It is a truism that the internet and the digital age have made a photographer out of everyone who can point a camera. Certainly there are more of us taking the plunge into digital photography and editing the images we produce. It has certainly become cheaper and less time intensive to learn to the point where you can produce professional-looking images, but it is also true that a digital camera and a copy of Lightroom 4 does not a digital photographer make. Knowing how to use the software and the hardware involved is something that takes either more talent or more persistence.
There are some people who would suggest that using presets is cheating, but others would rebut that even if you are using the best lightroom 4 presets for raw image editing, it still takes an understanding of what works best with which image if you are going to produce images that look good enough to publish. Considering that much of this work is likely to be used in a personal website setting, it may be true that as long as the creator is happy then the most basic knowledge is sufficient. However if you want to produce work that will be acclaimed by all viewers, it takes more.
Cutting through the inbuilt snobbery of certain observers is not necessarily easy, but there is certainly an increasing groundswell of opinion that believes the majority of snobbery towards bloggers comes from print journalists who are chilled to the bone by the idea that “amateurs” might display better writing and researching skills than them. Equally, some of the people who are cynical about amateurs using lightroom 4 presets for weddings are likely to be wedding photographers who are suddenly frightened that they may not be able to charge as much as they used to.
Using Lightroom 4 and its presets is not cheating in the truest sense because it still requires skill and an aesthetic sense that is either innate or hard-learned to pick the right presets, and modify them correctly, in order to produce the images that will have unbiased onlookers making approving noises. It might be seen as a short cut, but with that said technology has always been about short cuts. If you are to find fault with people using Lightroom 4 presets to get the ideal image, then you might as well also criticise any chef who uses an electric oven rather than a wood fire.
To make a long story short it is not the technology, nor the presets, that really make the job what it is. It is how the user works with them and brings their idea to reality that counts – and this is where the talent lies. If we set snobbery aside for a while and think about what it takes to produce something aesthetically pleasing, then Lightroom 4 and any presets created for it are not hacks or cheats. Rather they are tools that can be used for better or for worse in creating something stylish.