Review Sleeklens’ Through the Woods Workflow for Adobe® Lightroom®

Review Sleeklens’ Through the Woods Workflow for Adobe® Lightroom®

Sponsored Post
I was recently asked by the PR responsible of Sleeklens to test and review their Landscape Presets and Brushes for Adobe® Lightroom®. As a compensation for this review, I am allowed to keep the Presets and Brushes.
In the following article, I will describe my experiences with the Presets and Brushes based on a few example photos, that I am going to edit with them. My normal editing process so far has not made much use of Presets. Now and then I might have tried one, but most of the time more to give me an idea on how to proceed rather than to edit with Presets only. It is not that I am strictly against using Presets, but to me editing my photos is a way to relax and re-live the journeys that I have undertaken to capture the image.
When I received the email from the PR Relations Manager of Sleeklens, I was intrigued enough to give them a fair test. Maybe they will change the way I am editing my photos after all?

Installation of the Sleeklens Presets and Brushes

I received the Preset and Brush files as a download link in an email together with some links. These links include the installation manual for the brushes and the installation manual for the presets, as well as a manual on how to stack the Presets. The installation manual offers a video, and written step by step guides on how to install the Presets on Mac or Windows. I will be following the written manual for Mac here. It turns out to be a smooth process, though I would like to clarify that when the zip file is extracted the Presets and Brushes are separated in different directories. Step 7 of the Preset guide assumes that one only wants to install a few of the Presets, so creating a new folder for this selection makes sense.
If however, you want to install all Presets there are two options:

  1. Create a new folder and copy all Preset files into that folder
  2. Copy the original folder.

Copying the folder into a newly created directory does not work. Lightroom® is only capable of reading files one directory below the “Development Presets” folder. I chose to create a new folder, which I am naming SleeklensThroughTheWoods, this way it will be easy for me to find those Presets in Lightroom® again. For Lightroom® to show the Presets in the Preset Panel, you have to restart the application.

The manual also contains a section about the most common sources of errors during installation and how to fix these. It includes a hint to ensure to make backups of these new Presets and Brushes on another hard drive. Should your hard drive with the installed Presets ever fail you, you will be happy if you have followed this tip. If you haven’t and you still want to use these Presets, you will have to purchase them again.

Using the Presets

All Presets are on the left menu of the Development Module in the Presets Panel. There are 51 different Presets organized into seven different groups:

  • 0 – All in One
  • 1 – Base
  • 2 – Exposure
  • 3 – Color Correct
  • 4 – Tone/Tint
  • 5 – Polish
  • 6 – Vignette

The grouping is related to the steps that you would take in post-processing. Usually, you would not add a vignette and then start the basic processing.

These Presets are stackable; this means that you can use a Preset from one group and further improve it by using a Preset from another group. The stackability is however slightly restricted, as the Presets from group 0 – All in One cannot be used on top of the other Presets, without completely overwriting them, because these 0 – All in One Presets make changes across all Development Panels. So, if you want to use more than one Preset at a time from different groups, my best advice is to stick to the order of the grouping, start with a group 0 for example and finish that off with a group 5 and group 6.

All group 0 – All in One and some of group 1 – Base Presets change the camera calibration setting in Adobe® Lightroom® to Adobe® Standard.
Digital cameras process the data using a Bayer-filter to create the color negative (RAW) file. But, as with computer screens, there is no industry standard for camera calibration that all cameras obey. So a camera from vendor X might create a lighter RAW file or lighter red tones than a camera from supplier Y, for the same exposure settings. Adobe® took this into consideration and created – for most cameras on the market – calibrations that can be chosen in the Camera Calibration panel. These, camera specific, calibration settings will change the colors, brightness, and clarity of your original RAW file to the specification of your camera model. For my camera, I can see a significant improvement if I use a calibration profile unique to my camera brand and type. So it remains to see if the change back to the Adobe® Standard profile made by those Presets will improve my photos or not.

The 3 Color – Deep Blue Sky Preset is the only one to add a graduated filter, to achieve the desired effect. So if you want to make adjustments to this Presets values, you will have to edit the settings within the graduation tool.

Using the Brushes

There are 30 stackable Brushes in the Through the Woods Collection. They come in five different groups:

  • Basics
  • Color
  • Effects
  • Haze
  • Light

Of course in parts, the Brushes do the same as the Presets, just to a smaller area. Except3 Color – Deep Blue Sky, all Presets work on the entire photo. The Sleeklens Brushes can be applied through either the Graduated Filter tool or the Brush tool and will then only change selected areas, in the image.

Sleeklens put into action

To test the Presets and Brushes I have chosen a selection of my existing photos and will also add some new photos that I haven’t previously edited in any way. I will not compare how much time I spend finding the “best” combination of Presets with what I spend in my original post-processing. This comparison would be highly unfair as I am less experienced with using Presets.
For all photos where I have previously done any post-processing work I am creating virtual copies and am removing all previous settings from one of the copies. With this approach, we should be able to evaluate the capability of the Presets and Brushes on an unprocessed RAW file.

Huka Falls

This image is one of the first photos that I ever worked on in Lightroom® when I first started using it in 2013.

So starting out with the Sleeklens Presets I used:
0-All In One- Calm Sunset, 5-Polish – Add Clarity, and 5-Polish – Sharpen. I then adapted the settings for the last Preset and used Detail-Masking, which I changed from +14 to +46.
 To give the clouds more definition, I used the Through the Woods: Effects–Cloudy Sky Definition Brush. I adapted the settings of this Brush, taking the Clarity down from 100 to 0, changing Contrast from +53 to 0, Highlights from -51 to -14, Shadows from -51 to 0, Saturation from 33 to 0, and applied it to the clouds only. Applying it to the patches of the blue sky turned that bit of sky into a weird color that did not match with what I wanted.
 For the river, I used the Through the Woods Effects–Water Definition Brush without changes. And for the trees on the left and right side of the river I used the Through the Woods: Color–Green Tint Preset.

You can see my original, Preset-free edit if you move the slider to the right, and the edit with the Sleeklens Presets and Brushes if you move the slider to the left.

Edit without using Presets
Edit with Presets and Brushes

So how did this Preset do compared to what I have done before? I do like the results that I was able to achieve with some tweaking. It seems however as if the cloud has a slight tint of red. I do like my version without the Presets a little better though.

Tongariro National Park

Again one of my early post-processings in Lightroom® that I am now re-doing with the Presets.
I am not going to use one of the 0-Base Presets on this one, as they all seemed to tweak with the colors in the grass just a bit too much. So the first Preset I am using is the 1-Base–Punchy Preset. To this, I am adding a 2-Exposure Darken Shadows Preset, which tweaks the darks and shadows in the Tone Curve. And last but not least I am adding a 5-Polish–Punch it up and a 5-Polish–Sharpen Preset. The result at this point is promising, but the sky is just a tad too blue; therefore I am adding a 3-Color Correct–Reduce Blue Brush.

You can see my original, Preset-free edit if you move the slider to the right, and the edit with the Sleeklens Presets and Brushes if you move the slider to the left.

Edit without Presets
Edit with Presets

It seems that my initial post-processing leaves the photo with a slightly sad feeling as if it was still raining and miserable. The copy that I processed with the Presets conveys more of an uplifting spirit, and it seems to enhance the sunlight coming through those clouds more.

Myrvannet

The base is a slightly overexposed photo which lacks definition in the sky. So I am using the 1-Base–Punchy Preset together with a 2-Exposure–Darken Preset. To finish the base work off, I am adding the 5-Polish Presets 5-Polish – Add Clarity, 5-Polish – Add Contrast and 5-Polish – Sharpen. To give the sky some definition–in the original, it is more a white mass than a blue sky with clouds–I am using the ThroughTheLens | Effects Cloudy Sky Definition Brush. I don’t like how the blue of the sky is changed by it into a cyan tone, so I am editing the Brush’s settings and am removing the changes it makes to the Color Temperature and Saturation.

You can see my original, Preset-free edit if you move the slider to the right, and the edit with the Sleeklens Presets and Brushes if you move the slider to the left.

Edit without Presets
Edit with Presets

Again I do like the results that I can achieve with the Presets and Brushes a lot, but I do believe that my manual processing looks a little more natural.

Ahuser Ahe

This image is one of the new photos that I took recently and which I haven’t previously processed. For the post-processing of this file, I am choosing the 1 – Base – Punchy Preset in combination with the 4 – Tone/Tint – Warm it up and the 5 – Polish – Add Clarity Presets. Additionally, I am adding a graduated filter that takes the highlights, whites, and shadows slightly down in the sky, to give the clouds a little more definition.
I tried doing this both with the 3- Color – Deep Blue Skies Preset as well as the ThroughTheLens | Effects – Cloudy Sky Definition Brush but neither of them seems satisfying to me.

You can see my original, Preset-only edit if you move the slider to the right, and the edit with some adaptions when you move the slider to the left.

Presets only
Green changed

I do believe that the greens in the field are a little unnatural looking with the use of these Presets. This discoloration is partly caused by the Camera Calibration being set to Adobe® Standard. I have fixed this afterward to using one of the calibration settings for my camera and by also toning down the Green Primary Hue value to -54 in the Camera Calibration Panel.

Ahuser Ahe – HDR

Since SleekLens includes High Definition Range Preset in group 1-Base, I wanted to give that a test on a bracketed exposure. This photo is a combination of five exposures, each one stop apart from -2EV to +2EV. Lightroom®’s Photo Merge HDR function combined the exposures into one image. For the resulting photo, I choose to use the Sleeklens 1-Base – High Dynamic Range Preset which I twisted a little bit by changing the Camera Calibration profile from Adobe® Standard to one of my camera’s profiles.

Edited with the Sleeklens Preset

This post-processing is so far the best result that I have achieved with Lightroom®’s Photo Merge function. Usually, I would have used an HDR processing software to obtain similar results. Of course using an HDR software allows for more, than just one way of tweaking a bracketed exposure, but I also could have combined more than one Preset with the Base 1 Preset that I used to achieve different looks.

Verdict

I am still surprised at the quality that I could reach in post-processing with these Presets. The differences in some of the Presets, like 0-All in One – The Real Teal and 0-All in One – The Royal Treatment are subtle and I have had difficulties seeing any difference at all in the preview. But taking a closer look, it turns out to be in the blue tones. 0-All in One – The Real Teal uses a cooler, cyan tone for the sky, while 0-All in One – The Royal Treatment goes for a warmer, more purple-like sky.
The next slider shows the difference. Both photos are processed with the presets only, except that I turned Lens Corrections back on for both after adding the Presets.
If you move the slider to the left, you see the version processed with 0-All in One – The Real Teal and moving the slider to the right reveals the image processed with 0-All in One – The Royal Treatment.

I cannot say that either of these two would convince me. But there is, of course, a chance that I just chose photos that are not suited for this kind of Preset.

I found five Presets in total that created some kind of matte look within the first two Preset-groups. Matte is just not a style that I like, but then others might like it.
The biggest downsides are the changes made to the green tones of the grass, and that all Presets of the first two groups changes the Camera Profile settings to Adobe® Standard. The later is easily reversed, but you might find that you now need to make additional changes in other Panels to achieve a similar effect.

Would I be paying 39$ for all these Presets and Brushes?

Since I received these Presets in exchange for writing the review, I have seen different vendor’s prices for Presets like this and most of the time the price for this amount of Brushes and Presets seems to be matching. As I have mentioned at the beginning of this article: I like doing my own post-processing from scratch. These Presets haven’t changed that enough for me to spend that kind of money on future Presets, but I might be using them from time to time when I get stuck in my own processing. If I had to grade those Presets, I would currently give them a 3 out of 5 stars. This rating is, however, one that might change with more experience.

Other services offered by Sleeklens

Sleeklens also offers Presets for other categories than landscapes, like weddings or nightscapes. These can be found here. And if you don’t like doing any editing yourself–or for whatever reason do not have the chance to do it yourself–a professional editing service from Sleeklens is also available.
You can follow them on PInterest to get an updated overview of all their available Presets and Brushes for Adobe® Lightroom®.

Sponsored Post: As a compensation for this post I am allowed to keep the Sleeklens Through the Woods Presets and Brushes that I have tested and described here.

All trademarks and copyrighted items mentioned are the property of their respective owners. All photos were taken by Lille Ulven photography.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons
%d bloggers like this: