A week or so ago I was contacted by Sleeklens – a company based in Denmark specialising in custom Lightroom presets and Photoshop actions – asking me to review their products. The offer was a free set in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.
Now, I already have a large number of actions I use regularly, but presets in Lightroom is something I seldom use (apart from my own custom ones for mostly basic stuff) so I plumped for a Lightroom set called ‘Through the Woods Workflow’ to see what they could offer and whether my workflow would benefit from using them. So what can the set from Sleeklens do and was I impressed ?
To help paint the scene I’ve used Lightroom for about the last 8 years or so through its many releases and while it’s not perfect, and sometimes downright annoying, I’ve persevered with it and use it as my RAW file converter and catalogue application. I’ve never been happy using it as a sole editing platform, although I know many people who do – it just doesn’t suit my way of working and without Photoshop layers and masks I’d have to rethink my complete workflow for my more precious images, which is:
Lightroom for downloading and reviewing – although if I’ve shot many images I’ll sometimes preview them in Bridge, do a hard edit before importing them to Lightroom, where I’ll carry out basic optimisation, use the odd simple preset, correct lens distortion and CA’s, use gradient fills, crop and anything else I may need before going to Photoshop where I’ll do most of my major editing and sharpening using adjustments layers and luminosity masks before saving back to my Lightroom library.
The set from Sleeklens contains 50 Landscape presets and 30 Landscape adjustable brushes – is available for Mac and PC and compatible with Lightroom 4 to 6 and CC and are easy to install with clear instructions supplied.
The presets are grouped with the first 12 ‘All in One’ offering global adjustments where the effect will always affect the whole image and for some people they will offer a fun way of adding immediate changes to photographs to see if the result is desirable or not. Other’s may prefer tweaking or customising it to their own taste.
The remaining presets are grouped to offer ways of further refining your images and can be stacked – which is not something I’ve seen before in a preset package. The process is very well explained here.
Here’s an example of a RAW file with a few of the ‘All in One’ presets applied.
Here’s what happening to some of the settings for those that like to know – and there are some major changes being made.
‘Exdenting DR-Crispy and Sharp’
For my liking many of the presets are a little overdone and too often use clarity, vibrance, saturation and sharpening settings in particular I’d seldom – if at all – consider using at this stage in my workflow, but remember you can customise the presets to suit your own eye and many, with some tweaking, will offer good results coupled with the ability to stack effects for further refinement before using the brushes which can also be stacked and customised.
For the more experienced user applying the presets to a virtual copy and then opening this and the original image as layers in Photoshop to allow masking/opacity changes could perhaps be an interesting option. I’ll certainly experiment in the future.
Again the brushes come with clear install instructions and are dropped into a reasonably easily found folder. Once there some of the brush presets become more usable as the effects can be applied while controlled density, feathering, flow and masking corrections as required. Some of this might be immediately beyond the newer Lightroom user, but after a little practice should be easily understood.
It’s a bit of a shame all of the same 50 presets effects aren’t available at this stage – although there may be very good technical reasons to prevent this – with the 30 brushes included offering different and more simple results for each and really they are designed to be used in conjunction with the presets and not as an alternative – which is what I had hoped for. Being a typical bloke I jumped in to try these without reading the instructions fully first…..
Again, like the presets all brushes are customisable and stackable if used as directed.
It’s a good and well thought out product – quick and easy to understand, stable to use with good support and on-line video tutorials. The ability to stack the presets and then apply brush effects is excellent and will – I’m sure – appeal to recent and more experienced users of Lightroom.
Will I use it? I probably will for some parts of my work – I’ll certainly experiment with it further and perhaps write more at another stage. Thank you Sleeklens for contacting me.