Have you been wondering if Lightroom Presets and Photoshop Actions could help you with your workflow? Here is a helpful overview to give you some insight into the two options.

When it comes to photography image editing, Lightroom and Photoshop are the go-to choices for professionals in the photography industry. Each program supports post-production workflow with the ability to edit your images. Chances are you have used at least one of the two at some point.

If you are familiar with either program, then you most likely know about presets and actions. Lightroom presets and Photoshop actions allow you to edit a high volume of images very quickly, some of these edits can include adjustments to exposure, contrast or even simple cropping. They are a beneficial tool for photographers and photo editors alike. So what exactly do presets and actions do?Lightroom Presets vs. Photoshop Actions

What do Lightroom presets and Photoshop actions do?

Lightroom presets and Photoshop actions are a set of steps that can be applied to a file to automatically process the image to your desired settings (exposure, saturation, contrast, etc…). Without them we would have to adjust each image individually, taking up valuable time that could be spent on photographing more clients. The use of presets and actions speed up the editing process and improve workflow. 

Sounds pretty great right?! So how exactly do they work? What’s the difference? Let’s further explore preset and actions.

What are Lightroom Presets?

Lightroom presets are saved settings that can be applied to a RAW or JPG file. The change to your image is instant and can later be adjusted further if you’d like.

What are Photoshop Actions?

Photoshop actions are a set of adjustment layers, usually within a group, that are applied to an image. Upon clicking on the play icon, the steps will carry out in order until the last one. It only takes a few seconds to run an action.

Below is an image depicting three different versions of a maternity portrait using Lightroom presets. The left is the original file straight out of camera, the middle has Cole’s Classroom’s Angelic Clean preset applied to it, and the right is with Cole’s Classroom’s A-line Clean preset. As you can see the two presets to improve the image and offer two different styles – which one do you prefer?  To download these great presets, click here.

Cole's Classroom Lightroom presets

With a more detailed understanding of what presets and actions do, you may be thinking that they sound the same. It is true that they are similar – both options help you achieve the desired effect to an image, but there are some differences. Let’s compare the two.

What similar features do presets and actions share?

  • Ease of use: Presets and actions are very easy to use. With the click of a button, you can quickly and efficiently edit your image to your preferred style.
  • Consistency: It is very easy to replicate a specific edit to images with a preset or action. You can use the same preset or edit on every file in a specific portrait session to create a cohesive look and feel.
  • Time saver: You can edit files quickly and effectively, speeding up your post-processing time.
  • Educational: If you are unsure of how to create a specific effect to an image you can examine the presets or actions to see what adjustments are made to create that specific look.
  • Personalization: With both programs, you can create and save your own presets and actions. 
  • Variety: There is an abundance of presets and actions in all different styles available online. Cole’s Classroom has helpful tutorials explaining how to install Lightroom presets and Photoshop actions.

What are the differences between presets and actions?

  • Workflow and Speed:
    • Lightroom presets can be applied to your photo instantly without any lag time. Using presets allows you to apply your effect to one image after another, stacking them to get the effect you want. Once you have a finished image, you can sync your settings to as many files in your session as you would like. This especially makes editing weddings much easier – you can sync 100’s of files with ease using presets.
    • Photoshop actions take a little longer to run. Once applied actions perform a script of recorded steps that will run through one at a time until the last step. This is a slower process.
  • Ease of customization: After applying presets or actions you may find that your image requires further editing. You can do this with both programs, but it is easier with Lightroom. 
    • After applying a Lightroom preset, you can simply head over to the Develop module and make adjustments as needed. 
    • After applying a Photoshop action, editing is a more complicated process. You need to go through each adjustment layer to determine which one requires tweaking to get your image to its final stage. 
  • Previews:
    • With Lightroom presets you can see a preview of what the image will look like before applying. You can do this by hovering the mouse over a preset.
    • Photoshop actions do not have this feature. You must run the action to see the finished product.
  • Compatibility: Photoshop actions sometimes only work with specific versions of the program – causing major compatibility issues. Lightroom presets do not have the same problem.

Lightroom Presets vs. Photoshop Actions

Which one is better?

Honestly, there is no right or wrong answer to this. Whether you use Lightroom presets or Photoshop actions (or both) it is all about personal preference and desired post-production workflow. Some photographers like to use only one program while others choose to use both for different reasons. At the end of the day, the best option is what works best for you!

If you are unsure of what program is right for you? Read this helpful article about Lightroom and Photoshop.

The best way to decide which one is right for you is to try them! Download some pre-made presets and actions from Cole’s Classroom. You may find some styles that you love!

Happy editing!