Lightroom Presets on Instagram are all the rage and I don’t think they’re going anywhere anytime soon. They help people elevate their feed and communicate their brand through the aesthetic of their images.
But while people are talking about Lightroom presets on Instagram a lot lately, presets aren’t something you use on Instagram. They aren’t an Instagram filter, per se. They are something you use on the images you post to the social media platform.
So in this post, we’re going to get into the nitty-gritty. We’re going to cover everything you need to know about Lightroom presets, from what they are, how to use them, and where you can buy them.
*Some of the links included in this post are affiliate links. This means, at no additional cost to you, if you click on them and make a purchase, I will make a small commission.*
Check out the table of contents for details on what we’re covering, and feel free to skip ahead if you know the basics:
What is a Preset?
You may have asked yourself this question as you’ve seen more and more talk about presets on Instagram.
Quite simply: a preset is a set configuration of photo edits that give your pictures a specific look or aesthetic. Using Lightroom, you can apply them to any of your images, with the result being what some might call a “filter”.
These pre-set settings (get it, “preset”?) are usually more than just adjustments in brightness and contrast. They get into the nitty-gritty of color adjustments and split toning to help you achieve a particular vibe in your images.
Some presets might make your pictures dark and moody, some bright and summery. Some might make you feel like you are in the tropics with rich blue-greens, others, like you are smack in the middle of Fall with warm, orange tones.
These are some quick edits I threw together. They are more intense than I would normally edit, but I wanted to illustrate how the “feel of the photo” can change primarily through colour edits (changes in saturation, hue, luminance).
VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Contrary to what some may believe, a preset is rarely ever an “apply, and you’re good to go” thing. Consider them a starting point.
It is important to familiarize yourself with photo editing settings to tweak your photos after applying presets. But I’ll cover this a bit more below!
Despite how it may seem on Instagram, presets are actually not a new thing.
Photographers have been making them (and selling them) for quite a while now to help speed up their workflow and the workflow of others. But with the development of Lightroom Mobile, presets have become a lot more accessible.
Benefits of Using a Lightroom Preset for Instagram
Do you ever go to a content creator’s Instagram profile and think wow, what a great, cohesive aesthetic they have? Well, that’s usually why.
When I switched my Instagram account over to consistent presets, I loved the results. I feel like they levelled up my page. I now look like someone with a brand and a clear and intentional vision.
Granted, a preset aesthetic isn’t going to work for everyone, and it’s not the only way to make your Instagram feed look cohesive.
Some alternative ways to make your Instagram page look branded are:
- Set up a specific grid pattern (example: rotate text posts and images).
- Use a consistent pop of colour in all posts
- Add the same border to all in-feed images
- At minimum aim for a similar white balance
Below are two different examples of presets I made in Lightroom and applied to my Instagram feed. The grid on the left played with pink highlights, the one on the right, a bit more natural colouring. (@ComfyGirlCurls)
Another benefit of using presets? You can spend less time editing.
If you are using a specific preset, or a selection of them, you can really shorten your time spent editing photos. Once you apply your preset, you can fine-tune it and get it over to Instagram a lot sooner!
What App do I use for Presets?
By now, you may have gathered that presets are used in Lightroom.
If you aren’t familiar with Lightroom, it is an Adobe software that many photographers use in their photo-editing workflow. It was created out of the need to do more basic edits than one might need to do in the powerhouse that is Adobe Photoshop (while still being an objectively robust program in its own right.)
If you do a lot of image processing on your computer (like many content creators with a DSLR might do), you will probably be using Lightroom Classic, or Lightroom CC, both are software designed to be used on your computer.
If you’re just editing photos on the go, or plan on transferring your photos to your phone to apply your preset, you’ll be fine with just Lightroom Mobile.
Lightroom Mobile Vs Lightroom CC Vs Classic
Wondering what the differences are between Lightroom Mobile, Lightroom Classic, and Lightroom CC (now usually just called “Lightroom”)?
Maybe considering paying for the full meal deal? We’ll break it down a little. (If you want a super in-depth comparison, let me know and I’ll write a post breaking it down further).
A huge plus for Lightroom Mobile is that it is a free app. And for a free app, the functions of Lightroom Mobile are honestly quite expansive.
With the exception of the higher-level back-end functions (like messing with meta-data or creating virtual copies), as well as the more advanced settings you would expect from a desktop software, Lightroom Mobile can do a lot of the things that Lightroom CCC and Classic can.
In fact, Lightroom Mobile is more than adequate to handle most of the photo editing that your average content creator is likely to do. And it has the bonus of being able to do it all on the fly from your mobile device.
When talking about presets in particular, a downside to Lightroom Mobile is that not all Lightroom Presets are created for mobile. (That being said, a huge percentage of them are, you just want to read the description on what you’re buying before you plug in that payment info!)
Lightroom Classic + Lightroom CC
They also can both use the same presets (at this time).
Lightroom Classic is the original software.
If you are doing higher-level, professional photo edits, and want the most advanced options for import and export settings, you’ll want to have this tool under your belt. The settings are the most advanced, and the program is robust.
Lightroom Classic also has a steeper learning curve.
The newer product in the line-up is Lightroom CC
It is a leaner program and is cloud-based. This is the direction Adobe seems to want to take things, but they appear to be hanging on to Lightroom Classic for those who don’t want to give it up.
Again, compared to just having Lightroom Mobile, Lightroom CC is great for professional photographers, and has tons of advanced settings. But it does have fewer import/export settings than Lightroom Classic (not an issue if your sole use of Lightroom is to edit photos and use presets for your Instagram content.)
Lightroom CC being cloud-based has the benefit of backing up your files, and having them connect more seamlessly with Lightroom Mobile.
Compared to Lightroom Classic, Lightroom CC is also easier to learn for beginners.
Where to find Lightroom presets for my Instagram feed?
So we covered what presets are, and what app/programs you need to have to use them. Now we cover “where on earth do you go to find Lightroom presets?!”
If you were to type “where to find Lightroom presets for Instagram” into Google, you’d probably come up with a fantastic list of endless options. But I’ll admit it can be super overwhelming.
You’ll also find on your hunt for the perfect Instagram “filter”, a variety of free Lightroom presets and paid ones. (I say you get what you pay for and the paid ones are often better than the free presets).
Personally, I’m a huge fan of the variety of presets found on Etsy, as well as Creative Market.
Also, I definitely advise keeping an eye on some of your favourite creatives, many sell the presets they’ve made! Something that is on my own “one-day” list…
Here are some brown-skinned friendly presets I love from some of my fave creators:
Again, when shopping around, remember not all presets are designed for both Lightroom mobile and the Lightroom Classic, so make sure you are reading the descriptions for the details.
As a general note, Lightroom Presets advertised for Instagram or towards Influencers will usually be for Lightroom Mobile. Presets with professional photographers (especially in the portrait or wedding fields) as their target audience will more likely be for Lightroom Classic/CC.
How to Choose the Right Preset for Your Brand
It’s easy to look at a gorgeous photo with a gorgeous preset on it, and click “Buy” before you even had the chance to think about what it would look like on your photos and your Instagram feed.
But then when you go apply it, it looks like a hot mess and you don’t know how to even begin fixing it.
So here are some guiding principles:
Look at some of your favourite photos or Instagram feeds
And I identify what you like about the imagery, and what you want to emulate. Do you like the contrast? Does the photo look bright and dreamy or bright and crisp?
How do the whites look? Warm? Cool? Perfectly white?
Take notes on what you’re like, so you know what you’re looking for.
Consider your niche and what/where you shoot
As much as I absolutely wish it, I am not a travel influencer. Nine months out of the year, 80% of my photos are taken indoors (thank you, Raincouver). So if I want to buy a preset, I have to keep that in mind.
A preset designed to make the greens look tropical, and convey that I’m living carefree in warm weather is going to look a little strange when the tree in my background is an evergreen that makes it obvious I live in Canada.
If you shoot a lot of product collaborations, consider more natural presets
And by natural, I mean presets that don’t distort too much colour. If you shoot a lot of products and sponsored content, brands want to ensure their packaging is accurately reflected.
Similarly, if you find that brands don’t ever seem to repost your content, consider that the presets or filters on your images are too strong or unnatural.
If you are a lifestyle content creator, I would look for presets that boost colour, making it more vibrant, rather than ones that change the hue. (You can of course manually isolate colours in Lightroom and change them back to normal, but this defeats the purpose of having a more streamlined process).
Related post: how I made 10k in a year on Instagram (I’m on track to quadruple my income this year).
Cool presets or warm?
On Instagram I was asked what was better: cooler or warmer presets.
And my answer… is that I don’t have a blanket answer. It really comes down to what your aesthetic is–what your mood is.
Colours are incredibly impactful. They can help convey time of day, an emotion, an overall vibe.
All that being said, if you are looking to choose a preset to use across your entire Instagram feed, I would actually recommend something a little more balanced.
Compared to the extreme coolness on the above left, and the golden-hour vibes of the photo above right, I would most likely opt for a more neutral edit like the below:
It is also worth considering what and how the preset is warming up or cooling down the colors in your image. Is it warming up isolated colours? Cooling down just the highlights or shadows? Or is it just increasing the temperature on everything?
From there, you can gauge how it might affect what I think is the most important part of the image: your skin tone.
For example, if you have cool undertones, it might look a little unnatural if the midtones of your photo are isolated to be especially warm.
If you have brown skin, search for presets for (and preferably made by) brown-skinned people.
Please. PLEASE. Don’t buy a preset that only have examples of white people.
Been there. Traumatized by that.
But, if you have tons of melanin in your skin, and are absolutely in love with a preset and are unsure of how well it will work on you… look at how the preset affects the colour orange. No orange in the example pictures? Look for brown instead (which most of the time is just dark-orange).
If the preset greatly skews anything about the colour orange, it is likely going to skew the appearance of brown skin. If you were set on making a preset like that work, you would have to do a lot of tweaking in post.
And if you’re applying presets, considered the above, and they STILL aren’t working, consider this:
A good preset will work best when applied to a properly exposed and light-balanced photo.
If you apply a preset to your image and it just looks off, the first Lightroom settings I would touch would be the basic “Light” settings: Exposure, Highlights, Shadows, Whites, and Blacks.
How to Install Lightroom Presets
Okay, you’ve picked out your preset, hit download, and are ready to install.
Your installation method will depend on whether you are installing a Lightroom Mobile preset, or Lightroom on your Desktop.
Most likely the seller of your preset will include instructions, but just in case, here are some useful videos I found on Youtube!
Installing Presets on Lightroom Mobile
Instructions for both iOS and Android:
Installing Presets on Lightroom Classic
If you’ve got Lightroom Classic in 2021, this is the video for you:
Installing Presets on Lightroom CC
Installation for the newest software on the lineup, Lightroom CC:
Can I make my own presets?
And LAST, but not least. Maybe you’re looking at all this and thinking…
Can’t I fool around and just make my own presets?
Abso-freaking-lutely. There are now a lot more presets on the market, but back when I was looking for one, I was really struggling to find one that worked well on dark skin…So I made my own.
Remember: a Preset is just a saved configuration of settings.
On mobile, it is incredibly easy. Once you’ve applied all the desired settings to a photo, tap the three dots in the top right corner.
Click “Create Preset”, type in the name, and you are done.
Looking for instructions on Lightroom CC and Classic? Click here.
And there you have it! Everything you need to know about Lightroom presets for Instagram. (or at least, everything I could think of).
If you have any questions or would like me to cover anything in a follow-up post, leave a comment below!