Lightroom Presets versus Profiles-Which is Better?

There is much debate about which is the better tool, Lightroom Presets, or Profiles. Clearly I am a fan of Presets, but I also understand that Profiles play an important role in editing. Here, we will look at the differences between these two Lightroom tools.

First let's take a look at the basic differences between the two. Lightroom Profiles generally apply an overall look to an image. They do not change the edit/develop controls. You can adjust these controls to your liking. In contrast, Presets are shortcuts to applying develop/ edit settings. These settings can be very simple or complex depending on your needs. Now that we have the basics let's dig a little deeper.

The interface

Lightroom has a profile browser that can be found in develop mode under the basics panel. A thumbnail preview is shown of each profile. On the other hand for Presets you need to hover over each one to see the effect. This may seem like an insignificant difference, but when you're in the middle of editing, it can impact your work. It all depends on how you prefer to view things and your particular work flow.

Overwriting your settings

Presets often override your settings. Profiles cannot change your settings. This means you can't fine tune Profiles the way you can Presets.


Some people claim that Presets are much slower than profiles. Each setting is another calculation for your device to process. However, many Presets are CPU accelerated which makes the speed argument irrelevant.


The simple fact is there just aren't many good profiles out there. Presets are widely available in just about any variety or style that you want. There's probably a good reason for this, right? I suspect it’s because Presets are simply the better option, and that's why so many people are making them and offering them to others.

Now let's look at the pros and cons of using Presets.


  1. Presets are an easy way to apply a wide variety of settings.
  2. They can help you learn how to create a specific style or appearance.
  3. You can get a consistent result across multiple photos quickly.


  1. Poorly written Presets can cause you a lot of problems. Make sure you are using professional Presets if you purchase or download someone else's work.

] In order to get the best results it's recommended that you use Presets as a starting point. Don't expect to apply a preset and have everything exactly how you want it. Presets are intended to get you started and save you time, but they are not a one click solution to complete editing.

So there is my comparison of Presets versus Profiles. While the debate will surely rage on, I am firmly on team Presets. Profiles certainly have their place and are useful, but, for me and the type of work I do, Presets win this battle.