Our Favorite Presets: SMAL Presets

Editing plays a major role in how Flourish & Fern was formed. Mandi and I met on the Facebook page for the SMAL presets. I joined that group just about a year ago and before I found those presets, my editing was taking WAY too long. I was editing in photoshop and taking about 7 steps I had pieced together over the years. A friend had told me how she had cut down on her editing time by switching to Lightroom. Now, that is not to say one is better than the other! But I was in a season of hance and decided to try something new.

At the same time I was switching up a few others things about my photography, I realized I kept admiring tones I saw on the Lookslikefilm FB page and noticed all of those images were edited with SMAL. So off to google I went and found and bought the presets, subsequently met Mandi and we started these workshops and it is a modern day love story! However, if you look at our work side by side, things look quite different. At that is the beauty of presets. You, the artist, have the biggest role in how your finished work looks. 

I thought I would take a moment to walk you through why we each like these presets and a bit about how we use them! Mandi uses the ROSE set, which is in a different set than the SMAL set that I use. 

From Mandi: 

I use SMAL Rose 1 for all of my color work- both client work & everyday lifestyle work of own my kids. I love the warm tones I get overall plus the beautiful skin tones with the color presets. They create warmth, but not too much orange & they give a timeless feel to the look of my images. I use SMAL Wild 9 for my B&W work. This B&W preset has the right amount of contrast & depth which I love, as well as, an old film feel when I add some grain. For all applications, I apply the preset and then adjust white balance and exposure as necessary. 


From Fiona:

I photograph three types of sessions for the most part: indoor newborns, outdoor golden hour sessions & natural light studio. I use SMAL 01 for all of my work. I shoot auto white balance, primarily because especially at outdoor sessions, the light is changing constantly so it is easier for me to adjust white balance in post-processing (lightroom to be exact). After uploading my RAW image,  I apply the preset first THEN adjust white balance and exposure as needed. The presets come with grain which I usually remove (Mandi keeps it- there is no wrong way!)- that is just personal preference. What I love about the presets are the warm tones they add to my photos.  They perfectly capture the words I use to describe my images: warm, organic and soft.

** TIP ** If you are struggling to find your editing voice, try finding your three words. These are three words you want people to say when describing your work. If you cannot find the words yourself, have a friend help you! Let them describe your favorite images with three descriptive words and use those to guide your editing. 


The trick to presets actually being helpful to your workflow is to start off with the best possible RAW file you can. You can apply these presets and others to JPEG images but you will not have the same creative control as you would with a RAW file. When you are shooting your initial image, look for two things as a good image foundation: good light & emotion. Good light doesn't have to be golden and emotion doesn't have to be smiles. Photography can seem really overwhelming but if you can break things down, such as choosing your three words and focusing on capturing good light & emotion, it doesn't seem so overwhelming. Once you have those elements you can use tools, like these presets, to really help your artistry shine through.

Here are some before and after shots to help you see the differences: 

If you are interested in purchasing these presets, you can find them here

We will have many more helpful posts in the future about shooting in all kinds of light, client connections, business tips and more! And please feel free to ask questions! Our instagram is @flourishfernworkshop

Fiona Yates