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The Problem with Presets: Why You Should or Shouldn’t Use Them

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A month ago, a photography podcast slammed the preset industry in a scathing episode that was all about how presets and the photographers who sell them are terrible. Now, the photographer duo behind the popular YouTube channel Mango Street are speaking up and sharing their thoughts on this contentious topic.

While the original podcast didn’t name names when they were discussing presets, Mango Street do in fact sell their own presets, so they have a reason to speak up on this topic. If all of the original “accusations” are true, then they’re “creating a clone army” and hurting beginner photographers.

In the video, Rachel and Daniel first tackle four “common objections” to using presets, explaining why these objections do or do not actually hold any weight:

  1. Presets create photographer clones
  2. Lighting and Color are too photo-specific for presets to work well
  3. If you use presets, you’ll never learn how to actually edit
  4. If you use presets, you’re lazy

Then, after diving into each of these points, Rachel and Daniel answered some Preset Q&A from their 100K+ Instagram followers. This includes questions like:

  • How do you make presets that work across different lighting conditions?
  • What’s the best way to use presets for learning?
  • What’s a reasonable amount to spend on presets?
  • … and several more

As you might imagine, there is no clear-cut answer here. Using presets isn’t “always” right or wrong. It depends on how you use them, why you use them, when you use them, and, of course, the style and quality of the presets themselves.

Check out the full video up top for a more nuanced discussion on the benefits and pitfalls of presets, and why they’re maybe not quite as evil as some people seem to think.

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