy Thievery!



  1. Del 13 April, 2010 at 00:41 Reply

    Matt, great presets. I’ve already been “stealing” them the way your descibe. I create them in a new folder and give them a name based on the original name, so if a preset is called “Matts_Grungy_Edgy_Grainy_Wedding_Preset”, I might call my new one “Matts_Grungy_Edgy_Grainy_Wedding_Preset_Slightly_Sharper” … If anyone then subsequently “steals” the preset, it’s got the original name, but mostly I do that so that I remember where the presets I make are coming from. Easier to identify what I want to use that way.

  2. Chris 3 January, 2010 at 22:20 Reply

    Does anyone know how to duplicate a preset and then update it? I have a number of presets I’d like to make my own versions of, but I don’t want to “overwrite” the original preset. How do I do that?

  3. Cobus Taljaard 1 January, 2010 at 14:48 Reply

    Hi Matt – this is my first time commenting; long time reader and video watcher.

    Before applying any of my “stolen” 😉 presets, I would like to run a base development preset of my own. This base development preset does a auto-contrast (amongst other things), but it often results in images’ exposure cranked down too much due to some small bright spot somewhere in the photo. I have looked at the .lrtemplate file to see if there is some way of fine tuning the amount of exposure compensation allowed, but I can’t see if something like that is doable.

    I would really appreciate it if you could have a look into it: how to fine tune auto exposure in order to limit the amount of adjustment it can do and to ignore small bright spots. (I seem to recall some setting whereby the initial “x” percentage of the histogram at both ends is ignored and auto setting is then applied on the portion “in the middle”)

    Wishing the best for you and your family in 2010 all the way from sunny South Africa.

  4. Eric 30 December, 2009 at 09:02 Reply

    You will be surprised what informations are stored in your developed jpg files. Lightroom for example stores a lot of its development setting inside the jpg by default (unless you strip off all Metadata). These informations are stored using IPTC-data. Here is a short example of an jpg of mine:
    crs:WhiteBalance:As Shot

    There are lots of additional informations available in the metadata or should I say the recipe is stored inside the picture…

    Happy New Year to all


  5. Mike Weeks 29 December, 2009 at 17:51 Reply

    To play devils advocate, as I understand it this particualrly Flickr utility reverse engineers “the recipe”, it may or may not therefore get it 100% correct one assumes, in much the same way as many have tried to reverse engineer the infamous coke recipe or KFC recipe, but you can bet your bottom dollar that if someone actually did manage to break the code and replicate the recipe 100% Coke and the Colonel would be on your tail. Of course whilst uncovering “the recipe” for KFC or Coke is a big issue when you apply it to the basic static ingredient (Water or Chicken) applying the same LR settings to photographs which are always unique will never give you an identical product to that from which the recipe was reverse engineered anyway.

  6. Eduardo Muese 28 December, 2009 at 21:14 Reply

    I love the concept of the recipe. It’s like the old pie recipe from grandma. We take it and add a new ingredient and create a brand new recipe for the generations to follow. There has been a lot of discussions as of lately about innovation and where everything comes from… It’s the old argument that “There’s nothing new under the sun”, and everything we do is based on the work of someone that came before us.

    Great idea! I now feel much better than what I have been doing is somehow justified!!

  7. David 28 December, 2009 at 16:58 Reply

    After several different computers,different hard drive issues. Different versions of LR….Presets ….some I still have, some I do not.
    Would you be willing to post all of your presets that you have created to one spot that could easliy be found & then download ? ( would save the time going through the many presets that you have created for killer tips over the last several years)
    Thanks again for all you do

  8. Dennis Zito 28 December, 2009 at 16:14 Reply

    Gees, that was easy! Stealing has to me more complicated than that! 🙂 That’s pretty darn cool! Thanks for sharing Matt! Glad to hear you’re taking some time off and that you had a Great Christmas!

    So … Happy New Year! Thanks for everything!


  9. Darrin 28 December, 2009 at 11:36 Reply

    I like how you mention this is a recipe. It is not stealing the program just the recipe to make it taste better. Have a great vacation week! And thanks for sharing this tip…

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