The Objective: Recently the folks at Sleeklens contacted me with a request to do a review of one of their products. The Sleeklens founders were apparently dissatisfied with the products that offered what they called quick-fix or “all-in-one” approaches to using Lightroom and Photoshop products. As a goal they set out to create real and useful tools that photographers could use to facilitate and quicken their workflow. Among their repertoire of products are a number of presets and brushes for a range of photographic styles to be used within Lightroom and Photoshop applications. Being principally a landscape photographer, Sleeklens asked that I give a review of their “Through the Woods” Lightroom presets, which is part of their Landscape Essentials Workflow bundle.
The Task: As we all know, many Lightroom and Photoshop plugins contain presets. To be perfectly honest I have never been a big fan of presets; however, I was willing to explore this “Through the Woods” workflow to see if in fact was really worth the bother.
So if I am to be convinced at all I thought I should start off with something really challenging. After scanning through some earlier images from Bandon, Oregon, I chose as my first challenge a well underexposed image at the mouth of the Coquille River. I had framed the Coquille River lighthouse between some old pilings and
rocks along the river’s bank as foreground elements. This particular images was well underexposed. Until now this image remained in my outtake folder, likely to never be process and maybe even deleted. I show here both the original raw file and the finished image, after using the Sleeklens workflow.
Not bad considering what I had to work with. I used several of the presets, which are stackable, and then fine tuned using their landscape brushes
Next I picked one rather easy, just to see how fast I could get it de. Again, this was of the Coquille River lighthouse. This first shot you can see was a little flat and just not much of great light. It certainly
needed a little punch. After a quick application of a preset, followed by some slight application of a clarity brush, I had a much more pleasing image in literally a few clicks.
My next effort was using a recent unprocessed image of the Kansas City skyline and using the Through the Woods workflow start to finish. This image was a long exposure of about 60 seconds using a Lee Big Stopper. While using the Big Stopper allowed for the longer exposure by blocking light, it does not block UV light, resulting often in a cooler cast. This is on issue to tackle in post processing, with I was easily able to accomplish using the Sleeklens workflow. I will look to fill shadows as well as part of my post
As you can see in the finished version of the Kansas City Skyline, the image has shadows filled, good tonal clarity, and a corrected color balance to complement the finished image.
For a final example I took another under exposed shot of some Pacific coast sea stacks at Bandon, Oregon. As one might expect this could be a good example of an image to use the delete key as your first post processing action. But let’s see if anything can be done with this seemingly hopeless capture.
While the sky looks like it may have some potential, the foreground appears well underexposed. Going to work on this I used several of the Through the Woods presets and finished using selected brushes to ad some vibrance to the sky and some targeted tonality adjustments on the seas stacks and to add some tonal clarity.
Conclusion: The Sleeklens folks developed these workflows to help in easily adding color, light and detail to your images using some categorized, preset recipes, all while increasing the speed and efficiency of your workflow. The “Through the Woods” LIghtroom workflow offers 50 landscape presets and 30 brushes, all categorized in a manner making it easy to quickly pick ones to accomplish your intended task. These presets work on both RAW and JPEG images; however, I would highly recommend sticking with RAW. You will be somewhat limited in how far you can go with JPEGs because they are already compressed files and there is not as much digital information to manipulate.
One of the really nice things is the presets are stackable. One does not totally cancel out a previously applied preset. Moreover, you are not stuck with just the effect of a given preset or brush. You can still adjust your Lightroom sliders to fine-tune the adjustment. Even after using the presets and brushes, you can still go into Lightroom Basic Panel and make further adjustments. You have complete control.
I said initially, that I am not a big fan of presets. However, what Sleeklens has created in their workflow products is demonstrably value added. I have included their Landscape Bundle as valuable addition to my post processing toolbox. I highly recommend you give them a try.