Everywhere you look there are photographers trying to sell you their Photoshop Actions or Lightroom Presets. They show you how bad a photo was and how their action or preset made it come to life. It was so convincing you ended up buying actions and presets from them, but for some reason your photos never looked as great as the ones these photographers showed you. Do you ever wonder why that was?
As an upfront declaration, I was once guilty of buying actions and presets when I first started. I was mesmerized by the wizardry some photographers used in these actions or presets that made their photos look so amazing. I wanted my photos to look that amazing. The problem was that once I was done buying actions and presets and applying them to my photos I realized they were never meant to work for. They were just a marketing tool for photographers to make some extra money.
And I get it we all need to hustle to make some extra money, but a lot of these actions and presets being sold are just selling you false dreams. You know the scenario. You’re a new photographer or intermediate one looking for that one thing to really push your photos over the top. You’re looking for you “Ah-ha” moment in your photos. Then you see this photographer selling his or her’s actions or presets. They show you this dull and lifeless photo and dare I say it reminds you of your work. Then they show the after just by clicking an action or preset. You’re blown away and you have to have those actions or presets because that is the one thing you’ve been missing to make it big time.
Then once you’re done buying actions and presets and you start to use them you realize your photos look nothing like the final product from the samples they showed you. You sit there in disbelief because here you thought all your prayers were going to be answered with that one click of the button. So you try another action or preset and then another and then another. Nothing like the sample right?
I get it; I’ve been there. Hell, I’m sure most of us have been there. The trick is that these photographers do take amazing photos, but to sell you on how “blah” the photo is, they lower the exposure, contrast, vibrance etc. and now you have this dull and lifeless photo. Much like a lot of the photos new photographers take when they first begin to shoot.
And the trick is they create actions and presets that work for them. They may sell it as a miracle cure for you, but the odds are not in your favor Katniss Everdeen.
There are two ways to get your photos to look like the professionals do; eventually. You have to learn the skills of photography and master your camera first and foremost. All the post production in the world will not save shitty photos. I’m sorry; it’s true. Second you have to master Lightroom and Photoshop for yourself. Learn each slider and what they do. Experiment; hell go crazy.
Take the time to try to mimic these actions and presets by trying to make you’re own. Just by clicking on an action or preset isn’t going to make you learn how they achieved a certain look or feel. You have to put in the time and do the work to see how each slider will alter your photo.
Am I still into buying actions and presets these days? Not so much. I did review the Sleeklens Through the Woods Workflow for Adobe Lightroom and I do use the Nik Collection of tools in my post production workflow. I have learned they style of how I want my photographs to look and I can do it without buying someone else’s actions or presets.
I do create my own action and presets to help speed up my workflow. These are actions and presets specific to me and my style. I wouldn’t want to sell them because they work for me and not for everyone. And that is what actions and presets should be for, speeding up your digital workflow.
So before you spend your money buying actions and presets, ask yourself, “Is it really worth it?” Try to learn the programs first and mimic the styles that you see. You’ll feel better saving your money and get more satisfaction from making your own actions and presets that work for you.