Editing photos is such a personal thing. My workflow has been shaped by the editing tools and environments I’ve had experience with. I know about exposure, dodging and burning from bumbling around many years ago in my home-made darkroom. Photoshop taught me… everything, but photography and graphic design were all mixed in together. Lightroom—the giant digital darkroom—has taught me the lexicon of photography and what effects can be achieved by altering things like highlights and shadows. Moving predominantly to Lightroom was a huge relief from the amazing, but arduous Photoshop. However part of me worried that my editing options were being reduced and, maybe, homogenised. But the sacrifice was worth it for the smoother workflow 😉
I’ve never been tempted to make my own presets in Lightroom as I love the process of editing manually. I also harbour a fear of churning out images that all look like they’ve been tarred with the same preset. Previous experience of 3rd party presets have shown me that applying global changes (e.g., +70 on the clarity slider) to images with different exposures, ISO and other variables, leads to very different results—not all of them desirable. I’m not dead against presets, the ‘clarity’ button, for example, is technically a preset, and a godsend!
This is a long preamble! But, when Sleeklens asked me to review their ‘Strike a Pose’ possie of presets and adjustment brushes my first impression was to not bother. But I wanted to challenge my sense that Lightroom has taken cookie-cutter editing possibilities to a necessary and safe place, but for me, it should go no further. The result may be that I’ll stop learning about hue and saturation, and instead start applying filters that are easy to use but, with names like ‘Catch Me If You Can’, remove me from the underlying photographic variables that are being altered.
Sleeklens offered me a portrait-specific bundle of presets. This comprises:
- a set of ‘All in One’ presets that change the overall look of your image.
- a range of ‘stackable’ presets that can be used together to build up an overall look.
- a set of adjustment brush presets so you can make selective adjustments to parts of the image.
The ‘All in One’s’
The ‘All in One’s (or ‘onesies’ as my mind keeps calling them) create a new look at the click of a button. Below is an example.
Out of the camera
my manual edit
At the top is my image of Clare straight out of camera. Then I’ve applied the ‘Crisp Dawn’ and ‘Duo’—the two onesies that appeal most to me. Finally a version with my own edits manually applied. While the Onesies aren’t bad at all, they are not the final effect I’d choose to create. The ‘Crisp Dawn’ is a bit too yellow, the Duo is nice, but a tad overblown for me. But, the idea is that the onesies give you a first base of editing, then you can tweak it manually from there.
The question is, is my editing improved with Sleeklens? If I was in the early stages of my photography editing journey these presets would offer me a range of visual possibilities to emulate. They could inform me that looks like ‘Beach Glow’ and ‘Crisp Dawn’ were possible. I’d probably want to look at all the sliders to see what they had done to achieve each look.
But for where I am now I don’t think I’ll be reaching for the ‘All in One’ offerings to often. But then again, I did reach for them yesterday as I quickly needed to improve a snapshot of my daughter with her violin teacher. I chose ‘Duo’ as it quickly made a passable black and white rendition. But that was a snapshot that desperately needed fast improving, not a professionally crafted photo.
If I were a graphic designer offering different looks to clients, I might be more tempted to use the ‘All in One’s to deliver a set of similar-looking images. But it’s not what I do as a photographer.
The Stackables are well organised into a nice workflow structure: Base, Exposure, Color Correct, Tone/Tint, Polish, Vignette.
I can start with my base image, add Stackables as needed, then alter them using the right-hand editing panel as I go along.
Maybe it’s just my experience with the sliders in Lightroom–which are easy and show changes on a continuum as you move the slider–but clicking a Sleeklens preset, then having to go to the sliders on the right-hand panel to micro adjust, seems like an awful long-way around. I find myself just wanting to go straight for the sliders so I can see the effect on a sliding scale in one quick movement.
Adjustment brush presets
Ok, here’s where Sleeklens starts to hum for me. The list of brushes not only shows me what a re-toucher may wish to do when editing a portrait shot, but they are all listed descriptively so I know instantly what they will do. E.g., I can ‘add shine to hair’, ‘enhance green eyes’, ‘whiten teeth’, etcetera. This is nice as reaching for a standard eyelash enhancing brush is a true time saver for me! For my tastes the brushes are just a tad too strong. It isn’t a huge problem as all the brushes are adjustable. But I’d probably get to the point where having to adjust all the brushes manually gets a bit irksome so I’d make my own, if I were so inclined.
If you are new to photo editing in Lightroom and want a set of tools AND an overview of portrait editing options, the Sleeklens ‘Stike a Pose’ set of presets will certainly give you that. Although the Onesies are not my cup of tea the adjustment brushes especially will show you the basic retouching options and give you quick go-to brush settings.