Why You Usually Can’t Apply More Than One Preset

First, a quick heads up: I’m super psyched to be teaching four sessions in person up in New York City next month at B&H Photo’s awesome “Depth of Field Conference” (the Pro Portrait, Wedding, and Event Photography Conference). You can attend in person in NYC or watch the conference online – either way – it’s free (thanks to the folks at B&H and a host of industry-leading sponsors). Here’s the link to RSVP and for more details. Can’t wait! OK, on to today’s tip.

I question I get pretty often about using Presets is whether you can apply multiple presets to an image. The short answer is “Maybe, but probably not.” Here’s why (and when you actually can):

Above: here’s the Basic panel before applying a preset, so all the sliders are set at their default zero setting.

Above: Here’s the same panel after I applied a preset. Remember, Presets simply move the sliders for you to preset positions, so that’s what you’re seeing above.

Above: If I go and apply another preset (which I did here above) it entirely messes up the look I got with the first preset because it moved the Exposure slider, the Contrast slider, the Highlights and Shadows slider, the Blacks slider, and both the Clarity and Dehaze sliders. So, applying the 2nd preset totally changed the look I applied in my first preset. It doesn’t “add” it on top of what the first preset it. It overwrites it.

So, when can you apply a 2nd preset without it messing up the first one you applied? You have to use a preset that doesn’t move any of the sliders that got adjusted in the first preset. So, you could apply a preset that adjusts the Vibrance, Saturation, or White Balance sliders, because none of those were adjusted in the first preset. Or you could apply a preset that uses features found in different panels that hadn’t been used in the first preset, like one that’s adjusts just the Tone Curve or adds Sharpening or a Vignette, etc.. Any one of those wouldn’t move those Basic panel sliders that were applied from the first preset.

For example, look at the basic panel above. I applied the first preset and then a 2nd preset, but it only had a Tone Curve adjustment, sharpening, an HSL/Color adjustment, and a vignette, none of which were in the first preset, so my Basic panel looks exactly the same as it did when I applied the first preset — adding those other things didn’t mess up the settings from my first preset, which only had Basic panel adjustments.

That’s why we say, “Maybe, but probably not.” While it’s possible to apply a 2nd preset with settings you didn’t use in the first preset, that’s not usually the case (again, as less it’s just sharpening or a vignette or a tone curve – something like that). Then yes, you can stack presets without it destroying the look of the first preset you applied, but in reality, that happens pretty rarely with presets.

Hope you found that helpful., and here’s wishing you a great Monday!


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