Lightgram Presets for Creative Photographers

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Lightgram Lightroom Develop Presets review

In my previous two articles I looked at Alien Skin’s Exposure 5 – a plug-in that lets you process your colour photos or convert them to black and white in ways that are not possible in Lightroom. The main benefit of plug-ins like Exposure 5 is that they extend Lightroom’s capabilities, giving you new and easy ways to process photos that help you achieve your creative vision.

However – there’s a downside, and it’s that plug-ins break the Lightroom workflow. When you edit a photo in a plug-in, Lightroom converts the file to a TIFF and sends it to the plug-in.

When your edits are done, the TIFF file is updated. At this point the work done by the plug-in is destructive. You can’t return and change the settings. Plus you now have two files instead of one.

Lightroom Develop Presets

The other way of extending Lightroom’s capabilities is to use Develop Presets. While most sets of Develop Presets are not as powerful as plug-ins, they don’t break the Lightroom workflow. They can be applied to your images when you import them, or to multiple images at a time in the Develop or Library modules. They save time, which is one reason they are popular with commercial portrait and wedding photographers.

The question as to which is best, plug-ins or presets, is a tricky one that I will return to at the end of the article.


Earlier in the year I wrote about emulating Instagram filters in Lightroom. While researching that article I found a company called Lightgram. I like their presets a lot and I am going to look at several of their collections today.

Lightgram Instafade Vol. 1

Instafade contains 20 Lightroom Develop Presets designed to emulate the beauty and nostalgia of classic film.

With sets of presets like these you shouldn’t expect every one to be useful. The way to get the most out of them is to find the ones you like. Use them as starting points and make as many adjustments as you like until you are happy with the result.

Here are some presets from the Instafade collection. I found at least ten I would be happy to use. The original portrait is shown at the top, and the effects of the presets below:

Lightgram Lightroom Develop Presets review

Emulating film has become a trend. This is partly because the days when most photographers used film is now firmly in the past, so film has become nostalgic and romantic.

It could also be because adding grain to a digital image does something very nice to skin tones.

Have a look at this comparison, showing the original portrait (left) compared to the Lightgram Faded 10 Develop Preset (right). The addition of grain has a very pleasing effect on the skin tones. If you click on the photo you’ll see a full-size version, where it’s easier to see the difference:

Lightgram Lightroom Develop Presets review

This screenshot shows the effect on the background. Again you click the photo to see the full-size version:

Lightgram Lightroom Develop Presets review

In case you were wondering, here’s the photo in its entirety (with the Develop Preset applied):

Lightgram Lightroom Develop Presets review

Here’s something else I’d like to show you. One of the benefits of using Develop Presets created by other people is that you can learn more about how Lightroom works by looking at the settings they used.

Most of the work in this Develop Preset is carried out in the Tone Curve panel. You can see below how the tone curve has been manipulated in the RGB, red, green and blue channels. Once you understand this, you can apply the same technique to other images, or use it to create your own Develop Presets:

Lightgram Lightroom Develop Presets review

The bottom left corner of the RGB tone curve has been raised, reducing contrast and removing true black from the photo.

The S-curves in the three colour curves add contrast back into the image.

If you like the effect, I suggest you play around with the tone curve settings in a similar fashion on one of your own photos. You’ll soon figure out how it works.

Lightgram 2.0 Instagram for Lightroom

The Instagram for Lightroom presets emulate the look and colour of Instagram filters. There are 19 presets in this collection. Again, I managed to find ten that I would be happy to use as starting points. This time I’ve added their names so you can see how they relate to the original Instagram filters:

Lightgram Lightroom Develop Presets review


Instafilm containts twenty presets that emulate the warmth, softness and realistic grain of colour and black and white films such as Velvia and Kodachrome.

Unlike plug-ins such as DxO FilmPack 4 and Alien Skin’s Exposure 5, the names of these Instafilm presets give no indication as to which films the creators are trying to emulate.

Here are another ten presets, with the original photo at the top:

Lightgram Lightroom Develop Presets review


The Insta-X presets emulate the look of cross-processed film by adding warmth, boosting colours and increasing saturation.

This is another set of interesting presets that are useful for portraits and other subjects. I found that all these presets made my image very dark and I had to lighten them all with the Exposure slider to create the examples shown below:

Lightgram Lightroom Develop Presets review

Insta B&W

Finally, we come to the Insta B&W collection, designed to recreate the classic grainy look and tonality of black and white photography, imparting a dramatic feel to images.

I tried these out first with a portrait, and found eight presets that I could reasonably use as a starting point for post-processing:

Lightgram Lightroom Develop Presets review

Then I tried them on an image of mine that I had previously processed in Alien Skin Exposure 5, to see how they compared.

Here’s the photo, showing the original colour image, then two interpretations, one created using a Lightgram Insta B&W Develop Preset as a starting point, and the other in the Exposure 5 plug-in:

Lightgram Lightroom Develop Presets review

Develop Presets or plug-ins?

This brings us back to an earlier question – which is best, Develop Presets or plug-ins? As we’ve seen, the main benefit of using presets is that they allow you to keep the entire post-processing workflow within Lightroom, saving both time and hard drive space. However, plug-ins give you a greater range of post-processing options.

There is no right answer, it’s a personal question that you can only answer by trying both options out. If you’re new to using Develop Presets, then an excellent place to start is by downloading free presets from OnOne Software. They offer the best free collection I’ve seen and you will soon see whether presets are a valuable addition to your workflow. Plug-ins are easy to test as there is a free trial you can download.


The Lightgram range of Lightroom Develop Presets is a worthy addition to any photographer’s toolkit. I suspect that Lightgram’s range will appeal mainly to photographers who shoot high volume and are looking for ways to save time processing images.

The only potential sticking point is price. Each Lightgram set costs $US29 (you can save money by buying in bundles). Some people will think this is expensive, and others will think that they are good value. As to the question of whether they are useful to you, the best approach is go to the Lightgram website and spend some time looking at the preset collections and the sample photos. You can also download five free presets by clicking on the Freebies option in the shop, ideal for getting a taste of what Lightgram’s presets can do. For me, I certainly intend to use keep using Lightgram’s presets for processing my portrait shoots. I will also experiment with the black and white presets more as I like the effect.

Further reading

Learn more about Lightroom Develop Presets and plug-ins with these articles:

Imitating Instagram Filters in Lightroom

Using Lightroom Presets for Portraits

An Introduction to Alien Skin’s Exposure 5: Part One – Black & White

An Introduction to Alien Skin’s Exposure 5: Part Two – Colour

DxO FilmPack 4

An Introduction to Silver Efex Pro 2

Mastering Lightroom ebook

Alien Skin Exposure 5 reviewMastering Lightroom: Book Three – Black & White introduces you to the wonderful world of black and white photography in Lightroom. It’s a complete guide to working in monochrome that teaches you to see in black and white then convert your Raw files using Lightroom to create stunning monochrome images. Everything you need to know is covered, including the most popular black and white plug-ins and walkthroughs showing you step-by-step how I processed three of my favourite monochrome images.


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2 Responses to “Lightgram Presets for Creative Photographers”

  1. Kriss Wayne says:

    Really an informative and impressive writing. I am quite impressed by the after effects of Lightgram and the changes made by you are amazing. As its famous that portraits are the reflection of your personality, you prove it with your creativity, quality and perfection. All your portraits showing the hidden meaning of their personalities, even I, am impressed with the creativity in effects, you did. Your post inspires me to use Lightgram in my next shoot and make it more impressive to others. Thanks

    • Hi Kriss, glad you liked the photos and I’m even more pleased to hear that they have inspired you to use Lightgram. They really are nice portraits, enjoy.

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