If you want to improve your street photography after you’ve pressed the shutter button, then you’ll undoubtedly be interested in the best Lightroom street photography presets. After all, it’s one thing to capture the decisive moment when you’re out in the street with your camera, and it’s another thing entirely to edit each shot so your final files look precisely the way you envisioned.
Often, that extra bit of refinement or pop comes with the help of a favorite Lightroom preset. Presets allow us to control the look and feel of our photos so others can understand how we felt about the scenes as we photographed them.
Lightroom presets are extremely popular, and there are a huge number of options to choose from. Whether you’re just starting out or have had some experience with presets in the past, picking the best ones can be challenging. Therefore, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite presets, which will help you transform your RAW street photography snaps into images with depth and character – so long as you apply them well.
I’ve included a few presets that you can download (for free) and import into Lightroom. I’ve also made good use of some of the prepackaged presets that come as part of your Lightroom subscription. That way, you can see how easy it is to improve your street photos with a single click.
So without further ado, let’s take a look at the best street photography presets in 2023!
1. Classic – B&W Presets
In the Lightroom Develop module, you can find some wonderful black-and-white presets to apply to your street shots. Once you’ve picked a photo to edit, find the Classic – B&W Presets section in the Presets dropdown menu.
You should see a handful of black-and-white presets, and the one that works best will depend on your specific image. I’d recommend hovering over each of the presets as you observe the highlights and shadows of your shot. See what looks good, and don’t be afraid to tweak the editing sliders further once you’ve selected a preset.
Here’s my original image:
I decided to use the B&W Look 5 preset. Here is the result:
I like the effect it has on this street scene with a spirit house. Although I think the colors in this image work well together, I wanted to experiment with a monochrome effect, and I appreciate how B&W Look 5 manages the shadows and highlights while drawing attention to the woman’s face.
2. Cross Process
The cross-process look is old school. When using film, you need to make sure that it’s processed with the correct chemicals – but if you want to get unusual results, you can process color negative film in chemicals for color transparency film (or vice versa).
Cross-processing results are often unpredictable and can vary from film type to film type. So by applying a cross-process Lightroom preset, you know you’ll get some eye-catching color shifts! To find Lightroom’s cross-process options, go to the Preset panel, then select Classic – Color Presets. You should see three cross-process options: Cross Process 1, Cross Process 2, and Cross Process 3.
Below, I’ve put the cross-process presets to the test. Here’s my original image:
And here’s my image after applying a cross-process preset:
I like the color adjustments – the bright yellows and reds are toned down. I also love how this preset treated the stainless steel. Note that I manually tweaked the preset slightly to enhance the appearance of the colors.
3. Cool Shadows and Warm Highlights
The Cool Shadows and Warm Highlights preset is an outstanding choice for most forms of street photography; in fact, because it’s so universally applicable, you can use it to edit all kinds of different street shots and give a group of images a more unified appearance. (When you consistently use the same few presets, it can lend your photographic portfolio a stylized look and feel.)
You can find the preset in the Lightroom Preset panel under the Creative tab. Here’s my sample (before) photo:
And here’s the image after applying the Cool Shadows and Warm Highlights preset:
As you can see, the presets made the shadows cooler, and their bluish-green tones contrast nicely with the added warmth in the highlights. The warmer highlights even look good in the bright green of the umbrella.
Some Lightroom presets can give your street photos an intense look, but the best ones tend to be more subtle. That’s why I recommend trying Vivid (in the Color section of the Lightroom Preset panel); it applies a little pop to photos without taking them too far.
Check out this simple image of a manikin:
And see the result after the preset has been applied:
I like how the preset lifted the colors and gently opened up the shadows. It’s also helped balance the contrast in the highlight areas.
I’ve noticed a common trend in photo editing where the details are pulled out in both shadow and highlight areas. While such an approach can emphasize lots of detail, it also makes photos look unnatural. Just because it’s possible to exploit the shadows and highlights in this manner does not mean you need to do it frequently. It’s a bit like driving your car as fast as you can everywhere you go; it’s not always going to work out well. Instead, try using a subtle preset that keeps the image looking natural.
5. Cool Light
When your image contains lots of contrast, you might be tempted to use a preset that radically alters the colors and tones. In my experience, however, this is unnecessary. When an image already contains drama, you can make the most of it by applying a more subtle edit.
I deliberately exposed this next photo for the highlights; I saw the nice bright light illuminating part of the scene, and I appreciated the heavy shadows. So I set my exposure for the highlights and waited. Within a minute or two, a man pulled his motorcycle onto the sidewalk and caught the sunlight.
The original is nice, but I wanted to add a more subdued feeling to the shot. That’s why I applied Lightroom’s Cool Light preset (found in the Creative options), which lifted both the highlights and shadows while adding a blue tinge to the whole photo that unified the different elements.
6. Vintage Street Photography (by Weedit.Photos)
Sometimes, you might want to give your photos a vintage feel without going monochrome. Black and white certainly lends an old-fashioned look to photos, but sometimes leaving the color intact can work well, especially when you use a good vintage preset. A great option here is the Vintage Street Photography preset you can download from Weedit.Photos.
My original image is complex and colorful:
But the preset makes it even better:
As you can see, the image now has a distinctly older look and feel. By subduing the colors and dulling down the shadow areas, the preset replicates how some photos look when they are older. (Colors and blacks tend to fade and lose contrast, particularly if the photo hasn’t been processed well.)
I deliberately chose an image that had no obvious technology, though the motorcycle might give the game away.
7. Illumination Street Photography (by Weedit.Photos)
The Illumination Street Photography preset comes, once again, from Weedit.Photos, and it’s completely free to download. It’s a great way to unify your shots with subtle color toning, and it can even give photos a slightly cinematic feel.
For this next image – featuring two men talking at a street noodle shop – I wanted to dampen down the colors. The bright shirts and the vibrant hues in the background didn’t match the mood.
So I applied the Illumination preset to balance the colors and contrast. Here’s the result:
8. Urban Cool (by PresetLove)
Some Lightroom presets only adjust image tones, but others alter the main colors in an image (occasionally with spectacular results!). I loved the look of this stylized building contrasted with the mass of messy powerlines, but I thought the scene looked a bit dull:
So I added the Urban Cool preset from PresetLove. It added a nice blue to the midtones in the scene, and the result was much more to my liking:
9. Demarcation Street Photography (by Weedit.Photos)
When I edit my street photos, I aim to keep skin tones looking relatively natural. I’ll tweak brightness and contrast levels but often leave skin tones alone.
Therefore, I prefer to use presets that don’t adjust skin too heavily. This next street portrait needed a bit of contrast:
So I added the Demarcation Street Photography preset from Weedit.Photos. The woman’s skin tone looks natural, but the preset added a touch of contrast that helps separate the subject from the background:
10. Street (by PresetLove)
Not every photo needs to look subtle and realistic. Sometimes, you may wish to create a more radical look and feel to your shots, and that’s where the Street preset from PresetLove comes in handy.
Take a look at my image prior to adding the preset:
Then, when I add the Street preset, here’s what I get:
As you can see, the preset has adjusted the look of this image quite heavily. The greens have turned to aqua, while the yellows and reds have swung more toward orange. The whole photo vibrates in an odd color space that works nicely with the juxtaposition of the sunflower, the signs, and the CCTV cameras.
The best Lightroom street photography presets: final words
Finding the best Lightroom street photography preset for your image is often a matter of experimenting with lots of options. The more you try, the more you’ll understand what you like, though I certainly hope this list provides you with a good starting point.
Remember: If you scroll your cursor over your Lightroom presets, you’ll see the effect previewed on your image. This can be a great way to quickly determine the right preset to use.
And once you’ve been applying presets for a while, you can try tweaking them to refine the look of each photo you edit. It’s faster than editing photos from scratch, and it also offers extra customizability for the best possible results. (You might even create some presets of your own!)
Now over to you:
Which of these presets do you plan to use? Do you have other favorite presets that we missed? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
The most popular presets are often those related to street, travel, and landscape photography.
One of the most common ways to edit your street photography in Lightroom is to use one or more presets and then tweak the results as needed.
There are many great free presets for Lightroom, which can often get you amazing results. However, preset packs are another great way to expand your preset library, and they’re generally pretty inexpensive, too.