Lightroom’s Useful “ISO Adaptive Preset” Feature Explained

ISO adaptive presets are one of my personal favorite ways to customize Lightroom. They can help you get better image high quality out of your files at each low and high ISOs, and they are so easy to use. Regardless of their benefits, they can be a little unintuitive to set up. I’ve exercised a quick and consistent way to get an ISO adaptive preset built for any camera you own. In this guide I’ll show you exactly how to create plus install your own custom ISO adaptive preset in Lightroom.

Table of Contents

Why How to use ISO Adaptive Preset?

High ISO Image

Think about the default adjustment that is placed on your image on import: It’s typically an Adobe Color profile with an one-size-fits-all set of sharpening and noise reduction values. For bottom ISO shots, this applies an unnecessary amount of colour noise reduction, and it may not be aggressive enough in maintenance. Meanwhile, on high ISO shots, you’ll often wish to apply more noise decrease than the default, especially lumination noise.

When you can correct these shortcomings manually, you’ll have to do so for every shot you want to edit. Instead, if you have an ISO adaptive preset configured as your default for that camera, Lightroom will look at the ISO of your document via the EXIF data and choose the appropriate amount of sharpening and noise reduction. On my Nikon Z7 , for instance, the default noise reduction is too aggressive, reducing all the great details available in the files.

Image without Noise Reduction
With noise decrease turned off, there’s still no visible noise in this document.

A good ISO adaptive preset can adjust any value within the Develop module, just like a “regular” preset, but I discover that it’s best used for sharpening and NR, as the ideals for other sliders usually aren’t related to ISO.

Our goal is for Lightroom to apply increasingly more noise reduction automatically at increased ISOs (the blue line below) rather than using the same noise reduction at every INTERNATIONALE ORGANISATION FÜR STANDARDISIERUNG (Lightroom’s usual default; the particular red line below).

Noise Reduction Vs ISO

At a broad level, to create ISO adaptive presets, you give a set of reference images for Lightroom to work from, and then it guesses at the in-between values. For instance , you may tell Lightroom to turn off color noise decrease at base ISO and set it to +25 at ISO 3200. Lightroom will then guess at the in-between noise reduction values, like an image at ISO 800.

Below, I’ll dig deeper into the rationale at the rear of selecting the best images to use as sources, as well as the optimal noise decrease values in Lightroom. But to save time, you’ll be happy to know that you don’t have to create a reference image for every ISO step in your camera. You can choose as few as 2 images to create the adaptive preset, covering a low and a high value, but I feel it’s better to work from at least three or four, depending on the ISO values you typically shoot at.

Selecting Your Images

To get started, you’ll need to identify some suitable images to work from. Good images to work from will have a few characteristics:

  • They are your “ typical ” shots. For example , if you shoot primarily landscapes, try to select scenery images, as appropriate sharpening levels can be impacted by the content of the image.
  • Image content is easy to understand without other adjustments . In other words, the image is correctly exposed and the subject has a typical level of contrast.
  • All of them are from one particular camera model. Different cameras will behave differently at various ISOs.
  • They cover a range of ISOs . I typically use 4 shots , covering base ISO through 6400, equally spaced (ISO 100, 400, 1600, and 6400). While there’s lots of technical background to ISO (check out our article on ISO invariance for further info), I don’t really think you should worry about things like dual-gain receptors for this activity. Instead, simply space out your selected INTERNATIONALE ORGANISATION FÜR STANDARDISIERUNG values to get a good really feel for how your sensor behaves at low, center, and high ISO values.
  • They are raw files.
  • They are free of get rid of , blur, subject motion, etc . These one-off aspects make it difficult to judge maintenance.
  • They are shot on a typical lens for your work. This is a personal consideration – if you primarily shoot on a 24-70, use those files. If you’re mainly using a 300 f/2. 8, use those. For use with multiple lenses, consider using the one which requires the lowest sharpening quantity most of the time, since you don’t wish to over-sharpen images by default.
  • They may be unedited documents or could be “ reset ” without issue. As you’re creating a preset from these files, you don’t want to have any edits on the data files. If you select a shot along with edits, you can create plus reset a virtual copy in Lightroom to allow for a “blank slate”, that can be deleted after creation.
  • They are all within one directory . To create the pre-specified, you need to be able to select all the files at once.

Creating the Adjustments

Lightroom Library

Once you’ve got your set of images picked out, I’d suggest creating a little collection for them. From here, you can prepare them in order of INTERNATIONALE ORGANISATION FÜR STANDARDISIERUNG, just to help keep things directly.

Open the cheapest ISO image in the develop module. Then, configure your settings as desired, using a focus on noise reduction and sharpening.

Detail Panel

Remember that changes you make to White Balance or even other settings will impact the final preset, so prevent changing those values. This really is also a great place to change the default profile if you prefer a different base look for your picture. I prefer the Neutral profile for my camera more than Adobe’s more aggressive Adobe Color profile, so take time to check out a few of the options available.

When setting Sharpening and NR values, do not forget the power of the alternate observing modes. Accessible by holding Alt or Option and dragging the slider, these viewing modes help you much better visualize the impact from the respective slider. For instance, keeping the Alt/Option key while dragging the Masking slider reveals where the sharpening shall be applied.

Placing these values is all a few personal taste, as well as a decision depending on what you shoot.

As I move through the documents, I just sync the previous file’s settings over (via Sync Settings, Control+Shift+S), adjust for your higher ISO, and move ahead to the next file. With this, you can adjust all 4 data files in a minute or 2.

Synchronize Settings

At the end, you’ll want to have each file look “right, ” using the appropriate level of sharpening plus NR for that ISO.

Creating the ISO Adaptive Preset

Once you have set up your files, it’s time to create the pre-programmed.

Create a preset

To do this, select all of the files, go back to the Develop module, and find the Presets panel over the left hand side from the screen. Hit the plus button, then select Create Preset.

Creating a Preset

Make sure the NR and maintenance boxes are checked, and be sure the Adaptive ISO package at the bottom is checked. I recommend unchecking all the other boxes unless you want something like the digital camera profile or custom Simple Panel edits to be area of the preset as well. Then name and save your preset with a descriptive name (e. gary the gadget guy. Z7 ISO Adaptive)

Once that’s accomplished, it should appear on the presets panel, under User Presets. While you can now manually apply this preset to your files in the develop module or upon import, I like to go one step further.

Setting Your Preset as a Default

After checking my work on my pictures at various ISO beliefs, I’ve been really pleased with how my adaptive presets turned out – so much so that I want them to be the default for Lightroom to use with my files from that camera. Fortunately, that’s easy to configure.

Open Lightroom’s preferences within the top menu bar. Select the Presets tab and check out Override Global Settings.

Lightroom Default Presets

In this solar panel, you can select your specific camera and the specific preset you would like to use, then update the default. Hit OK to save those changes, and now Lightroom is going to default to that pre-specified when using files from that will camera.

To check on this has applied, just totally reset a file from that camera, and you’ll see that Lightroom resets to your adaptive INTERNATIONALE ORGANISATION FÜR STANDARDISIERUNG preset while showing the particular file as not having changes. Congratulations! You’ve now built and selected your very own custom-tailored default preset in Lightroom.

You can now return and repeat the process for any various other cameras you use. Lightroom still supports setting defaults on the per-serial number basis. This might be helpful if you’re shooting occasions with multiple camera physiques, or in some other particular scenarios – let me know if you’ve made use of this feature, since it’s pretty unique.


I think the biggest part of setting up an INTERNATIONALE ORGANISATION FÜR STANDARDISIERUNG adaptive preset is actually just choosing the right files. With great choices, it’s easy to see exactly what values will work well for your files. When in doubt, choose a slightly less aggressive default so that you don’t over-correct your images automatically.

Regardless of the settings you choose, I believe setting up an ISO adaptive preset is a great way to target Lightroom to your personal choices. Let me know in the comments in case you have any questions about setting up the presets!

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