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Free Lightroom Workflow Develop Presets for Portrait Photographers

Note: These free Lightroom Workflow Develop Presets for portrait photographers have been designed to work beautifully in all version of Lightroom! Be sure to check out our other free presets.

Adobe Lightroom is an incredibly powerful tool for processing large numbers of digital photographs. The real strength of Lightroom is its ability to automate the tedious task of processing with presets. Let’s face it, processing 100s or even 1000s of proofs is no fun!

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As a portrait and wedding photographer, I have developed a set of Lightroom Workflow Presets to quickly process large groups of raw images. With just a few clicks, these presets fine-tune color balance, boost saturation and vibrance, sharpen (for portraits) and correct lens distortions. You can also finesse the clarity (i.e. soften skin), recover lost highlights and reset vignettes. Using these presets you can click through the most common raw processing adjustments in just a few seconds!

Not Creative Presets! Better.
These are not creative presets – they are even better! These presets are designed to help automate the task of processing large numbers of portrait photographs and speed up your workflow. All of the presets in this collection are stackable – meaning you can apply them individually or stack them together. Grab the presets below and then jump to the next section to learn how to use them.

Paxton Portraits Lightroom 4 Presets for Portrait and Wedding Photographers - Preview

Download the Presets
Download the Lightroom Workflow Presets (use these for LR 4 or newer)
Download the Lightroom 3 Workflow Presets (use these for LR 3 or older)
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How to Install the Workflow Prests
Nearly 30 Workflow Presets are included in this collection and are designed to be used with raw images that are technically correct – that is, portrait photographs that have been exposed properly (at least for the most part). By their very nature, raw images are usually very flat and dull. These presets add the appropriate processing ingredients to quickly make them look more lively and vibrant.

The presets are available as a downloadable zip file. Download the file and unzip it onto your desktop (or someplace convenient). Be sure to download the correct presets for your version of Lightroom. After you have unzipped the zip file, you should now have a folder named “Paxton Portraits Workflow Presets” on your desktop. The Lightroom Workflow Presets are located within five sub-folders.

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To install the presets, open Lightroom and navigate to either the Library or Develop Module. Next click Edit > Preferences from the top menu to open the preferences dialog window. Click on the Presets tab (at the top) and then Show Lightroom Presets Folder. Your computer’s file explorer window should pop open. Click on the Lightroom folder and then the Develop Presets folder. Save the five preset folders (that are within the main folder you just unzipped) inside the User Presets folder. Now you must close and re-open Lightroom for the Workflow Presets to show up. You will find the presets in the left panel under the Develop Module.

Lightroom Workflow Presets by Paxton Portraits and Steve Paxton

Using the Lightroom Workflow Presets
The presets have been divided into five categories and are setup to work in order from the top down. They are: A-Boost, B-Color Balance, C-Highlight Recovery, D-Clarity and E-Vignette.

Note: The Lightroom 3 version of the presets are arranged differently, but work the same way.

My preference is to always have the five preset folders open in Lightroom (as seen in the image above) so that I can quickly click through them. With your first image open, start with the Boost presets. Color Boost bumps up the contrast, saturation, and vibrance. Lens Correction will make profile corrections; that is, it will correct lens distortions and chromatic abberations (if your lens profile is available in Lightroom). Sharpen will moderately sharpen your images (suitable for most portraits). Next move to the Color Balance presets and adjust the color temperature.

Paxton Portraits Lightroom 4 Presets for Portrait and Wedding Photographers - Preview

The next three preset categories are discretionary. Highlight Recovery will allow you to quickly recover highlight detail that has been moderately overexposed. Use the Clarity presets to quickly increase or decrease the clarity of an image. I find bumping the clarity down to around -30 softens skin detail to a very pleasing level (especially for women). The Vignette presets allow you to quickly add rounded corners and burnt edges to your images – adding a little something extra if you plan to show them off in an online gallery.

Batch Processing Large Groups of Images
Once you have processed the first image in a set using the workflow presets, you can select a nearby group of similarly exposed shots and synchronize them using the settings from the first image. The shortcut for synchronizing a set of images is Control+Shift+S (on a PC) and Command+Shift+S (on a Mac). Using these presets in combination with the synchronizing shortcut will help shift your Lightroom workflow into high gear!

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About the Author: Steve Paxton lives with his wife and two children in the Seattle area. Steve has been a photographer for over 20 years. His experience ranges from wedding and portrait work to landscape photography.

Steve owns and manages the F/Stop Spot; a website dedicated to supporting photographers of all skill levels. You can find more of Steve’s work at Paxton Portraits.


  1. Hi, thank you for the presets!

  2. thanks for the preset…nice

  3. Thanks mate! great help..

  4. One of the very few practical, easy to understand, and worthwhile tutorials/aids to using Lightroom I have seen – thank you. Tim Marshall

  5. Thank you so much for the presets!

  6. Thanks so much for the presets!! I just downloaded Lightroom 4 on my new MAC…both of which are greek to me….but hope to have fun trying.

  7. Thank you so much for these! I am very new to Lightroom and this has been a tremendous help!!

  8. thanks

  9. Well done, Steve. We’re all very grateful for your selfless efforts to make our lives easier. Fabulous work!

  10. Thank you very much for the preset

  11. Thank you!

  12. Thank you very much for the presets. It’s so much easier for me to get great portraits now!

  13. Thank you, greatly appreciated.


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