Part 1: ‘Densia’

Welcome to part 1 of an 8-part series on Lightroom editing presets and how they work. To go with this I’ve created 8 image presets you can download right now.

  1. Click here for a Dropbox link.
  2. You don’t need to have a Dropbox account – just click the ‘Download’ button at the top right. Depending on your browser, the presets will download either as a folder, or as a zip file you have to unzip into a folder.
  3. Once you’ve done that, launch Lightroom, open an image in Develop mode and then right-click anywhere in the Presets panel and choose ‘New Folder’. Type in ‘Life after Photoshop’ and hit the ‘Create’ button.
  4. Now right-click on the new folder, select ‘Import’ and navigate to the folder where you’ve saved the downloaded presets. You can now select the presets, hit the ‘Import’ button and they’ll appear in the presets folder you’ve created.
lightroom-preset-densia-before

This is my start shot, a perfectly regular colour photo.

How the ‘Densia’ Lightroom preset works

‘Densia’ is a an abbreviation for ‘dense sepia’. I really like this look for dramatic black and white images and strong graphical compositions. It uses the ‘Basic’, ‘Split Toning’ and ‘Effects’ panels, and that’s it. I’ll explain what each one is doing, and how they contribute to the overall effect.

lightroom-preset-densia-01

Basic panel: There are three adjustments here, and the first is the ‘Black & White’ option at the top, next to ‘Treatment’. This renders any image in black and white, even if the original was in colour.

The next is an increase to the ‘Exposure’ value. The other options in this preset have an overall darkening effect, so this helps to restore the original image brightness.

The third is an increase in the ‘Clarity’ value, right up to its maximum of +100. This emphasises outlines and the shapes of objects, and gives photos a lot more ‘punch’. You can’t really get away with Clarity values this high with colour photos, but in black and white it’s fine.

lightroom-preset-densia-02

Split Toning panel: This is where the preset applies that rich, sepia-toned effect. Instead of applying a single, overall tone, though, Lightroom’s Split Toning panel offers different toning options for the Shadows and the Highlights. You can use this to create some quite complex toning effects, but here it’s been kept simple – both the Shadows and the Highlights have the same Hue value of 48, and I’ve simply made the Highlight Saturation value slightly lower because it makes the end result look a little bit better.

lightroom-preset-densia-03

Effects panel: This is where the last two adjustments are made. First, I’ve added a medium-strength vignette effect to darken the edges of the picture. This gives photos a bit more contrast and depth and provides a subtle framing effect which helps to focus attention on the subject.

Second, I’ve pushed the Dehaze Amount slider right up to maximum. The names suggests this is a tool for reducing haze in distant landscapes, but actually it has a much wider use. It splits the photo up into areas of different brightness and then applies an automatic contrast adjustment to each. Darker areas and brighter areas are both enhanced, and brighter areas in particular. It’s like a Clarity adjustment but on a much broader scale.

Adjusting the ‘Densia’ preset

Every image is different and the preset won’t give perfect results each time. The main issue is likely to be whether the picture looks too light or too dark, and that’s easy to fix – just return to the Basic panel and increase or reduce the Exposure value.

If you find increasing the Exposure to the right overall level pushes the image highlights over the edge into overexposure, drag the Highlights slider to the left to bring them back again.

Next time: the ‘Eurochrome’ preset

It’s designed to replicate the faded, grainy look of European transparency films of the 1970s and ’80s. Yes, Agfa, I mean you!