Presets: to sell them or not?

By Rebecca Bradley

Image by Dawn Charles

As a photographer, you would have spent hundreds of hours editing and refining your style and it's safe to say you would have learnt a trick or to while doing so. So, why not share your style with other's and create an extra income stream while doing so?

You may be questioning whether it's worth while to selling your presets when there are 1000s of others out there. The chances are, your audience are seeking inspiration and are ready to learn from you.

So what are the benefits of selling presets and what really goes into it? We spoke to Will Khoury, Dawn Charles and Dani Purington to get their take on it.

What impact can passive income from presets have on your business?

Image by Dani Purington

Dani: The passive income from presets has had a massive impact on my business. Of course, it does require some upkeep of marketing to keep the flow of income steady, so it's been an adjustment of time management to find time to keep marketing them to new eyes on different platforms. But the passive income I've received from this has definitely helped in such an uncertain time financially. And I've also made it an affordable, fair price so that people still have the money to put towards it, and also get immense value from it. This passive income has been able to really get me through this time where no wedding income is really coming in.

Will: It’s great to offer more than just photography in your business and help new photographers establish their style. I’ve been selling presets for the past 3 years and they have been a great addition to what I offer. But I would not consider selling presets as a passive income. As much as I would love for them to be that way, there still has to be some work done to continue selling them, such as advertising, posting, and stay in touch with those who use them, etc. Just like with any business, if you don’t pay attention to it and put effort into selling a product, they will not perform well. With enough presets sales, I was able to cut back on the number of elopements and sessions I’m taking on, and able to give so much more time to each and every couple that I work with. Selling presets was not my way to cut back on work, but a way to help me give more to those that I work with.

Dawn: Presets and the passive income that has come from them has truly been life-changing. Not only has it provided the down payment for our house, and the cash to pay off student loans, but it has given me so much freedom in my business that I never had before. Passive income has allowed me to pivot my business in a way that better suits my lifestyle and the opportunity to explore other avenues of business, as well as devote more time to being a stay at home mom. I'm no longer gone every weekend shooting weddings, and I'm no longer trading hours for dollars, and there has been so much freedom in that.

What goes into creating presets?

Image by Will Khoury

Dani: I feel like my presets were fairly easy because I started from scratch and have a LOT of knowledge on what slider/tool does what in Lightroom. Most of this knowledge came from practice, but also from studying how other people edit through their presets. One thing I did early on purchased a BUNCH of presets to see what I liked, what did what, and what I wanted to carry over into my style. When it came time to make my edit TRULY my own, I pulled what I liked from what I knew each tool did and created my own preset. I will say: You have to be careful when creating your own. You don't want to copyright or infringe on someone else's style if they are also selling their presets - because then it becomes a legal situation. I know of a couple photographers that have gotten in trouble because of this. So my best advice is to start literally from scratch - don't copy any EXACT settings of other presets, but adjust to what you think looks right, and then test it!! Testing is important. Get people who shoot with all different cameras to test your edits and get feedback before release. You want to know what works, and what you can change to make sure people get the result they are looking for!

Will: It’s easy to create a preset file but what really takes time and makes it tricky is the testing and versatility aspect of it. There are so many different layers to consider when creating a preset that works across the board. Camera brands, color profile, lighting situation, style of shooting, geographical location (yes that matters on the quality of light), the general feel of the preset, the results, and how they look at the end. To create presets, you have to be familiar with what each and every single slider does to photos in Lightroom or other editing programs. This doesn’t come from adjusting a few things but hundreds of different combinations. Sometimes one adjustment slider could throw off the whole look of a photo, and that’s why it could be tricky. Some presets are finessed more than others, and the ones that work could only come through those who understand color theory, editing programs, and the purpose of what each preset does.

Dawn: I think there are a lot of misconceptions about preset creation. That it's a quick way to make a lot of money. That anyone can create them. All of these couldn't be further from the truth. Creating presets takes a lot of time, research, testing, and understanding of editing, the software you're using, and how light and color work. While, yes, they are a great source of income, it's not an avenue I recommend for everyone. I got my degree in photography and had formal training in editing, and then I spent YEARS studying editing, color toning, how Lightroom works, etc. It definitely isn't something that happens overnight, but if editing, and helping other photographers is something you're truly passionate about, and you're willing to invest the time, it could be a good option for you to explore!

The purpose behind selling presets

Image by Dawn Charles

Dani: I've had a lot of people reach out to me and ask me how I found my edit style, or how I edit. And I feel like people that buy presets to just "copy" other photographer's styles isn't going to get them anywhere - buying a 1 click preset doesn't teach a new photographer how to edit.

But selling a preset that requires some adjusting and tweaking to make their OWN is one that I wanted to release! I don't want a bunch of people editing the way I do, but rather, I wanted to give them a base to get started and set them up for success. The other thing I really value with the way that I edit is my colors. I don't deplete or desaturate any colors because of a "trendy edit" - I think they are important to keep, and that's reflective in my presets. My message for that is also clear for people looking to purchase - colors are important! My last message is my encouragement for them to create their own, original style. Buy multiple presets, find your style, and don't feel like you have to STICK to that style forever and ever. My style is always growing, changing, and evolving. And that's the way it should be!

Will: Presets are more than just a simple file that I can sell, it’s something that I want others to benefit from. The presets that I sell are created with the purpose to stand the test of time. WKpresets are designed for a timeless look & developed with versatility in mind so photos look beautiful on screen & in print. What I sell are my personal editing presets because I want to help photographers (especially those that are starting out) to achieve the look they are after. Everyone that purchases my presets receives a step-by-step guide on how to use and modify the preset to their liking, with many helpful tips on how to achieve the right look in Lightroom. Photographers can always send me messages and emails to test their presets and I’m able to share my editing steps with them to ease their editing process. Finally, it would not be right to only sell presets without helping other artists, which is why part of the proceeds are donated to support artists on the Autism Spectrum.

Dawn: When I was first starting my business, I did an internship for one of my favorite wedding photographers. She poured her time and knowledge into me and I can't imagine how much I would have struggled without her guidance. Since then, I've always felt the urge to pay it forward. I know how it feels to be unsure in areas of your business and stuck with limited help or resources. I've always felt I have nothing to gain from holding back what I've learned, so if I can help others who share the same passion as I do, I'll jump at the opportunity! I come from a family full of teachers, and I always knew that one day I would be teaching. Presets were kind of the segue into the education world for me. I was constantly being asked about my editing and I figured I had nothing to gain by keeping it a secret! Since then my business has organically transitioned to be more education-focused, and I've discovered my true passion of helping other photographers and small business owners thrive!

While there is still a lot of work that goes into creating presets, they can be a wonderful way to create an extra income stream into your business as well as help other photographers find their own style. If you have a unique look to your images, which I am sure you do, then your audience likely appreciates it and wishes to learn from you!

Dawns Presets

Will's Presets

Danni's Presets