If you’re wondering how to better your photography, perhaps my own journey as a travel photographer can serve as some inspiration. I first fell in love with travel photography during a long backpacking trip abroad — but it wasn’t until I started using Lightroom travel presets that my photos really began to shine.
As I’ve grown as a photographer, one the number one tools I’ve come to love (and depend on) is Adobe Lightroom. My photography advanced to another level when I learned how to edit my photos in Lightroom. Specifically, when I began using travel presets, or custom photo filters made especially for travel photos.
You see, all the photos travel photographers and influencers post on Instagram have gone through a thorough editing process before they hit the feed. That’s because even the most powerful of cameras cannot capture a scene the way our own eyes can witness it.
That’s when Lightroom comes in. Lightroom presets can help completely transform an image — for example, it can make a sunrise image feel as magical as the actual moment it was taken.
If you’re new to Lightroom or photo editing, buckle up because this article will answer every question you’ve ever had!
What Are Lightroom Travel Presets?
Adobe Lightroom presets are essentially customizable photo filters that enhance the colors and exposure of your photos.
Presets are created in Adobe Lightroom, the most popular photo editing software in the travel photography and influencer industries. Lightroom offers far more editing power than apps like VSCO. It allows photographers to edit every aspect of a photo, from skin tone to the saturation of the sky.
It’s also incredibly user-friendly. You can master Lightroom a whole lot faster than Photoshop, which is probably why it’s become the go-to software among creators.
Lightroom travel presets are essentially photo filters that kind of work as an editing shortcut. A preset is a series of editing adjustments saved into a bundle that can be applied over and over to achieve a similar look as the original. Travel photographers and influencers use these custom photo filters to achieve a cohesive esthetic across all their photos.
Lightroom presets made specifically for travel photos typically enhance the greens of natural landscapes, the blues of tropical islands and the vibrant colors of colorful cities.
How Do Lightroom Travel Presets Work?
So how do Lightroom presets work, exactly? Let’s say you have a series of beach photos, and you want them all edited in the same way. You can edit one of them, then save the editing adjustments as a custom Lightroom preset called “Beach Vibes.”
You can then apply the “Beach Vibes” preset on every single beach (and non-beach) photo you have, the goal being to achieve a similar look as the original edit.
The magical thing about presets is you can manipulate them to create any aesthetic, from bright and airy to pastel-colored to moodier edits. Ever wondered how someone’s Instagram page looks so cohesive? How all the blue skies in their photos have the same hue? The answer is Lightroom presets!
The best way to find a preset pack that works for you is to follow photographers and creators that have an aesthetic you like. Odds are at least one of them sells Lightroom presets. By purchasing their presets you’re not only one step closer to achieving the photo edits of your dreams, but you’re also supporting that person’s creative work! It’s a win-win.
Should You Buy Desktop or Mobile Presets?
Most photographers and creators sell two versions of their Lightroom presets: One for use on the Desktop version of Lightroom and the other for Lightroom’s Mobile app.
What’s the difference between the two?
First, Lightroom offers its mobile app for free. Yes, free! You can download the app from the app store and start playing around with edits right now.
The Desktop version of Lightroom is sold as a software subscription that costs $9.99 per month.
So why would anyone want to pay for the Desktop software when you can edit for free on your phone? There are a number of premium features that enhance your editing power on the Desktop version of Lightroom. The paid software also allows you to edit RAW images, which isn’t possible with the free Lightroom app.
Also, with the paid software allows you can sync your work between your laptop and your phone. Here’s a great explainer article on the differences between the Desktop and Mobile versions of Lightroom — and the extras you get with the paid version.
The decision between Desktop or Mobile presets depends on how you edit. If you’re primarily taking iPhone photos and editing on-the-go, then I’d recommend purchasing Mobile presets. If you use a DSLR or mirrorless camera, primarily shoot in RAW or plan on pursuing a professional career in travel blogging and/or photography, then I recommend Desktop presets.
I personally shoot in RAW and edit 99% of my photos on the Desktop version of Lightroom. I find it easier to make adjustments on a bigger screen, especially when it comes to editing a specific section of a photo — like if the left right corner was too dark, for example.
Are Lightroom Presets Worth It?
You can probably already guess my answer to this one.
Yes, yes and yes!
I get it — investing in photo filters may seem silly, expensive or even something you’re not quite ready for (so you think).
When I first started editing my photos in Lightroom, I edited each shot individually and tried to keep my edits somewhat cohesive by “copying” the adjustments from one photo to the next. This was incredibly time consuming, and I was never fully satisfied with how my edits came out.
Then I scored some pretty awesome travel presets, and my travel photography went from day to night.
I’m pretty sure that the first presets I ever used were created by Aggie of Travel in Her Shoes. I used these presets as a base for editing my photos, tweaking them here and there to achieve an aesthetic that I loved.
The more I practiced in Lightroom, the more I understood how to tweak presets to make edits feel my own. The thing about aesthetics is that mine is always changing. Every time I travel to a new destination, I chase after a new aesthetic to match my new surroundings. That’s the fun in editing travel photos: You can let each destination inspire your creative work.
I have invested in dozens of presets from my favorite creators over the past three years, including some pretty expensive ones. Do I regret a single purchase? No! Each preset collection I’ve ever purchased has helped lead me to where I am today.
Today I have achieved a dreamy travel aesthetic that I love. I’ve created my own diverse collection of travel presets that I use to edit every single one of my photos — and I know my presets are helping other people just like you on their own editing journeys!
What Happens If You Purchase Lightroom Presets & The Results Aren’t What You Expected?
Imagine this: Your favorite travel influencer just launched a collection featuring all the presets she uses to edit her incredible photos. You can’t wait to get your hands on it!
You download the presets onto your phone or computer, apply them on your favorite photo from your last trip to Paris … and you hate the result.
Don’t freak out! It’s happened to all of us. I’ve purchased plenty of presets that didn’t work well on my own photos. Does this mean that the creator sucks at creating presets? Probably not! Odds are that with a few tweaks, you can make those presets work for you, too.
A big misconception I had in the beginning of my photography journey was thinking if I purchased my favorite travel influencer’s presets, my own photos would look exactly like hers. That’s not really how photo editing works.
There are a myriad of factors that play into the final result of a photo: The time of the day the photo was taken, the camera that was used and the colors of the scene. Most creators use Lightroom travel presets — including their own — as a base for their editing process. From there they go on to make specific tweaks to lighting and colors depending on each photo.
This is why I make my travel presets as versatile as possible. Whether you’re looking for a moody city edit or a dreamy beach edit, The Dreamer Pack offers both in one single collection.
After purchasing so many presets myself, I’ve learned how small adjustments can bring out the best of a photo — without making it look over-edited or unrealistic.
Tips For Using Lightroom Presets On Your Travel Photography
Wondering how to make your new travel presets work for you? Here are a few of my editing secrets to ensure you achieve the wonderful results you’re looking for — coming from someone who has purchased dozens of preset collections from well-known creators over the past three years.
Purchase travel presets from creators whose photos you love
One of the best ways to find your own editing style is to follow travel photographers and creators with an aesthetic you admire. Follow accounts that inspire you, and learn from them. Many creators offer helpful photography tips as well as a behind-the-scenes look at how they create their photos.
If you enjoy their aesthetic, odds are you’ll love their presets, too. It’s a magical thing to be able to find an artist whose work you admire — only to be given an exact editing roadmap that shows how they achieve that work!
Ask what camera they shoot with
If you’re unsure about how a creator’s presets would look on your travel photos, you can ask them what camera they shoot with. (Many travel bloggers usually have a blog post about the camera gear they use.)
If you shoot with the same camera, then you can expect your photos to look fairly similar to theirs once presets are applied. If you shoot with a different camera and you’re looking to upgrade, this may give you a good idea of what to purchase next.
Yet even if you both use totally different camera models, you can still achieve incredible results with just a few slight tweaks.
Common Tweaks To Make Presets Compatible With Your Photos
Skin tone: The number one tweak I’ve always made after applying presets I purchased from someone else was skin tone. Sometimes my skin tone would appear too orange, too dark or too light. It’s really easy to color-correct skin tone by adjusting the hue, saturation and luminance of the oranges and reds.
Exposure: If your photo is too dark after applying a preset, you should adjust the exposure, shadows and blacks. If it’s too bright, try bringing down the exposure, the highlights and whites.
Temperature: If your photo looks too “yellow” or “blue,” play around with the temperature setting. Moving the lever to the left creates a cooler image while moving it to the right brings in more warmth.
Colors: Does the sky look too saturated or blown out? Play around with the blues in the photo. To fix a blown out sky, lower the blue’s luminance. If the sky is unnaturally blue, lower the saturation. Do you want the sky to appear more turquoise? You can do so by changing the blue’s hue.
There you have it! Everything you ever needed to know about Lightroom presets and how you can use them to transform your own travel photos. Please let me know if you have any additional questions in the comments below!