I was recently asked by the marketing department of SleekLens.com to use and review a couple of their products. They offered to send me, free of charge, two Adobe Lightroom CC preset packages. So we are clear up front, I did not pay for what I will be reviewing today. However, there were no conditions placed on me. They said all they wanted was an honest blog post. That is what I will be doing.
This first blog post will cover their “Brick and Mortar” Adobe Lightroom preset workflow. There are 16 Lightroom preset workflows which gives you 1,095 different presets to choose from, in addition, there are an accompanying 357 brushes. That is quite a lot to offer! If you prefer Adobe Photoshop actions, they have those too. In fact, there are 550 actions offered in workflow bundles as well.
I am not a professional reviewer and, to be honest, get rather bored with all the technical stuff I read on-line. I will be telling you about my experience with the software. I use Lightroom because it is so easy. I’m not a big fan of the cataloging feature but there are many reason to like the Lightroom experience. One reason is the ability to use third party presets.
I specifically requested the “Brick and Mortar” workflow first because I am mostly shooting editorial, and editorial travel images these days. The images that follow will show the unprocessed image first, that has only the default Lightroom import corrections. The second image will be after one of the SleekLens presets was applied, showing the changes. There are images from my Nikon D3, D4, Fuji X-T1, and my Fuji X-E2.
I took a series of images of this covered bridge in Tennessee with the intent of creating an HDR image. I really have grown weary of the HDR “look” so I never got around to it. You can see from the unprocessed image, it was shot at high noon, or there abouts and has both strong light and shadow in the image. That’s why I had HDR in mind in the first place.
The next image is one click using SleekLens, “Dawn Breaker” preset. I think I also adjusted the image using LR Dehaze and added a little shadow recovery. It took all of about 15 seconds. I am very impressed. It gives a great feel to the image.
The images I chose to test this software with all have somewhat difficult issues. Specifically, most have strong overhead or backlight issues. For most amateur photographers this is a daily occurrence because it is not always easy to get out and photograph during the blue hour or the golden hour. Even many pros that shoot editorial work don’t have that luxury. The next image is a great example. Very strong back light that can be time consuming to overcome in post.
One click with SleekLens, using “Beautiful Daylight”, and a small adjustment to kill a highlight in the sky and I was done. Again, maybe 15 seconds to get a very nice image.
This next image is a real test. Again, I took a series of images thinking HDR was the only solution. This was taken around Noon with the sun directly overhead causing deep shadows and a bright facade.
One click later using SleekLens “Expanded Dynamic Range” got the job done. The results are rather dramatic. Could I have done this myself? Sure I could have, but with just one click I have a salvaged image without all the work. Of course you can always tweak things if you wish but I want to show just how powerful these presets are with one click.
So how are the presets with Jpegs? The next image was taken with my Fuji X-E2. It is a Jpeg straight out of the camera, using the Fuji “Classic Chrome” film simulation.
The sky was really bright so I thought the SleekLens “Backlight? No Problem” preset would work. And it did! One click, and a minor adjustment to kill a highlight in the clouds, and I was done! Well, almost. I noticed at 100% that there was some artifacting going on so I took a look at the Details sliders. SleekLens seems to ramp up the sharpening a bit much for Jpegs. I had to dial it back to get rid of the artifacts. So this image took me about 30 seconds to complete, but the results are quite good.
This last image I took just after dawn for an editorial assignment in Tampa. I took many images, starting about 30 minutes before dawn to get just what the client wanted.
SleekLens allows for stacking the presets. I thought this image would be a good test for stacking a few. I ended up using only three (3) presets, stacked, to get a nice image. I also cropped it for a more cinematic look and straightened some of the buildings. I started with “Good Start for Cityscapes”, then wanted a little more vibrance so I added “Make it Pop”. To finish the image I cropped it then used “Vignette” to get the final look. Quick, and easy at the same time.
I like SleekLens workflow presets. I really didn’t talk about the brushes but I did test them out on some other images and found them quick and easy to use. It adds many options for selective corrections.
Depending on the choice of preset, you will find changes made in nearly all the Lightroom tools, including Levels and Curves, HSL, Split Toning, etc. I did notice a little color cast as I tested a few of the presets; nothing severe or that couldn’t be corrected very easily. I also mentioned that Sharpening seems to be a little on the heavy side for Jpegs. Sharpening is very subjective but I think you should be aware of it if working on Jpegs instead of RAW.
Presets are great. I love how you can take a third party preset, tweak it, and make your own, if desired. I use a VSCO preset a lot because I like the style it gives me. SleekLens gives you many more options, in my opinion, and they are stackable. The combinations are almost endless.
I would recommend this software to anyone that enjoys working with presets. I would also recommend this software to those of you that want a simple workflow to optimize your images and your time.