[Full Disclosure: Sleeklens.com provided me with a review copy of their software. I have no personal affiliation, association, endorsement with or financial interest in the company or in anyone employed there. Also please see my summary at the end of this review]
“Workflow” is a term often used when discussing the processing of digital images. In digital photography the full workflow is defined as the entire end-to-end process. From the camera settings necessary to capture the image all the way through to backup strategies and the final published image, whether it be to print or to some form of digital medium. The steps within the full workflow process are many and one may adopt all or only some of them, depending on one's requirements.
Any single element can, within itself, be broken down into its own workflow and the most common solutions available to photographers are the ones that help speed up the digital post processing of images.
Enter Sleeklens.com. Sleeklens.com were founded in Denmark in 2005 and has grown to offer photographers of all abilities an extensive suite of products and services, many of which are deemed workflow solutions specifically developed for users of Adobe's Lightroom and Photoshop products, in both standalone and CC versions.
This is a review of Sleeklens' Through The Woods landscape workflow for Lightroom.
The package includes 51 presets and 30 brushes specifically tailored for the editing of landscape images. These work with both RAW and JPEG files and installation files are available for both Mac and PC users. It is worth noting that like myself, Sleeklens recommend RAW files over JPEG.
Download & Installation
The downloadable package is available as a compressed file and as well as the presets and brushes, also includes installation guides, a guide on how to stack presets and a 10 page PDF guide or “Recipe List” that demonstrates how certain images were processed and which tools and presets were used. This allows the user to replicate a specific style they may see and like in the guide.
Installation is simple as per the written guide. Sleeklens also offers a link to their video tutorial should you prefer a visual demonstration of how to install the presets and brushes. Both options are clear, concise and straightforward.
Usability – Global Presets vs Local Adjustments Brushes
Once installed, the presets appear in Lightroom's “Develop” Module in the left-hand column under the Presets panel. Once you click on the drop-down arrow, all your available presets will be listed. These include Lightroom's standard fare as well as any other user-installed presets. If you have correctly followed the installation guide's suggested naming convention then Sleeklens' suite of presets for this package will appear grouped under the “Sleeklens – Through The Woods” header.
The first 12 presets in this package are titled ”0 – All In One” followed by some interestingly named preset title. These are complete stylized looks and can utilize all or some of the right-hand side panels in Lightroom's Develop module. These include Tone Curve, HSL / Colour Grading, Split Toning, Detail and Lens Effects. The first 12 presets listed are as their titles suggest, a complete all-in-one effect. I don't believe that they are really designed to be stacked on top of each other but I guess there is nothing to stop one doing so except that the outcome might be a little confusing. Personally, I found some of the effects a little strong. However, the beauty of Lightroom's non-destructive workflow is that you can control the individual elements to your liking by either increasing or dialing back a certain slider that has been changed by the preset until you find a look that you like. As always, you can hover your mouse over the preset title and watch Lightroom's preview pane in the top left-hand side give you an idea of the changes that will be effected by each preset.
The remaining presets are divided into 6 logical groups using titles that more accurately reflect the changes to be applied. These are intended to be stacked / layered and as such, for me personally, proved to be the more useful tools. The presets cover a full range of basic, exposure, colour grading, tone / tint, “polish” and vignette adjustments. Again, all changes implemented can be tailored to your personal preferences by making a simple slider adjustment. Sleeklens cover the essentials in the digital processing workflow. With just a little practice and a few simple clicks, these presets will easily help any photographer speed up their processing workflow and achieve a polished look.
For me, the two key things to keep in mind here is that I) the presets are someone else's interpretation of a particular style of processing and II) the presets work as global adjustments. For example, any changes to sliders to open up shadow areas or recover highlights is effectively applied to the entire image.
For some, this may be the way to go, but for those requiring finer levels of control then Sleeklens' suite of 30 brushes will be of even greater interest.
The suite is comprehensive, covering basic contrast and clarity, colour grading, water and cloud effects, haze and light. These can be applied to specific areas of the image with Lightroom's brush tool and the application of the effect can be controlled via the size, feather, flow, density and auto-mask brush options.
For me personally, these are the most useful tools albeit not necessarily ones that significantly speed up the workflow process as much as the presets do. As always, the different Sleeklens brush effects can also be fine tuned by the user to achieve the look they want. Best of all, Sleeklens' effects are not limited to just the brush tool. As with all of Lightroom's saved brush presets, they can also be applied locally to the image using the Graduated filter and the Radial filter making for some very powerful and time-saving workflow tools. Naturally, the brushes can be applied on their own or in conjunction with the Sleeklens presets. It really is up to the user to determine what works best for them.
Value and Customer Support
Finally, the Through The Woods presets package is quite competitively priced and reasonably good value for money. Sleeklens.com also offer Lightroom preset packages for an extensive variety of photography genres including wedding, newborn, portrait, food, real estate, fashion as well as black and white photography. Their website also provide the usual no-nonsense FAQ and help pages as well as online customer support and embedded YouTube tutorials.
I would like to make it clear that I would not give a favorable review in exchange for a product and this was agreed between Sleeklens.com and myself when they first approached me. The deal was to give an objective and honest review. Did I like their product? Absolutely. It is well set up and packaged and easily installed. Will I integrate it and continue to use it as part of my regular processing workflow? – Perhaps. Sleeklens are not doing anything particularly original here and nor do they claim to be. Lightroom presets are easy to setup and save, whether they are global adjustments that give you a particular style (or filter), or local preset adjustments for brushes, radial filters or graduated filters.
The issue I have with the plethora of preset packages available is that by choosing to adopt them you are choosing to adopt someone else's "creative look", rather than working on developing your own creativity and style. All major editing software that I have used allows you to easily save a look, style or a set of adjustments that you create as a preset. This will allow you to use it repeatedly and quickly to speed up your workflow but more importantly, it allows you as you develop, refine and define your own style. So why not just do this instead and be original?
If you would like to find out more regarding the reviewed presets package click on this link: https://sleeklens.com/product/landscape-lightroom-presets/
For other Sleeklens.com Lightroom packages click here: https://sleeklens.com/product-category/lightroom-presets/