I was recently asked by a member of the sleeklens.com team if I would like to test out their Lightroom presets for landscape photographers. Being someone who is always keen to explore new ways to speed up my workflow and still get great results, I was more than happy to give them a go and see how they stacked up to personal presets I have made.
Downloading and Installing
Upon purchase you will receive a .zip folder, which of course you will need to unzip. From there inside the folder you will see two subfolders, one containing presets for the Develop module, and one containing presets for the brushes. Inside that same folder you will also find four .pdf documents containing relevant information regarding the use of the product, including how to install into Lightroom.
The installation is very straight forward and will only take 3-4 minutes to complete!
My favourite part about these presets are the organisation. It starts with your all-in-one presets, which give you a very quick 'one-click' global adjustments through most panels, depending on the individual preset. For me, I didn't like most of them. I felt they 'overcooked' images, and didn't suit my personal taste and style of photography. There were a couple of exceptions to this with some images you will see a little further down the article.
This is when the next 6 categories came into play. Instead of one single global adjustment, sleeklens have also created stackable presets to mix and match more localised adjustments. Here are the following categories.
Base. This is a great place to start to begin getting the initial look of your image. The presets focus mainly on exposure adjustments, with various also beginning to take control of colour as well.
Exposure. Here you can take greater control of your exposure settings. If your favourite base preset has perhaps made your image too bright, or the highlights are over done, this is where you can take control over them.
Colour Correct. This section will give you extra control for your colours. For example if you have an image where your yellows are too strong, select the 'Reduce Yellows' and the preset will go into your HSL panel and manipulate the hue and saturation around the yellow zones and make the necessary adjustments to reduce them to a more pleasing look.
Tone/Tint. If the temperature of the image needs some adjusting, simply click one of these presets to get closer to what you need.
Polish. Add some extra feel to your image with these polishing presets.
Vignette. Here is where I think you can really make or break an image. Vignette is designed to push the viewers attention towards the centre of a photo. I personally would only stick to a subtle vignette on my images and adjust if necessary. In my style of photography I can't ever see me using the medium or strong vignette presets. Another note to make is be careful with how you vignette your landscapes. A strong compostion can often include 'leading lines' or a foreground element. The last thing you want is to crush those strong composition points with a heavy vignette and draw the eye away from them.
Remember that all these presets are non-destructive. I advise to use them as a starting point, and then go into the individual panels and make any necessary adjustments. This may seem like you are going to take just as much time as if you were to just make all the adjustments from scratch, but I can attest that it is still far quicker, and can really aid with experimenting for different looks and providing that foundation.
Local Adjustment Presets.
In addition to the develop presets, within the "Through the woods" package, you also get local adjustment presets. These can be used for the graduated filter, radial filter, and the brush. Listed above are all the presets, once again they are all nicely categorised. I would use these in various forms, from creating a stronger vignette from one corner or side of the image to push more attention inwards, to putting pops of clarity and exposure to important areas of the image. Once again they are all non-destructive and fully adjustable once they have been applied.
There is certainly no point in me just telling you all about the presets, it makes a lot more sense to actually show you some example images I have created using the presets. And since I had just returned from a trip photographing the south-eastern corner of Queensland, what better time to test the presets on some new work that I came home with!
So where does this new preset take me with my photography, and will they find their way into my portfolio? Well, let's look at some my likes and dislikes.
Likes: Organisation - Stackable presets - Experimentation
Dislikes: All in ones can 'overcook' an image very quickly.
Honestly I can say I have enjoyed using them in a way that allows me to explore different directions in which I can process my images. Before using any external presets, I would always stick to what I know, and what I was comfortable with. It has been extremely refreshing to experiment again, which in turn will help me visualise and experiment even more when out in the field.
Will these presets replace my old workflow? - No. There is a particular style of images I have worked hard to develop over the years, and it is a workflow that works for so many of my photos. However, I am going to work out a way to incorporate some these presets into my current workflow, to aid in getting to a final result faster, and experiment with images when necessary.
If you're someone that doesn't have a lot of time to edit your own photos, or you like to outsource all of your editing, Sleeklens.com also offer a photo editing service which you can find here.