A couple of weeks ago I was contacted by a Danish company called Sleeklens, who asked if I would be interested in reviewing some of their Lightroom or Photoshop presets for landscape photographers.
Sleeklens offer a photo editing service but it looks to me like they mainly focus on developing Lightroom and Photoshop workflows (presets and adjustment brushes) for different types of photography including architecture, landscape, weddings, portraits and food. They asked me to look at their ‘Through the Woods’ workflow – 51 presets and 30 adjustment brushes for landscape photography.
Presets are, essentially, canned collections of adjustments to exposure, contrast, clarity, colour, etc. They apply to the whole image and make it easy to apply the same set of adjustments to different images. Multiple presets can be ‘stacked’ i.e. applied to the same image. For example, you can apply a preset to change the colour temperature, followed by one to add clarity and then one to deepen the colour of the sky. Adjustment brushes allow local changes to be applied by ‘brushing’ these changes onto parts of the image.
I haven’t really used presets much with Lightroom. I don’t really do the kind of photography (e.g. wedding photography) where I batch edit images. Most of my images are outdoor images and I tend to edit them individually. I mostly use Lightroom apart from retouching and removing elements I don’t like, where I use Photoshop which is much better at that job. So, I really didn’t know what I was getting into here.
Sleeklens provides easy to understand instructions to install the presets and brushes and I had them up and running within a few minutes. The presets allow adjustments to the colour of the whole image, including colour corrections, the exposure, the tone, what they call the ‘Polish’ – sharpness, clarity, etc. and vignetting. Sometimes the adjustment is obvious i.e. ‘Color Correct – Reduce Blue’ but, in general, you have to experiment to see what each of them do. Of course, you can change the intensity of the effect by altering the sliders manually.
I tried the presets first on images in a blog post about a walk around Edinburgh. These were taken on a bright, sunny day and were not ‘difficult’ images. They simply needed a wee bit of post-processing to correct the rather flat RAW originals. The examples below are typical:
What I liked about the Sleeklens preset was the ability, when combined with Lightroom’s undo command, to very quickly experiment with different settings. The presets allow for all sorts of adjustments from film replication to HDR. In this case, two presets were all I needed – ‘Auto-adjust (color)’ and ‘Deep-blue skies’.
My next experiment was with a much more difficult image where I photographed a river in spate with a winter sun just touching parts of the river.
This image needed much more work. After playing around for a few minutes, I ended up using 5 ‘Through the Woods’ presets – ‘Morning Light’, ‘ Exposure Brighten’, ‘Deep-blue Skies’, ‘Add Clarity’ and ‘Add Contrast’. I then used the adjustment brushes to lighten the river and the rocks on the left side and to slightly darken the rocks on the right.
My final test was to experiment with the adjustment brushes that were supplied. I started with an image of a figure on a snowy hilltop and used the ‘Subtle Sunset Haze’ brush to paint a little warmth into the sky and the ‘Cloudy Sky Definition’ brush to darken the top part of the sky. The ‘Brighten Shadows’ brush was used to lighten the figure’s rucksack. These are all quite subtle changes but I was pleased with how they improved the image.
The key benefits for me from the Sleeklens presets were the ability to experiment with adjustments much more quickly than is possible with manual adjustments. I don’t like over-processed images so some of the presets were rather too harsh for me but, for me, I reckon that 3/4 of them will be useful.
The brushes were really good. I don’t have the patience to spend too much time making local adjustments but the brushes available prompted me to think about what might be possible and made it easy to experiment. It is possible to adjust the intensity of the brushes, which is important.
Overall, I was impressed by this package of presets and brushes and will definitely carry on using them. When compared to the price of photographic equipment, they are relatively inexpensive ($39) – they will save time but, more importantly for me, will let me experiment and try adjustments that I hadn’t thought of.