When it comes to building a business, photographers today have more resources to work with than ever before. As of 2018, monetizing your photography can come in a variety of non-conventional forms: through making connections on Instagram, selling your photos to stock photography sites, working with brands who are looking to expand their digital presence, or even providing online photography courses and workshops from home.
Traditionally, photographers may have considered following business models that limited their services to packaging their skills out for shoots and production, or finding a niche and sticking to it – whether as photojournalist, artist, fashion photographer, or product photographer. These methods, however, can sometimes restrict you to the very physical and time-consuming tasks of going on photo shoots, editing in post-production, revising edits, you name it. It can start to feel like making money as a photographer is very dependent on your abilities to travel to new spaces or network.
But what if there was another way to make money with your skill set? Recently, up-and-coming photographers have looked to Adobe Lightroom as a medium to monetize their creativity. After the online stock photography market developed in the late 2000s and subsequently grew in popularity, it also became highly competitive, leaving photographers with fewer opportunities to make a decent wage selling photos to stock sites. Now, photographers have turned to creating online shops that house presets and custom filters as an option for entrepreneurial growth.
For those who are just learning the ropes, Lightroom is an Adobe photo-editing program specifically designed for photographers. Lightroom offers you the ability to import, sort, and organize your images, as well as edit them en masse and export them more efficiently than Photoshop allows. A photographer might use Lightroom as if they’re looking to streamline and shorten their editing process, for example by applying the same set of edits, called a preset, to a number of photos from a single shoot. This feature tends to be especially invaluable for wedding and event photographers, who often find themselves needed to make consistent edits to batches of hundreds of photos at once. Photographers can create their own presets in Lightroom, but many also source presets online to save editing time.
Not unlike Instagram filters, pre-made Lightroom presets are a quick and reliable method for improving the look and feel of your photos. Have you ever noticed that editing can sometimes take more time than shooting the photo itself? It can be easy to forget, as a editing-savvy photographer, that the digital skills you’ve developed are a craft in a class of their own. Just like writers need editors, photography needs to go through the pains of post-production.
Presets can offer a peek into your style of photography, and give aspiring photographers or a particular brand the option to stylize their content and learn from a pro. Instead of depending solely on selling your photography—which brings with is a series of subjective attitudes toward the content and style of your photos—selling Lightroom presets offers you the ability to maximize your portfolio and package popular styling methods for resale, without forgoing your own creative flair.
Getting started with selling Lightroom presets
To begin your venture into learning how to create Lightroom presets for your own resale, you should become acquainted with the technical step-by-step of how presets function.
Before we get into the details of how to get started, here are some key terms you might want to get to know to help you through each step in the process.
What exactly is a Lighroom preset?
A Lightroom preset is a pre-determined arrangement of the sliders housed in Lightroom. A preset is a selection of edits that you choose to apply to a photo that can be saved to be easily applied to another photo in Lightroom.
What is a slider?
Lighroom sliders are tracks on a scale that can be adjusted to edit the elements of a photo. You will use a slider to determine how high or low on the scale you want each element to be placed. For example, some components you might want to increase or decrease using the slider are:
- Whites, blacks, and shadows
How to create presets within Lightroom
First, you’ll select a photo to edit. Make edits to this photo according to how you want your preset to look. Then save this photo and use it for the following steps.
- Select the Develop Module in Lightroom
- At the top of the navigator on the left-hand side panel, you’ll see an option that says “Presets.” Here you’ll find a series of presets already housed within Lightroom.
- Click the “+” sign to add a new preset.
- A menu will pop up and direct you to select which settings you’d like for your preset. If you’re just getting started and aren’t sure what to select, choose them all. You can make adjustments later or create variations on another preset you create.
- Choose an applicable name for your preset.
- Scroll down and find the option that reads “User Presets.” This is where you’ll find your new preset.
- Select another photo in Lightroom.
- Choose the preset in your user preset list. Your preset will apply to the photo.
For a visual step-by-step explainer of this process, check out this detailed tutorial from Adobe.
Deciding on the type of presets you want to create
There are different types of Lightroom presets to get familiar with when you’re looking to package them for resale. Your presets might have a certain mood, belong to a niche genre of photographic style, or be more applicable to seasonal changes.
Some sample types of packages are:
- Color temperature
- Color boost
- Black and white
- Tone tuning
Take stock of the kind of photography that you’re most drawn to creating and how that affects your editing style. For example, are you more into portraiture, or landscapes? Are you often trying to do things like brighten photos of a couple in a romantic location, or are you more interested in adding effects, like increasing the amount of snow falling in a wintery setting? Your own style will be a guide to uncover what kind of presets you decide on selling.
On his website, photographer Steven Van sells a pack of presets for $10, with a variety of effects that are well-suited to portrait and street photography. Van recommends testing things out in Lightroom as you go. “If you have your own distinct style, I would recommend creating presets for you to test yourself in a large range of settings and lighting situations. Continue to adjust the presets so that they can be used in all situations.”
Making presets that are unique to your style and vision
Van’s presets showcase his signature high-contrast, saturated style. For fans of his photography, his preset pack offers an easy way to add the same feel to their work. “I would recommend other photographers to only create and sell presets if you have something different to offer,” Van advises. “If you don’t have your own distinct style, no one will buy your preset.”
If you’re more likely to take photos that are moody or dark, or use high contrast, make these types of presets with your own spin. Chances are, if people are coming to your website, they’re going to be looking for something created uniquely by you. With so many presets available for sale, you’ll want to consider how yours will offer something different.
Keeping your presets organized
Any photographer who’s worked with Lightroom will tell you how important it is to maintain and organize your library of photos and presets. A proper naming convention will help keep you organized and, when it comes time to package and sell your work, ensure your buyers know what you’re selling.
For instance, if your preset has mocha tones, use “mocha” in the name. Alternatively, find an abbreviation that suits the same purpose and make sure those mocha tones are referred to in your product description (more on those later!).
Here are a few ways to name your preset files:
- Identifying the source of the file (i.e. your name or business name)
- Naming the component that makes the preset unique. Is it grainy, matte, dramatic, bright?
- Naming the type of application. Are these presets intended for nighttime photos? Do they add light to the photo?
- Naming the version. Maybe you have a series of presets, or adjustments and enhancements you’ve made to a pre-existing version.
How to sell your presets online
So, you’ve learned how to make presets, developed them to suit your personal style, and kept them organized! What do you do next? How do you make your presets available online, market them, and make them interesting to other photographers?
Package your presets
Many photographers will package out their presets to include variations of similar edits under one heading. Offering minor adjustments to your presets to give them variations will present your buyers with a more robust and applicable package of presets, instead of a single preset that they may have to adjust themselves. This range will help make your edits more accessible and help to flesh out your style.
Set up an online store
If you already have a website set up to present your photography—as a portfolio or pre-existing sales tool—you’ll want to add an online store to sell your presets.
Before you set up your store, here are a handful of things you’ll need to get started:
- Introductory description for your store (optional, but nice to have!)
- Preset packages or individual presets
- Photos that best represent your presets
- Product descriptions
Here’s a breakdown of each element to best understand what they should include.
How to introduce your online store
Although an introduction to your store is not 100% necessary—there’s likely already a lot of applicable information on your site and within your product descriptions that will keep your audience informed—a small intro does give you the opportunity to speak specifically about your Lightroom presets and editing style. You can shed light on what makes them unique, what you use presets for, and speak to the time you’ve put into your vision.
In short, you can:
- Introduce yourself
- Introduce your processes and style
- Offer insight into how your presets can be used
- Talk about your preset packages and the format they will be delivered in
How to create product images
Product images are potentially the most important part of your online store. These will show your prospective buyers what their photos will look like and help them imagine what your Lightroom presets will do to their photography.
There are a few different options for how to go about presenting your presets in images.
The before/after layout
Product images like these will showcase the contrast between your image as it looked before and as it looked after with the preset applied. The best example is to take a relatively symmetrical photo and apply your preset to one half of the photo.
The full photo preset
The photos you choose might have the preset applied to your entire photo as well. For something like this, you might rely on selling to a more seasoned photography crowd, or on your product description and title to do the selling for you.
The watermarked product image
An alternative sales tactic is to combine your image and title into one, presenting your preset as a complete package. A watermark with the name of your preset will introduce your audience to its effects while showing them the practical application at the same time. This method provides up-front context for anyone finding your presets through Google image search.
How to write product titles and descriptions
Choosing a title for your presets can seem daunting, but for the most part, titles just needs to be direct. When titling your presets, consider first what makes you buy a product. Does it tell me what it is? How do I use it? These are the most important elements to take into consideration.
Your title should introduce what the product does, plain and simple.
As for the rest, a good product description will do a few things:
- Describe the product and its application in detail: what exactly is the buyer getting, and how will they use it?
- Consider features and benefits: what makes this Lightroom preset unique and why will it improve my photos?
- Be concise and easy to read
- Include key terms that will draw the reader along or optimize your description for search engines
Whether or not you choose to present your Lightroom presets with a point-form text or in a short paragraph, you’ll want to keep the description at around 300 characters maximum for easy readability. Make sure that every word counts—either to sell, describe, or show parts of your personality.
In the text introducing his online store, photographer Marc Hayden takes time to explain how his portrait photography inspires his presets, and offers a 20% discount to customers who buy three of his preset packs together.
How to price your Lightroom presets
Pricing, in any market, has to be two things: competitive and smart. You want to make sure that your pricing is in line with your competitors’, or that you have an edge in the market. But your pricing should also be smart, in that you are gaining return on your investment, be it personal time spent or cost for resources.
When trying to determine your price point, consider what your competitors are doing (or what they’re not doing!). Being aware of how other photographers are pricing their Lightroom presets can help you decide how to price yours. You may consider trying out slightly lower prices than the usual—without sacrificing your bottom line—to attract customers.
Alternatively, there’s always the tactic of pricing yourself up to leverage the allure of exclusivity and luxury. If you feel like your Lightroom presets are worth more, don’t be afraid to price yourself up from your competitors, but be clear on what makes your product worth it. As a photographer, this might involve selling yourself as a professional within a specific niche to draw in high price-point sales for individuals or businesses seeking the talents of an expert in their field. As well, if your website provides more than just a portfolio, like relevant blog posts, courses, or things people can use as resources, you’ve already invested time and energy that can justify higher prices.
How to market your Lightroom presets
Every photographer who’s found success online in the last five years will tell you that Instagram is their biggest sales tool. Photographer Marc Hayden knows this all too well. “I only advertise on Instagram, where I get the most customers,” he says. “I have a large following, which certainly helps!” Instagram can be a great networking tool, whether you try out purchasing low-cost ads or simply finding like-minded photographers.
Steven Van agrees with Hayden. “The best way, I feel, to advertise your presets is to do it on Instagram because of the large photography community on there,” he says. “Put the link to your presets in your bio. Put before/after pictures using your presets on your story. Have promotions every time there is a holiday or notable event.”
Sharing your presets with your followers is a great start to getting your product out there. Even if you only have a modest following, you can encourage buyers by offering your followers deals on your presets. Kindly asking fellow photographers you’re friendly with to share your presets with their networks can also go a long way.
You should also ensure that your website is optimized to attract visits from people who might be searching for Lightroom presets online:
- Hosting a blog with helpful information on photography can be a means of attracting more visitors to your site as well as building your personal brand as a photographer.
- Make that all the writing on your site is search engine optimized in order to ensure that your website is doing the most to increase your sales.
- Google My Business is another go-to for maintaining your online presence. Even if your business location is your home office, set yourself up on Google My Business so that locals can find you and your services.
Ultimately, your journey with envisioning, creating, and selling Lightroom presets might look different from anybody else’s, and that’s the best part of venturing into starting your own business. Selling presets can offer you a new perspective on your photography and photographic style, and will hopefully only help you develop and grow as an entrepreneur.