I have to admit am not a big fan of presets and plugins for Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. Having used Lightroom for many years, I have developed a workflow that lets me very quickly apply some general corrections and determine whether a photo merits further fine tuning. I will also only resort to Photoshop on rare occasions, like when I need to do some complex cloning job or work with layers and masks.
Over the years, I’ve accumulated a number of develop presets for Lightroom that I almost never use and this is basically for two reasons:
- I have developed a preference for a natural and, at times, subdued look. Many presets push the sliders too much for my tastes and end up producing unnatural, overcooked images.
- I like to start without a preconceived notion of how an image will look like, once it’s been processed. The problem with presets is that they embed the idea of the preset’s author of how an image should look like, not mine.
That said, I appreciate that some people are overwhelmed by the plethora of regulations that Lightroom allows and would love a tool that gets them quickly to a starting point that can be further refined and that streamlines their workflow. So I accepted with great pleasure my friend Viktor Elizarov’s offer to try and review his Lightroom Rapid Editing System.
One half of the Lightroom Rapid Editing System is a basic toolkit that offers convenient shortcuts to quickly manipulate the sliders of the Basic panel of the Develop module. The nice thing about these presets is that they are all numbered in a way that makes it possible to completely describe a set of adjustment using a formula that can be replicated by anyone else using the same system. I won’t spend more time explaining how this works, because you will find very comprehensive and easy to follow instructions on Viktor’s website.
The other half of the system is a number of style presets that work more like the typical ones you will find in many collections. They confer images a certain look and offer a convenient starting point upon which further regulations can be applied using the presets in the Toolkit described above. At present, there are four volumes of style presets, each one tailored to a specific subject or genre: Landscape, People, Cross-Processed, and Fall Colors.
In order to test the system, I have taken one image of mine and tried applying some of the presets from the Landscapes volume: Natural, End of Summer, Beyond the Reach, and Overcast.
Probably because I used an image that had quite a bit of contrast to start with, I found out that the resulting images didn’t really lend themselves to be subjected to more tweaking with the presets from the Toolkit. The fact is that most of the latter push the sliders more to the right, increasing shadows, contrast, clarity, vibrance and so on. To my eye, the images resulting from the application of the style presets would maybe benefit from moving some sliders to the left. I think having the option of more negative adjustments would make the Toolkit more useful.
It is also worth adding that, if you already own some different style presets, you can use those as a starting point instead and then apply the Toolkit in the same way.
While I won’t likely change my ingrained Lightroom workflow soon, I believe a package like the Rapid Editing System can be a great aid to people who are new to using the software. Over the course of the years, Lightroom has added more and more features to the Develop module and inexperienced users can easily be confused by all the sliders and buttons and might not know where to start from. With the help of a system like Viktor’s, they can benefit from a simplified workflow while they are learning the ropes.
All in all, I will give the Lightroom Rapid Editing System 4 stars out of 5. With a bit more restraint in the style presets and more options for negative adjustments in the Toolkit, the system would get my 5 stars.