Nobody needs presets!

Photo by Maximilian Gödecke

Friends, my desire is for us to photograph better tomorrow than today, and for all of us to become really good photographers. This perspective has been driving my work and everything I've been involved in for a long time, and to be honest, I regularly struggle with selling you presets. Some clients see presets as a tool to enhance their photography, much like they view a new camera as a helpful tool, or buying a new lens, or even changing their entire camera system. The Leica brand benefits incredibly from this desire, with a tool finally finding the key to what one has been searching for for so long. But if we are all honest with ourselves and not afraid of what we might discover, we will realize that the tools are not the problem. We are. Our works are not relevant or deep enough in content. We only imitate what others have done before us and create only poor copies. Deep down, we know this, and we also know that we don't put in enough effort, don't spend enough time on concepts and considerations, or simply lack the resources to implement ideas as they should be implemented. If you want to photograph like Alex Webb, maybe you have to keep going to Istanbul for decades? You like Peter Lindbergh? Then why are you photographing Julia, whom you knew from Spanish class in 12th grade? Is she relevant to us others who didn't sit next to her back then?

The presets are just visual concepts, just like real analog films are also just visual concepts. See them as suggestions that can help you quickly try out different ideas. See them as references to visual concepts of bygone times. If you load in a Kodak Portra 400, it doesn't enable you to create great photography. You achieve that yourself, and the Portra helps you to represent the colors as a Portra does. But you have to decide whether the Portra or the preset tells your story better or not. 90% of the overall impact of the image is the subject, the light, the colors, and the shapes that occur within the subject. If you excel here, then the photo is visually appealing, but still far from relevant and only becomes a brilliant work through its depth of content. One could even argue that a photo doesn't even have to impress on a visual level to be considered a very relevant and clever work.

Don't buy presets. Invest in what your work should tell. Work smart here. Go where relevant subjects are found. Tell stories that need to be told and haven't been told yet. I really want to encourage you not only to reproduce what worked well for someone else on IG but to photograph what you see and what you want to tell and what we others absolutely need to experience. Focus on the content and the subject. Wait a bit, or come back later when the light is better, or figure out how to get involved with some effort to be able to visually tell the story of the subject more strongly. Be patient and don't be lazy. Not everything comes immediately, and hard work always pays off, maybe not in capitalism, but definitely in art.


  • Before digital audio, literally every sound you recorded had distortion at some level. There were non-linearities at every step: the mic preamp, the mixing console, the cutting lathe, the record player, you name it! As technology progressed and digital audio became trivial these non-linearities became a thing of the past as soon as the audio signal turned into ones and zeroes. Digital audio is always mathematically perfect. This wasn’t the end for distortion tho, not only is distortion an essential part of most guitar sounds, plugins are routinely used by producers and engineers to introduce non-linearities back into the digital signal chain. Are these fake distortion plugins necessary to make a good song? probably not! but I think Brian Eno said it best:

    “Whatever you now find weird, ugly, uncomfortable and nasty about a new medium will surely become its signature. CD distortion, the jitteriness of digital video, the crap sound of 8-bit – all of these will be cherished and emulated as soon as they can be avoided. It’s the sound of failure: so much modern art is the sound of things going out of control, of a medium pushing to its limits and breaking apart. The distorted guitar sound is the sound of something too loud for the medium supposed to carry it. The blues singer with the cracked voice is the sound of an emotional cry too powerful for the throat that releases it. The excitement of grainy film, of bleached-out black and white, is the excitement of witnessing events too momentous for the medium assigned to record them.”

  • Completely agree, though I do like that presets, like film before them, help us get a visual style that is not necessarily our own or unique to the picture, but can be shared with many others to compare and compete with the quality of the picture itself


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