Reviewing the Rebecca Lily Premium Color Grading System

As many of you may recall, I’ve been a long time user of Mastin Labs presets as the base for most of my editing workflow. What you may NOT know however is that before getting into Mastin Labs, I had purchased a set of presets from the amazing Rebecca Patience, creator of the Rebecca Lily Premium Color Grading System. It was the Pro Set III pack and I remembered how absolutely mesmerizing I found all of the sample images. So I pulled the trigger, pulled out the credit card and made the purchase.

Then I played with the presets non stop on my images for about 3 days and became super frustrated….

I felt like I just couldn’t make them work for my images…every now and then I’d get lucky and I’d like an edit using the RLPCG system, but most often it was just frustrating and I couldn’t figure out why. Then I found Mastin Labs and felt at home.

Until I saw sample images start showing up online for RL Pro Set IV and once again I was completely captivated. I loved the way all of these sample photos looked and I had learned a thing or two about my photography so, after a little thought and a lot of hesitation, I pulled the trigger again and purchased Pro Set IV.

Now if you were waiting for the part of the article where I say, “I purchased Pro Set IV and it suddenly clicked and now my editing world was completely solved! It’s like a slice of Heaven in a preset!“….well….sadly that didn’t happen. Unfortunately I had the same experience with this newest Pro Set IV. I just couldn’t seem to make it work. But after putting it aside for a while and continuing to use Mastin Labs daily, it kept nagging at me that I had to be missing something with those Rebecca Lily preset packs.

So I slowly started to take time to experiment with them. To learn what each one of the presets was doing to my photos and to understand what the multitude of presets actually were. You see, within the Rebecca Lily preset packs you end up with something like 167 different variations on the presets that you have at your fingertips…within each preset pack… Compare that with Mastin and how very limited your options are and it was no wonder I was having trouble. I also had to learn and understand that while Mastin was centered around giving you true to life film stock emulations, including color palette, Rebecca Lily was a full on color grading suite of tools. Within those tools were a huge number of very subtle variations on themes, from pastels and bright colors to dark and moody, and I just needed to spend more time learning the tools.

AND THAT’S WHEN I HAD THAT A HA MOMENT!

As with anything worth doing, you have to work at it. You have to take time to learn and understand it. Maybe I’m just dumber than most, but for some reason it took me a while to learn and understand how the Rebecca Lily Presets work. With a little patience (no pun intended) and practice it began to click and now I have to say that Rebecca Lily is a permanent part of my toolbox right alongside Mastin Labs. I won’t say one is better than the other, they are just different in their approach. But I will say Rebecca Lily gives much finer control over the use of color to impact the mood and feeling of my photographs, which I really enjoy. There really is something special about the way subtle color shifts and tints just seem to peek into my images using these presets. Nothing ever feels overprocessed, nothing feels heavy handed. It’s a very invisible editing approach, which if you read my article about Chasing Trends, you’ll know I’m a huge advocate of because my personal opinion is that for a photograph to be great you can’t notice the editing that has been done, the subject, mood and emotional tone/connection are what have to shine. Rebecca Lily Premium Color Grading presets allow that to happen beautifully, with a huge variety of options to help you convey whatever mood or emotional tone you are trying to get across in your photographs.

WOW! That’s enough of me blabbing on. Let’s look at the photos already! Quick side note. All of the following photos are processed using Rebecca Lily Pro Set IV and made using Fuji X Series cameras and lenses. They cover a variety of subjects and moods to show the real versatility of these presets.

I had a conversation with the creator of the Rebecca Lily Premium Color Grading system, a fantastic photographer named Rebecca Patience who you can find on TWITTER or INSTAGRAM, and she was so incredibly helpful and kind as I tried to figure this out. She told me that she knows her system can have a little bit of a learning curve. She is correct, but once you start to grasp it, to understand the subtle changes, they begin to sing. The way they use allow such precise control over the colors, enhancing the mood and feeling my photos is really something special.

Yes, they have a bit of a learning curve, but it’s 100% worth taking the time to learn because it doesn’t apply a heavy handed smashing of your pixels like so many presets and filters, rather it gives a nice gentle nudge to leave you with a very natural feeling image in which you don’t notice the actual edits. You are left with just a nice clean image that uses color so spectacularly to enhance the natural beauty that made you point your camera at the scene in the first place.

If you are looking for another great set of tools to help you enhance your photos without making them look over processed, if you take your approach to color in your photographs(along with the use of tone and mood for both black and white and color photographs) I highly recommend you check out the Rebecca Lily Premium Color Grading System.

**Full disclosure- I am not a paid spokesperson for Rebecca Lily. I did not receive a free or discounted version of the presets to review. I DID spend my own hard earned money to purchase the 2 preset packs for myself and all thoughts contained in this article are my own. 

 

 

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5 thoughts on “Reviewing the Rebecca Lily Premium Color Grading System

  1. OK. Please help me understand something here. Why is using someone else’s presents better than hand curating your own images from raw? I have not ever used presets, so maybe there is something that I am just not getting here.

    1. Thanks for reading! That’s a very fair question and one that I grappled with for a long time before deciding to purchase some of the high quality presets out there. The main reasons are simply speed and time for me. I can and have hand curated a number of my own presets over the years, only to find I could never get things just right from one image to the next. There is a lot of work and testing and fine tuning with presets like these from Rebecca Lily or Mastin Labs. Colors are adjusted very specifically to be as universally adaptable between all manner of images as possible and I just didn’t and still don’t have the time to try to put in the amount of research that these companies and individuals do to ensure that the presets give consistent results from one image to the next. That effort they put in is why it’s worth every penny of the purchase when you buy into a premium preset pack like this. Simply put, these are really created by experts who really know color and color theory and while you are correct that anyone can hand make or home brew their own presets, or just edit from scratch on every individual photo, the presets allow me to get to my final finished photo sooner so I have less time spent at my computer editing and more time with my family or getting out shooting. I still make additional custom adjustments after I apply a preset, but by using a good preset as a base that will get me 80% of the way to my desired outcome I can spend maybe 1-5 minutes on an image and be finished versus 10-20 or more minutes doing it all by hand. Not to mention the way presets can help keep a consistent look and feel throughout a shoot, which is really important with portrait work, weddings, or other paid work. Hopefully that helps answer your question about why I choose to use presets! But please make no mistake, I’m not saying they are a requirement or that it’s wrong to do it all by hand, whatever works best for you and your workflow is the approach you want to stick with!

  2. I am mainly posting to see if I can get WordPress to work today (on the phone this time) since it wouldn’t work for me on the computer last time. I’m looking forward to seeing your images on the bigger screen.

    What you stated about subtly enhanced images reminded me of what I used to tell my girls when they were in high school. I knew that if I said No Makeup 💄 I could set up rebellion. So I said that when they would walk into a classroom, did they want the other kids to see !MAKEUP! or did they want people to just see them looking their best?

    In 1974 when I purchased my SLR, I read a couple dozen books about photography. While the basics remain the same, wow, your blog let’s me know how much of the post camera technique I have zero clue about. My reading the last five years has mostly been about manipulating the photos for printing on fabric, and I’m still in the learning curve on that. I’m not sure I have enough empty brain synapses left to learn more jargon and substance.

  3. Thanks for posting this. I just got the RL preset IV. I see that its very different from how I process pictures. My basic observations are-
    1.The presets dont work well with every kind of picture.
    2. They work well for aparture wide open, airy,softer feeling pictures.
    3. They work well in keeping dark tones darker, other tones are hard to predict.

    However per your observations, you say its a learning experience, but don’t elaborate how so. What learning you need and how did you had the epiphany about that? What worked for you and what did not?
    Thanks.

    1. Hey Neil,
      Thanks for reaching out. My apologies for taking so long to respond!

      The Rebecca Lily tools did indeed take me a while to figure out. I don’t know exactly how to explain why, but I’ll do my best. With most other preset systems I had used in the past, such as Mastin Labs or VSCO, it was pretty straightforward…just click desired preset and maybe adjust a little to taste. But they felt much more like filters in Instagram, especially VSCO. Mastin Labs was very clean and simple to use, but also at times could feel a little bland.

      I think the biggest reason why is because presets like Mastin Labs are geared towards emulating a specific film stock so hybrid film/digital shooters can try to make the two mediums match when delivering work. Rebecca Lily is different. It’s not trying to emulate or look like any specific film stock. It’s all about color and the sometimes vibrant and often times subtle differences that different tones and colors can have on your photographs is really fantastic. I think for me, the learning/epiphany started to happen when I just spent enough time with them to really get to see how all the different presets impacted color in different ways. That allowed me to know which preset would give me the color base I wanted with various different images in different settings. It wasn’t a huge and sudden epiphany that suddenly I understood them completely though. I’m still discovering which ones work best for my work and my various styles of images and it’s really a matter of sitting down with just a couple different photos in your own style and then applying each preset and really looking at what it is doing to the scene. How is it impacting color, what are the shifts in tone that are happening, and then honestly jot down the presets you find that work best with your work. Keep in mind, just because the preset may boost the brightness of your image doesn’t mean it has to stay that way. If you want a moodier look, but love the colors from one of the presets, just apply it and adjust your exposure. In fact I rarely apply any preset without doing some additional tweaking and fine tuning after the fact. The preset is just giving me the base for my final image and look.

      You gave some great observations and I’d like to address them before I finish my novel lol!

      1. “The presets don’t work well with every kind of picture.” This is absolutely true. There is never ever going to be a single perfect preset that will work perfectly on every single image. It’s just not possible. That being said, the tools in the Rebecca Lily packs are able to give you a lot of variety of different looks so chances are you’ll find a couple that work for your style and fit the look you are aiming for.
      2.”They work well for aperture wide open, airy, softer feeling pictures.” Absolutely they do! I tend to shoot a lot wide open, but not always light and airy. They also work fantastic for moody and more dramatic work. A couple great presets to look at if you aren’t wanting that light, airy look are Shadowland and Moonrise. Also check out the presets under the “Vintage” section(Desert, Moss, Eucalyptus, Henna, Stella) as they will give you great color without looking too bright after just one click.
      3.”They work well in keeping dark tones darker, other tones are hard to predict.” Overall I really think you’ll find that with some time spent looking at how each preset impacts an image you will be able to know how ALL of the tones will be impacted. This is part of what I struggled with as well and honestly it just took some time and effort to experiment to really start to understand which of the presets impact what tones and how they are impacted.

      I’ll say this to finish up. Remember, these presets are for working with the color in your images. They are giving you a pro level Color Grading system, it’s even in the name, hehe. These aren’t meant to be, in my opinion, simply a 1 click solution that fits every image. They seem to me to be a set of excellent tools that will help you achieve fantastic color and toning in your images while letting you adjust the main info such as exposure/contrast/shadows/etc to get your image to that “finished” stage. My advice on what worked for me was to change my mindset about these presets and stop thinking of them as single click “filters” that emulated a specific look, instead thinking of them as basically a huge palette of color options for me to use and choose from and get the mood and tone of my image to a great place for me to then adjust and finish the image. The exposure/brightness/darkenss/moodiness/drama in my images comes from my in camera capture and adjustments if needed in post to exposure and such, and the color grading/RL presets are a separate piece of the puzzle.

      But they may not work for everyone and that is ok too! Seriously thank you for taking time to write in, it’s very much appreciated!

      Dave

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