If you want to stylize your photos, you're probably going to look for Lightroom presets. After years of using Lightroom presets, we found that Mastin Labs, SparkleStock, and Tribe Archipelago the best Lightroom preset creators. These creators produce the top-quality presets that are made to the most modern specifications. The presets are also compatible with Lightroom mobile and desktop.
In the sea of identical Lightroom presets (teal & orange, light & airy, retro film, etc), we found a few creators that stand out. These creators produce Lightroom presets with features we're looking for:
- Made in the new Lightroom preset format.
- Supports Lightroom Mobile.
- Natural skin tones & pleasing color grading
You should avoid Lightroom presets that mention support for Lightroom 4-CC. This is because they're made with an older process version that is only partially-supported in Lightroom CC. Good Lightroom presets should only be compatible with Lightroom CC.
For Lightroom mobile, presets come in two formats:
- Native Lightroom presets are installed on the desktop version of Lightroom CC and synced to your phone. You will need a Creative Cloud subscription to use these.
- DNG Lightroom mobile presets are copied or downloaded to your phone and they work with the free Lightroom app.
Good Lightroom mobile presets should include native Lightroom presets. Many mobile preset packs only include DNG presets. This is fine if you only use the free Lightroom mobile app, but we don't think you should be spending your money on it.
The most important characteristic is color grading. The Lightroom presets should produce pleasing looks that keep skin tones natural without oversaturation.
Best Film Emulation Lightroom Presets - Mastin Labs
If you're a portrait or wedding photography, you'll find that film presets have a timeless color grading that looks great on most types of photos. Film presets are also used by hybrid shooters (those who photograph with both film and digital cameras) to achieve a consistent look.
Mastin Labs' Lightroom presets are more expensive than most other film presets, but they produce the most realistic film emulations with natural skin tones. Each preset is meticulously tweaked and the quality of their Lightroom presets has landed them huge clients such as Vogue, Life Magazine, and St?ssy Clothing.
Mastin Lab presets work with Lightroom mobile by first installing them on your desktop and syncing them to your phone. They do not provide DNG presets for the free version of Lightroom mobile.
Hybrid photographers who have used Mastin Lab film presets admit that some tweaking is necessary to achieve the perfect look, but it is the closest thing out there in terms of film emulation.
Best Portrait and Wedding Photography Lightroom Presets - Tribe Archipelago
Everyone who uses Tribe Archipelago seems to recommend them - and we're not surprised. Their Lightroom presets give off a moody and nostalgic vibe with rustic colors. The color grading is plain beautiful and really enhances the look of portrait photos.
Tribe Archipelago presets are reasonably priced and they offer a discount for multiple purchases. In terms of technical quality, we're pleased that Tribe Archipelago has kept up with the latest Lightroom preset standard by using color profiles. Their presets are compatible with the Lightroom mobile app and can be synced with the desktop version of Lightroom CC. They do not offer DNG presets for the free version of Lightroom mobile.
Get Tribe Archipelago presets if you want to give your photos a moody look. Their presets are the best moody film presets that we've found and (shh) they're the secret weapon of many wedding photographers.
Best Lightroom Presets Overall - SparkleStock
SparkleStock offers the largest collection of Lightroom presets that cover every range of photography. They are also the most innovative - creating effects we never thought were possible. We specifically like their Retrovibe Lightroom presets which produced the best vintage film looks and the Retro Pixel Lightroom presets for innovation.
Like Mastin Labs and Tribe Archipelago, SparkleStock presets are created with color profiles with opacity support. What sets SparkleStock apart from others is the skin tone protection algorithm that recovers 50-75% of the original skin tones. Switching between the protected and non-protected skin tone presets show an immediate difference.
SparkleStock presets are the most complete in terms of compatibility. Alongside the native desktop & mobile Lightroom presets, you'll also receive DNG Lightroom mobile presets (for the free Lightroom Mobile app) and video LUTs.
SparkleStock presets are priced less than the competitors and you'll get a year of unlimited downloads. For portrait and wedding photographers who are looking for film emulation presets, we suggest going with Mastin Labs or Really Nice Images. But everything else we recommend SparkleStock.
Really Nice Images are a great alternative to Mastin Labs. Their film emulation Lightroom presets are made with color profiles so they meet our technical criteria. Although they have less branding/social proof as Mastin Labs, we didn't find anything less about the quality that we wouldn't recommend.
PRZM Lightroom presets meet all our technical criteria including color profiles and Lightroom mobile support. Their presets are a good choice for mobile photographers because you can download the DNG Lightroom mobile presets straight from your phone - avoiding the use of a computer.
G-Presets is a lesser-known brand that has been mentioned a few times in the wedding photography industry. We loved the color grading in their presets and think that they're a decent choice for starting wedding photographers who love the looks. However, they didn't make the cut because the presets are made with an outdated process version and do not use color profiles.
Peter McKinnon who is famous on YouTube also sells Lightroom presets. We think his Lightroom presets are fine for casual photographers but there is nothing special about them that you can't do yourself. The presets also do not use color profiles.
Noble Presets produces beautiful light and airy presets. They didn't make the cut because the presets are made with an outdated process version, do not use color profiles, and require separate purchases for desktop and mobile presets.
FilterGrade is a marketplace where you will find Lightroom presets from various influencers and photographers. If there's an Instagram account with a color grading you like, you might be able to find it here. From a technical perspective, we found that most sellers are creating presets with an outdated process version, without color profiles, and/or no Lightroom mobile support.