How to import and export presets in Lightroom

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Working with presets is an essential element if you want to ace Lightroom. But when time comes you may ask yourself: “How do I import this new presets I acquired?” or even better “How do I export presets I created?”. Well, now it’s time to learn how to do it.

The Basics of Working with Presets

One essential thing while working with presets can be resumed into one word: Organization.

For working with Lightroom, the organization is everything. You should create a folder where you can put your presets in order; maybe even classify them for the theme to be used (ie: Portrait Presets, Landscape Presets, Wedding Photos Presets, etc.).

This way your workflow is more efficient and you won’t waste time searching for every folder on your HDD to find where you put that nice-looking preset you are needing to use.

As long as you keep working with Lightroom, presets are going to be more than a necessity, so the increasing number of presets in your possession is also a good reason why to start organizing.

Importing Presets

Okay, let’s assume you already have your Preset folder arranged. And you want to import new Presets to your workspace.

First, go to Edit > Preferences


There you will see some tabs at the emerging window. Go to Presets.

At Presets, find the option “Show Lightroom Presets Folder…”. That will open up another Windows Explorer window (if you are working with Mac, Preferences are under Lightroom Tab at the program bar, and it will open a Finder window). Go inside the Lightroom folder, then Develop Presets. This is where we paste the preset file we want to add (add as much presets as you want, but you may want to organize them as well as presets folders).



For Mac users, it can be a bit confusing since many OSX folders tend to be hidden. But if it allows you to open with no-problem the Develop Presets, then you have nothing to worry about.

Note that if you are working with Lightroom open, you will have to restart the software in order to Lightroom to update the Presets folder.


And now, I restarted my Lightroom, so then I click on an Image, go to Develop, and under “Users Presets” I will find my own nest of presets.

As you can see, only selecting over a preset my image will change a lot in its appearance.


And voila! Here I applied my newly loaded B&W Preset into this photo.

By the way, one of the most common mistakes while importing presets is using rar/zip files into the Lightroom folder. Lightroom does NOT read zipped files. You need to extract them previously to add the presets, otherwise, you won’t be able to use them.

If for some reason it doesn’t allow you to extract the presets, then maybe the rar/zip file may be encrypted or badly downloaded. If that is your case, then try to right-click the file, go to Properties of the file. Under the advanced option, you will have to uncheck the last box in order to make it work.

Exporting Presets

So? Easy by now?

Exporting presets is something we may use previously to reinstall our pcs, as we don’t want to lose the data we entered.

So the procedure to export those plugins inside Lightroom is pretty much the same.

Also, notice that the option “Show presets with catalog” is also a quick way to export Lightroom presets to multiple pcs and so useful when you work often with Google Drive or Dropbox.

Of course this last option works when you want to move huge quantities of presets; but if you want to move just a few presets, then there is the easiest way to do it (quite useful if you want to transfer some presets to a pen drive).

See that option over there? Right after right-clicking on the preset icon, it shows up both Import/Export options. For this one, we will be using the Export one.


Notice that you can also use this method for quick importing presets

Then all you have to do is to select the folder where you want to place your exported presets and hit okay. It will generate inside the folder some lrtemplate files, which are Lightroom format for presets.

Something you may notice when Importing/Exporting is the fact that there are several folders on the Lightroom preset root directory. What are this folder for?. Let’s review them:

Develop Presets: The presets that will show up in the Develop module of Lightroom.

Export Presets: These presets are used in the Export mode.

External Editor Presets: Used for the “Edit In” menu and are managed in the External Editing tab of the Preferences dialog. They work most like plugins rather than presets (odd stuff yeah I know)

Filter Presets: Available to be used when you use the Library Filters.

Import Presets: Contain settings used in the Import mode.

Local Adjustment Presets: They are used by the adjustment brushes tools.

Metadata Presets: Your metadata presets.

Troubleshooting the Lightroom Presets import procedure

Like with everything we do, wrongly taken steps can jeopardize our chances of succeeding in this procedure. Below is listed a list of the most common errors we do when trying to import presets to Adobe Lightroom.

1. Not extracting the presets: Quite often, new users may simply download the presets and place them inside Lightroom’s folder structure, instead of actually extracting the appropriate files. Zipped as RAR or ZIP files, there is no other way to download a group of preset files given our web browsers automatically zip the files to avoid downloading viruses or due to convenience. Therefore, we need to use software like WinZip or WinRar to decompress those files, and then properly place them where they belong.

2. Encrypted files: Sometimes you can’t use your presets because they may be encrypted, therefore you’re not able to access them. In order to fix this issue, all you need to do is right-click on your preset file, then select Properties. Go to Advanced and uncheck the last box about encrypting content for data protection. Now you will be able to use your presets.

3. Presets aren’t displaying: One common error is to accidentally store your presets with a catalog, thus your files will only be available when using the catalog itself and not for the software in general. To fix this inconvenience, simply go to Preferences in the Edit menu and under the Presets tab uncheck the “Store presets with this catalog” option. That way Presets are always present in the Lightroom installation software and not just part of the catalog.

4. Presets being too old that they don’t apply to Lightroom new tools: Adobe Lightroom is constantly upgrading and adding tools. One of the most noticeable upgrades came up with Lightroom 5, where Fill Light is not a slider anymore, and older Presets valid for LR 2-4 won’t work in Lightroom 5 versions onwards.


Unless another kind of files for other software, Presets don’t have any problem to copy and use them on several computers at the same time. And if they are made by you, even better.

In my opinion, working with presets is mostly a commodity. It saves a lot of time while configuring Lightroom, and if you create your own presets, then it is the proper way to share them and… who says? Making a bit of money if studios buy them, as well as students.

Keep in mind that even if this is a CC version of Lightroom you have to keep the presets just in case, it does not upload the preset files into the cloud.

Just as always, practice makes you better. You may start working with someone else presets when you start, or if you have such a reduced time to learn. But then who says? Maybe next time people will be using the presets you created, that’s why you have to learn how to export them.

Good luck and keep working!

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