Lightroom Presets for Portraits

lightroom presets for portraits

lightroom presets for portraitsOk, so I’m going to let you look behind the curtain, so to speak, and let you in on one of my secrets to how I keep my Clients happy with their portraits; I’ve relied on Lightroom presets for portraits for a while now. You may wonder where the value is in using presets in post-production, let me explain.

How many times have you come back after a paid portrait photo shoot, like a wedding, only to find out that the light was not quite what you hoped it would be? Even when you checked your shots using the best loupe you could get your hands on? For me, this has happened on a few occasions, and that is typically when I am looking at the images on a much bigger screen, back in my office.

As I reflect on my behavior, it’s amazing how much more picky I can get with my photos in post-production. Out of 1,200 good quality photos, I can ruthlessly cut the final selection down to 10 or 20 at the most! I’ll always find something that is just not quite what I wanted, regardless of the equipment I’m using in the field, or the conditions I’m working under. That includes kids who won’t look at the camera, hold the right pose, and the worst of bridezillas you’ve seen. All you seasoned Portrait Photographers know what I mean, right?

In my experience, the outdoors can be exceptionally more difficult to manage than a studio, for obvious reasons. With that in mind, I firmly believe that you will always need some reliable tools to fall back on for those cases where things aren’t just the way they should be. If you want your photos to pop, I mean, really jump out of the frame and have your audience encaptivated, you’re going to need to make a few tweaks and adjustments from time to time.

This can be a tedious process, and as great a tool as Lightroom is, if you’re new to it, there are so many mistakes you can make. If you’ve been using Lightroom for a while, you’ll know that there really is quite a bit of work in retouching, and this all takes precious time.

Thankfully, I’ve invested in some awesome tools that take a lot of the pressure off, and they even throw a creative spin into the mix that I wouldn’t have deliberately sought. To make my portraits look amazing, I’ve used some specific Lightroom presets for portraits.

lightroom presets for portraits

The flexibility to apply specific presets to a batch of images and achieve a consistent look and feel is a great way to speed up the Lightroom workflow. I’ve found that this has increased the time savings for me rather than tweaking curves, highlights, and shadows individually. These really do help you to master portrait photography by being able to leverage the settings applied by the Pros.

The image to the left is a sample of the sort of improvements you can expect to see from these presets. The colors are realistically lifted and warmer, and the image has much more clarity. Click on the image and cover the right side so you are only looking at the old data. Then compare what you see on the left to what you see on the right; that’s what turns the head of an audience. That’s money right there!

When I think of how many of those 1,200 shots I had trashed on occasions before using these presets, and how much that cost me as a Photographer in sales, it gives me chills. My go to after a demanding photo shoot are those Lightroom presets for portraits that you can find on MindTrick. The improvements that are able to be achieved with the Portrait Heinrich presets make all the difference to the shots, and I’m happy with that. But, most importantly, my Clients are very happy.

Using Your Digital Camera

using your digital camera -

What makes one image more pleasing than another? By following A few simple steps about where to place elements within your pictures, you’d be surprised how much you can improve your photography.

Composition is the name given to the combination all the elements within the photo and their position in the scene. Compositional rules can be thought of as guides to help get better photos. Here are some key Techniques to keep up your sleeve.


Always fill the frame with your subject. If you are photographing a person, you can see them clearly and that they do not appear too small within the frame. The benefit of this is that you make the most use of all the pixels you have at your disposal. This is particularly important for digital cameras with lower resolution sensors.

Another framing tippers to use frames within frames. When taking a shot, don’t be afraid to use elements of your surroundings to frame a more distant part of the scene. Shooting through a window including the window frame is a good example, as is including overhanging branches or foliage.

Portrait or Landscape?

Like any other digital camera, yours can be used horizontally in its normal or landscape format. It can also be used upright in the vertical or portrait format.

While these names suggest the types of image you usually use each format to photograph, experiment to see which works best for a given shot. Often what Works one way might be made even better simply by turning the camera. 

Rule of Thirds

The Rule of Thirds also known as the golden section, can be used to add tension and a dynamic field to your photos by careful placement of the main elements. First, imagine your digital camera’s display is split into a grid of 9 equal squares with two lines running horizontally across it and two lines running vertically across it down it. Non your display depending upon your digital camera’s display may have the ability to present these composition lines.

using your digital camera - the rule of thirds -

if you place the subject on any of these lines, positioning specific elements within a photo where the lines intersect the image can have more impact. Try placing the horizontal lines across the top or bottom rather than across the center of a shot. or place a person at one of the intersections when you want to put them in contacts with the background in a landscape style photo.

Bulls-eye Composition 

This is when the main subject of the shot is smack in the center of the frame, and should be avoided unless you have a specific reason for doing it. This type of images less pleasing to the eye and lacks dynamism. However, good uses for such composition might include an emphasis on circular subjects in macro work, for dynamic effect.


You can create images with either equal or unequal balance. The balance you have elements within the photo balancing each side of the image, for example, two buildings of the same size.

Where you choose to use an equal balance you would have one prominent subject with another element in the scene placed on the other side of the frame that’s either closer or further away, whichever is best for the composition.

Place a big tree on one side, then a small rock or bush or person on the other side. Although a subjective technique, it is one that can prove very successful when the elements are positioned carefully.


The last rule but probably the most important is to simply experiment. Like so many rules, these simple techniques can be broken or bent and by mixing them up your quickly learn how to get the best from your digital camera and have lots of fun in the process. 


Getting your images sharply focused is just a matter of pointing the camera at the subject and pressing the button, isn’t it? The focus is critical to good photos, and today’s cameras usually have an autofocus system which quickly gets things sharp. However, not using this properly can ruin an otherwise perfect shot.

Most digital cameras have a central autofocus target, indicated by a small square on the color screen or in the viewfinder. Many use multiple focus points, which ensure off-center subjects stay sharp.

But how many times have you taken a picture of family members side-by-side with a gap between them and the camera is focused on the wall behind? As you continue on in this post you will explore ways to prevent such problems.

Don’t Rush the Shutter Button

All digital cameras that use autofocus have a dual pressure shutter button. A first half press and hold activates the focusing and the in camera systems. Pause, and then you’ll get some form of focus confirmation such as a green LED in the optical viewfinder, and or a green icon displaying in or a beep.

Completely depress the shutter release once you have these confirmations to take your shot. Trying to take a shot in one big press won’t give time for the camera to set itself properly, and you risk taking a blurred photo every time.


In portraiture, your intention is to take a picture of a person. This usually means a head and shoulders shot, or tightly cropped face, so always focus on the subject’s eyes.

If your camera allows control over which autofocus points you can use, select the central autofocus point, or the face priority autofocus system where applicable, and use it to focus.

Remember, this is activated by a half press of the shutter button. Hold the shutter button down and recompose the shot. With the subject in focus, complete the process by pressing the shutter button all the way down to take the shot.


To get a good landscape you need to ensure sharp focus from the foreground to the far distance. Begin by autofocusing on a prominent object in the distance. Haziness can hamper autofocus; if your digital camera uses a wide autofocus system. You can overcome this by not setting the focus to something nearby or at an edge of the frame. Then keep your camera steady, using a tripod or monopod if necessary.

Try using the cameras landscape scene mode, if it has one, as this optimizes camera settings for landscape work, or select a small aperture if using manual settings.

Macro Shots

Digital cameras offer some of their best results in close up or macro work. Some digital cameras can focus to within 1 cm of the subject, ensuring frame-filling shots, or even tiny details. However, you need to ensure the correct part of this subject is sharply focused.

Use a single autofocus point and recompose once it’s in focus. Also use a tripod, which helps keep things stable if you are using slower shutter speeds. Remember, for close-up work you can use the camera’s macro mode, or select a small aperture if using manual settings.

Small Groups

The problem of the autofocus locking onto the wall behind a group shot can be overcome by moving the subjects to reduce any gaps between them, or focus on one person’s face and then recompose. This way, you’ll ensure that the group, and not the wall behind them, is sharp. Again, try to use the face priority autofocus system.

Tips On Avoiding Autofocus Problems

Some subjects always cause autofocus systems problems, so here are ways to avoid them.

Parallel lines and regular patterns – for the autofocus to key on, try tilting the camera from landscape to portrait and refocusing, then recompose for the shot.

The dark – unless your digital camera has an autofocus emitter, this shines a beam of light out to help focusing, darkness or dark subjects provide nothing for the camera to focus on. To overcome this, get more light on the scene by turning on a light or two. Once the subject is illuminated set your focus to ensure the subject is clear and sharp, turn autofocus off, and then return the lighting to its previous state.

Low contrast – haze, a predominantly white or black subject that doesn’t provide the autofocus anything to focus upon can all present problems. You cannot change in the weather, so try looking for an alternative but prominent element of the scene to focus upon. Also use the cameras landscape mode, which ensures a small aperture is used.

The manual focus solution – alternatively, to help prevent any of the above problems, try using your camera’s manual focus mode, if it has one. By taking control of the focusingf yourself (check your cameras manual for operating instructions), particularly if you have the time to work on the photo, this will provide find control and you can check the results on the LCD too.

What is Depth of Field?

depth of field -

The depth of field is simply how large the focused area in a photo actually is. Let’s see how this technique can be used to help create emphasis in your photos.

Everyone has seen photographs in which everything in the picture is crystal clear, from the foreground flower to the distant mountains. You’ve also seen pictures where only the main subject is sharply rendered, and everything else is blurry.

These are two examples of the effect which the depth of field can have. The image where the main subject is sharply rendered but the foreground and the background are blurry in varying degrees are examples of a shallow depth of field.

In more accurate technical terms, depth of field can be defined as being the range of object distance within which objects are imaged acceptable sharpness. Thankfully, particularly if you are using a compact digital camera, you don’t need to know about the complexities behind the depth of field calculations, just how to maximize it to your advantage.depth of field 1 - www.darkphotography.orgFor Simplicity, here are the key practical points about depth of field:

1 – A wide aperture gives you a shallow depth of field

2 – A small aperture gives deep depth of field

3 – A telephoto lens, or long zoom, at the zoomed setting appears to give a shallow depth of field

4 – a Wide angle lens appears to give a deep depth of field

In points 3 and 4 as shown above the wording ‘appears to’ is used because the perception in the shot is usually as described, it is not always technically speaking, accurate. It depends on this subject magnification and scene perspective or viewpoint that makes a direct comparison of focal length and depth of field it difficult. However, although this may sound complex, you can now start to play with the depth of field effects in your images.

When to Use shallow depth of field

The most common use for a shallow depth of field is in portraiture, where you want to emphasize the subject. By using either a long focal length on your lens and or a wide aperture, such as F2.8 (which will give you a larger aperture), you can get the effect of a sharp subject and blurry background.

This will allow the light to reach the sensor in a different way when compared to using a smaller aperture. We will look at some comparisons in the next few sections of this post. Use this technique on any shot where you want to separate it from the background. A shortcut is to use the portrait mode on your camera if it has one.

When to use deep depth of field

This is slightly more flexible, but a good example of when to use a deep depth of field is when taking landscape photographs. Typically you will use a wide-angle zoom lens, and a small aperture of F8. This will help to ensure that the sharply rendered area in the shot stretches from near to the camera out to the far distance. A shortcut here is to use your camera as landscape mode if it has one.

Close-up and depth of field

It is worth pointing out that in close-up shooting, particularly if your camera has a good close-up or macro mode, the depth of field will be very shallow indeed; a mere millimeter or two at the most. Use a smaller aperture such as f8 to help deepen, or increase, the depth of field if you want more of the small object to be sharply focused.

Throwing the background out of focus

By selecting a suitable aperture, it is possible to throw the background out of focus by changing the depth of field. The example shown below of the same scene was taken with different f-stops to illustrate how this influences the depth of field in a visual manner.

First, the smallest aperture, f22, was used, which gave the sharpest image out them all. As we move from f22 to f16 you can see that less of the background is sharp. Even more obvious as you move to f5.6 where the trees and the grass are heavily blurred. This technique is used to draw the viewers attention to a specific area in the photo. When you compare the effect from f22 to f1.8 it is easier to see that the attention goes to the small cluster of leaves and flowers at the end of the branch.

By using a smaller aperture (f22), you will need a longer shutter speed to achieve the required exposure. This allows the light that is in the further areas of distance, the background, to reach the sensor and imprint a clearer image. Where the aperture is larger (f1.8), you will need a much shorter shutter speed to achieve the required exposure, and therefore, the light that is in the distance does not have enough time to clearly imprint the scene on the sensor, and as a result, it will be blurred.

depth of field explained -

Using F-Numbers

The physics behind the effect that aperture size has on f-numbers, or f-stops, have on photos is quite complex. But, here are some simplified ways to think of them which may help make sense of this.

The first thing to remember is that a low f-stop of f2.8 gives a larger aperture, while a higher f-stop, such as f8, gives a smaller aperture. Big number = little hole, and little number = big hole, to put it simply. The bigger the hole, the more light that can pass through, and on the flip side, the smaller the hole, the less light can pass through.

You can use bigger apertures to let more light in if it is dark and you don’t want to use a flash, this can also help to get faster shutter speeds. When you start to practice working with the depth of field, you begin to see how you can adjust a combination of aperture, shutter speed, and even ISO to achieve different results.

Megapixles, Memory Cards and Speed - how many megapixels

Knowing your megapixels and data can be a little confusing when you first start looking at cameras. You end up flooded with questions about how many megapixels you want, what kind of lens, what sort of photos you will use the camera for, and that’s before the upsell for extra equipment.

how many megapixels - example 1 - www.darkphotography.orgWhen looking at the sales pitch for a digital camera, it’s easy to understand why it can seem like an endless stream of information on all of the specs, particularly about the megapixels.

However, this is a critical aspect of any camera. Here, we will consider how many megapixels you’ll need. All digital cameras contain sensors, sometimes referred to as CCD or CMOS. The job of the sensor is to capture the light.

The sensor replaces the photographic film used older the cameras. The sensor is comprised of numerous tiny photosites that collect the light and convert into an electrical form, and then feed it to the cameras onboard computer.

How many megapixels?

how many megapixels - ultrapixel -

A pixel is a tiny location on the sensor that contains the photosite, a microlens, and other electronics. The number of megapixels in your camera directly refers to the millions of pixels your sensor contains. A megapixel is a common term for 1 million pixels which is often abbreviated as 1MP.

The number of megapixels is important because the more megapixels your camera has, the more detail it can capture in the photographs you want to take. This also helps with high resolution, which is particularly handy if you want to print your pictures in larger formats.

How many megapixels should you get?

So how many megapixels should you get when you buy a digital camera? That answer depends largely on your budget, and what you want to do with your images. You’ll need fewer pixels to post your images on the Internet, so for snaps to go on Facebook or Instagram, you’ll get away with a low-cost option, maybe even just stick to using your phone.

how many megapixels - comparison - www.darkphotography.orgIf you have a need for higher quality images, then this is where you’ll see the expense begin to increase. Something to keep in mind is that large file sizes used online take a lot longer to load than compressed file sizes, so the amount of data in your images will need to be reduced for efficient online loading.

An interesting side note; a single frame of the 35-millimeter film contains the equivalent information of around 30 megapixels of data if it was translated across to a digital format.

When considering the file size of your images, sometimes you don’t need all that data. Optimizing your images to load quickly online is the trade-off to high-quality images, which your camera will only be capable of producing if you have sufficient megapixels.

Once you’re happy with how many megapixels you’ve got, the next consideration to make when purchasing your camera is the selection of a memory card has the capacity, and the speed for the images you are taking. Memory cards can seem very complex, but really they’re quite simple. All the memory card is, in basic terms, is a small computer chip that retains the data that makes up the image.

Select a memory card that has both a reasonable capacity and a fast write speed. The faster the write speed the quicker your camera will be able to process the images and move on to your next photo.

While traveling through Central America some years ago I was relying on a memory card that wrote at 45 megabits per second. This presented some challenges while taking photographs of lightning storms, where the camera was unable to be used between frames.

The speed at which the camera was able to write to the card limited my ability to shoot images quickly. Incidentally, I missed out on numerous lightning strikes as the camera wrote the data from the previous photo to the memory card.

For a faster memory card, you will pay more, but I consider this more of an investment than an expense when you consider the cost of not catching the photo you want to.

Faster and larger memory cards are relied upon particularly when shooting dual formats as JPEG and RAW. We will look At the benefits of shooting dual formats in the coming posts.