Lightroom Presets: VSCO vs Mastin vs Tribe Archipelago | The Ultimate Lightroom Preset Comparison Guide

comparison and testing of the most popular lightroom presets available - vsco tribe mastin signature edits

Lightroom Presets: VSCO vs Mastin vs Tribe Archipelago vs Signature Edits

An In Depth Lightroom Preset Comparison Guide

Editing photos in Adobe Lightroom is fantastic. Its a creative powerhouse, and with so many Lightroom Presets to choose from, we are spoiled with options. In fact with so many Lightroom Presets it actually becomes overwhelming. Which Lightroom presets are best? Which Lightroom presets are best for weddings? Which Lightroom presets are best for portraits? Which presets are best for street photography? Or how about landscape presets, nighttime presets or lifestyle presets? You get the picture. There are an unreal number of photo presets to choose from, so we decided to put together an in depth comparison with what some of the biggest / best Lightroom presets for photographers.

Want To Skip Ahead To The Blind Preset Test?

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PRESET PACKS BEING COMPARED

The preset packs and creators we’ll be looking at today are Mastin Labs Fuji Pro, VSCO Film 03, Tribe Archipelago LXC and just for fun, our new preset pack Genesis, by Signature Edits!

In addition to a detailed walkthrough of each pack, we’ll be reviewing them using a 4 part rating system. Below we’ve created a blind test where you can look through the test photos and see which ones you prefer. Then in the next slider you’ll be able to see which edits were done with each preset. We invite you to score them yourself and come up with your own totals as we go. Here are the criteria we’ll be comparing in our test:

LIGHTROOM PRESET COMPARISON CRITERIA

  1. Editing Speed. Do the presets require a lot of tweaking to look good, or do they generally look good without any major adjustments? This is important when you’re editing hundreds of images, as the difference of having to tweak each image vs “it just works” is a deal breaker.
  2. Looks + Style. How do the presets make the photos feel. For our testing we are looking for an organic, filmlike feel, that appears A) Natural and B) Timeless.
  3. Color Tones. A) Skintone Quality, probably the most important tone for photographers above everything else. B) Tones of the greens – The greens in a digital photo are the hardest part of an image to make look like film, and so this is a big deal for us.
  4. Training, Support & Ease Of Use. Perhaps the most overlooked part of any preset system. Presets are only good to you if you know how to use them. How easy is it to edit images using each preset pack? What training or support do they provide?
  5. Value for money. How much does each preset pack cost, and what do you get in return for your $$

Once we rate each Lightroom preset pack out of 10 for each category, we will have a clear picture of which Lightroom Presets are best overall, which Lightroom presets are the best value, and hopefully give you a much better idea of which preset pack you should buy.

 

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The Ultimate Lightroom Preset Comparison Shootout Guide

Lightroom Preset Pack #1 – VSCO

Over the years we’ve done the entire range of Lightroom presets. VSCO was one of the first companies to produce film emulation presets for Lightroom, and they’re still a mainstay for photographers everywhere. In fact up until recently, pretty much ALL the photos on LooksLikeFilm.com were edited using one VSCO pack or another. While they offer 7 Full Packs of Film Presets for Lightroom, we’ll be testing just one today – VSCO Film 04, which is one of their most popular film preset collections. Having tested most of their presets, we can say that VSCO Film 04 is pretty standard. While the packs offer various effects and styling, they all follow a similar layout, strengths and weaknesses.

 

Lightroom Preset Pack #2 – Mastin Labs

In our never ending quest for the best lightroom presets out there, our next stop is Mastin Labs. Founded by film photographer Kirk Mastin, Mastin Labs Presets aren’t aimed to be flashy or extreme. They take a less is more approach to Lightroom Presets, offering just a few presets in each pack. At first it feels like you’re getting less value for your money than with something like VSCO which includes about 100 different options in their packs. But sometimes less is more – And in our opinion, this is especially true when it comes to choosing Lightroom Presets. Which would you rather – 100 terrible Lightroom presets, or 5 blow your mind awesome ones? This seems to be the goal of Mastin Labs – To simplify your options to the very best, and to emulate film while also cutting down on your workflow time. We think this is a great approach.  Today we’ll be looking at Mastin Labs Fuji Pro Pack, which many photographers swear by, especially for outdoor imagery. Like VSCO, Mastin has its own “Look” that is very consistent from pack to pack, each with similar weaknesses and strengths.

 

 

Lightroom Preset Pack #3 – Tribe Archipelago

Compared to VSCO & Mastin, Tribe Archipelago Presets are the new kids on the block. But that hasn’t stopped them from gaining a MASSIVE following over the past couple years. And of course, we HAD to try them! One of the key offerings of Tribe Archipelago Presets is access to their online facebook community, sharing images and getting feedback + tips from other Tribe Archipelago Preset Users. With a similar setup to Mastin Labs, Tribe Presets include a limited number of options to keep you from pulling your hair out trying to decide which preset to use. But their presets take a different approach from Mastin visually. Where Mastin Labs Presets aim to be subtle and gently emulate film, Tribe Archipelago presets are all about creating mood, vibrancy and style. Clipped highlights and blacks create a more vintage feel, and the colors are on the more moody / desaturated side. Hipsters everywhere seem to be drawn to Tribe Archipelago Presets. Today we’ll be looking at their most popular preset pack, LXC (Loren X Chris). Having tried multiple Tribe Archipelago Preset Packs, just like VSCO and Mastin, they have their own consistent strengths and weaknesses across all their packs.

Lightroom Preset Pack #4 – Signature Edits

Launched in April of 2018, Lightroom Presets by Signature Edits have only JUST been released to the world. The inspiration behind them was simple – In our quest to find the perfect preset pack, we found everything we tried had its own strengths and weaknesses, but none of them seemed to have a secret sauce that just “works on everything”. And so after months of painstaking work, trial and error, we crafted Genesis. Drawing from what we thought were the strengths of VSCO, Mastin & Tribe Archipelago for inspiration, we put together a simple, easy, all inclusive preset pack designed to look great on EVERYTHING. As photographers frequently editing several thousand images per week, having presets that just WORK was a non-negotiable – Using other preset packs we found ourselves having to make tweaks every time the lighting changed in our photos. So we created a preset pack that just works. 4 Distinct Color Looks + 1 B&W, with variations of intensity for each preset. We couple this with an adjustment + export system hand crafted to cover every part of the editing process – From Enhancing, Retouching & Special Effects to ideal quick export presets for web, print & social media. Lets see how they stack up against the competition!

TAKE THE BLIND PRESET COMPARISON TEST

VSCO vs Mastin vs Tribe Archipelago vs Signature Edits

Below are 13 images, first the unedited photo, then edited with VSCO, Mastin, Tribe Archipelago & Signature Edits in random order. This random order is kept the same for every photo to see if you can figure out which is which, and which you prefer.

WB was left the same for each photo. Only exposures were adjusted very slightly where necessary as some of the presets produced darker results than others. Other than that all edits are the preset without tweaks.

Because testing EVERY preset in each pack against eachother would take an unimaginable amount of time, we selected the preset from each pack we thought gave the most consistent results.

See if you can guess which order the presets are in!

Navigate by clicking the dots on the bottom of the images.

If you’re on ipad or mobile, just swipe! Although we recommend viewing on a larger screen to more clearly see the differences.

LIGHTROOM PRESET COMPARISON RESULTS

READY FOR THE ANSWERS?

Here Is The Slide Order:

1 – Unedited

2 – VSCO

3 – Mastin Labs

4 – Signature Edits

5 – Tribe Archipelago

Our Scores

Honestly, the results of our Lightroom Preset Shootout were both insightful and a little surprising!

Here is our score for each of the 4 Edit Options:

Lightroom Preset Pack #1 – VSCO

Editing speed – 3 –

Of all the preset packs we tested, VSCOs were the hardest to figure out. The sheer number of presets to choose from, and their complicated naming scheme left us confused and frustrated trying to achieve the look we wanted. In the end, of the 90+ presets included, we only found 2-3 we would ever actually use, and even these often required tweaking from image to image.

Look + Style – 9 –

While we personally like the looks of the other preset packs better, the sheer number of presets in VSCO’s packs allow you to achieve almost any look or style. So 9 for flexibility and broad range of options. That said, from a brand perspective consistency is key – So we personally like the other packs better for the simple reason that less options = more consistent results.

Skin tones + Greens – 6 – 

VSCO surprised us here. While we didn’t think the skin tones or greens were anything magical, they were also very natural across the board. A little more saturated than we’d like, but very transparent as a whole.

Value + Support – 3

Of the 4 options tested, VSCO felt like most bare-bones offering. You get your presets and the install process is straightforward, but there isn’t much in the way of support documentation, no private facebook group, and no training. That said, there are quite a few youtube tutorials by vsco users out there if you’re up to do a little searching.

TOTAL SCORE – 21 – 

Lightroom Preset Pack #2 – Mastin Labs

Editing Speed – 4 – 

From what we’d read on other reviews and their site, Mastin Labs is all about subtle film emulation and increased workflow. While we hugely appreciated the stripped back preset menu compared to VSCO, we felt like the images didn’t consistently sing without having to tweak settings. So for our desired workflow, it was just okay. In fact, once you know WHICH presets you’re using with VSCO, we thought VSCO did a more consistent job overall.

Look + Style – 5 – 

To be totally honest, after seeing all the example images on their site, we were surprised when our photos didn’t wow us the way they expected. You can’t get the heavily stylized looks you’d get with VSCO’s more extreme presets, but beyond that we just didn’t feel Mastin Labs Lightroom Presets had much vibe to them. If you’re a photographer who wants to keep things very subtle and close to the way things looked in-camera, these might be a better fit. If you want presets that add some character to your photos, we’d say we weren’t super into it.

Skin Tones + Greens – 5 – 

Great skin tones and greens make photos magic. Bad skin tones and greens makes everything else look bad. Maybe our expectations were too high, but considering Mastin Lab’s desire to emulate film (Which have vastly superior greens and skin tones to modern digital photography) we weren’t in love. We found that the Mastin Presets added some strange magenta to the sky on several occasions, and oftentimes the greens were very teale and edited looking – Not really natural at all. If you like more teales in your greens then Mastin might be your thing.

Value + Support – 6

Mastin Labs surprised us by sending out videos with tips for best results and editing tricks – This was a great touch. The score is only a 6 because at $100, Mastin Labs have the most expensive Lightroom Presets we could find!

TOTAL SCORE – 20 – 

Lightroom Preset Pack #3 – Tribe Archipelago

Editing Speed – 6 – 

Tribe Archipelago Presets are simple to understand and use – Easier than Mastin labs or VSCO. At first you actually feel a little disappointed there isn’t more to work with – But then when you start using them you quickly realize they’ve covered most of the bases. While the presets are fast, depending on lighting they often require adjustments as they’re either too strong or not strong enough. We wish there were an option to select different intensities of each preset, without having to manually adjust.

Look + Style – 8 – 

Compared to Mastin Labs or VSCO, the Tribe Archipelago Presets ooze style and vibes from their pores. Whether this is a good thing or not is a matter of personal taste, as of all the preset packs Tribe Archipelago has the most intense effects. Overall we appreciate the look and style – They feel more organic and raw and less polished and digital, although often we felt they were too strong – Again, we wish there were different intensity options!

Skin Tones + Greens – 7 – 

Skin tones are very creamy / high contrast, while greens are desaturated and warm. As we said in Look & Style – Sometimes the effects are too strong without tweaking. Skintones are pushed TOO far and look washed out or ghost white. But if your taste is a heavily stylized image then you’ll have lots of friends at Tribe Archipelago using LXC for that very reason!

Training + Support – 5

Tribe Archipelago doesn’t send out video content like Mastin Labs, they do however have a dedicated user facebook group where you can share your images and receive feedback + ask questions. Big step in the right direction and a great place to get inspired!

TOTAL SCORE – 26

Lightroom Preset Pack #4 – Signature Edits

And finally, the new preset pack from yours truly. Definitely go through all the images and do the preset comparisons for yourself, however here is how we thought the Signature Edits presets fared in comparison to VSCO, Mastin & Tribe Archipelago:

Editing Speed – 9 –

The entire Signature Edits preset pack was optimized around 1 click edits and maximized workflow, and so we’re happy that they delivered in our testing. 95% of our images looked great after a single click. Occasionally a slight contrast adjustment might be nice, however the images already looked great without this. Where Signature Edits shines the most is in the complete editing export system included with the presets. Presets for adjustment brushes, radial filters, and export settings save a TON of time and everything works together seamlessly.

Look + Style – 9

Anything TOO stylized like the Tribe Archipelago presets almost always requires tweaking from image to image. But the presets like those of VSCO and Mastin labs sometimes left us missing a little of the character and organic feeling presets like LXC by Tribe Archipelago give you. We designed Genesis by Signature Edits to live in the middle ground – Giving you a warm, organic feel while not pushing tones and curves too far, so that edits are consistent across multiple lighting setups and camera types. As an added measure, each preset in the pack includes 3 intensities, so that if an effect is ever too extreme or two subtle, you can dial it back with a simple click.

Skin Tones + Greens – 9 – 

VSCO & Mastin tended to have a little too much magenta in their skin tones, unlike those of real film cameras. While on the other end of the spectrum, the Lightroom Presets from Tribe Archipelago had better color, but often left skin looking washed out and muddy. The Signature Edit skin tones again struck a balance between these two, and consistently looked natural and void of the magenta plague. Greens was a similar story – We didn’t like the greens of Mastin Labs at all, VSCOs felt a little too saturated for our taste. The colors of photos edited with Tribe Archipelago and Signature Edits were both noticeably warmer and felt more organic / vibey.

Value + Support – 10

Where Mastin Labs gives you a couple of videos showing best practices, Signature Edits gives you over an hour of bonus training material. Like Tribe Archipelago, Signature Edits users also have access to their own user facebook group for feedback and image sharing. If you choose to purchase a membership rather than the preset pack by itself, your membership gives you access to ALL of their presets, tutorials & training. As the first Preset Platform to offer memberships and unlimited access to ALL our content, we think thats pretty cool.

TOTAL SCORE – 37 –

AND THE WINNER IS….

You decide! Go through the features of each and choose the presets that fit you best. What works for us might not necessarily work for you.

For our style and editing workflow, the Signature Edits Genesis Pack is hands down the best tool for the job. Its the ultimate Lightroom Preset System for fast workflow, simplicity and a balance of giving your photos vibe and character without looking over edited. Add in the training and access to ALL our upcoming presets and workshops, and we think its a no brainer. If you’d like to click this link to check our Lightroom presets and memberships out in more detail.

For you, the answer might be different, and that’s totally fine. We hope that this comparison between all the most popular Lightroom presets available out there was helpful!

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