I was given the chance to try out the Sleeklens’s great collection of Adobe Lightroom brushes and presets. These are designed exclusively (kind of) for portrait photography. Although I do a lot of portraits and headshots I must say that I don’t normally use commercial filters or presets in my work as I tend to process each image individually for each client to a set of original guidelines it was interesting to try this new approach.Sleeklens offers a wide range of services including Lightroom and Photoshop Presets as well as Image Editing Services.
First let me say that this set is compatible with Lightroom 4.6 and over and consists of the following:
- 62 Portrait Brushes
- 69 Portrait Presets
- Easy to Follow Recipe List
- Instant Download
- Ultimate Portrait Workflow
- Works for Mac and PC users
- Works with RAW and JPG photos
The workflow comes accompanied by instructions in PDF format on how to install both the brushes and the presets. The installation process is very easy, basically if you know how to copy and paste you know what is needed to install this. If you use Windows you may have to unhide a hidden folder inside your users directory but this is also straightforward for most users.
Although I didn’t use it I’m told that Sleeklens has also a Private help and tutorial group on Facebook which can be handy users that are struggling to achieve the results they are looking for.
Sleeklens offers a series of video how-to’s on their website. I would suggest that you go through these as it will show you the products in action.
For this review, I used only images in RAW format and this is exactly what I would recommend you doing. I’ve used a Machintosh (although these will work just as well on a Windows computer) and the latest version of Lightroom CC.
Why Lightroom and not Photoshop?
I tend to do 90% of my processing work these days in Lightroom. Personally, I like natural looking images and the demand from my clients goes also in this direction. Actors and professionals require an accurate portraits and not necessarily an artistic rendition.
I’ve started by trying out the presets. I must admit this is something I wouldn’t normally use. I tend to see each image individually and process it in a certain style or mood depending on the job. I must also say that all the effects generated by the Sleeklens presets can be achieved within Adobe Lightroom if you know what you are doing. Having said that, if you’re not very familiar with the Lightroom environment, or you are looking to save time and have a consistent starting point, these can be very useful indeed.
The first image is a studio image that was slightly underexposed and needed some “punch”. I’ve only applied the filter, no more work was done on the image. It was a one button 10 second job. I can really see how these presets can help the recreational photographer who uses a DSLR for candid photos. I think these starting points will bring their work to new levels almost instantly and could be very well worth the purchase. For more experienced users, these will probably be less advantageous.
For the second image I’ve used one from a boxing photo shoot I’ve done with 2 great models. Olga DeVignat and Christopher Mathew both of whom are avid boxeurs I must add. The shoot took place in Greystones Beach in Co. Wicklow on a rather cool Summer evening. In this image I have used also only the Lightroom Preset but I’ve adjusted a little bit some of the basic sliders. The preset I chose for this image was the All-in-One Edgy Radiance as you can probably see from the Lightroom Interface.
I have found that this latest preset works great for this kind of images and I would actually go back on what I’ve said before and would say that I would see myself using this on certain images for sure. I think it would save me time and give me a head start. It wouldn’t finish the image for me but it would certainly give me a better starting point.
Some of the all-in-one effects are very nice. They can give you a great starting point. Don’t expect however that they will be a one button instant edit, the way I see them is they are a starting point. You will still need to adjust your portraits.
Out of curiosity, I’ve used one of these on some landscapes. Some of these presets are versatile enough to be used on other types of images as you can see by the images below.
I’ve purposely chosen a very dull image from a stormy day around Greystones in Co. Wicklow, Ireland on purpose to demonstrate that it can be versatile. I have to be honest though, out of all the presets I’ve tried this would have been the only one I would use on this particular image. The preset used here is called Deep Portrait, I guess I’ll rename it Dull Landscape.
Now for the more detailed edits this workflow also comes with brushes. 62 of them and these are actually quite useful and very well designed.
I can see myself using these more often than I would use the presets for sure most of all the lip shine and gloss is a very nice brush and I can see myself using it quite often as well as the hair brushes. The skin softening I feel is a little “fake”, as most skin softening achieved in Lightroom, it is still very good for the web on a lower resolution file, however, if you are retouching for a client, I would highly recommend using frequency separation in Adobe Photoshop instead.
For this studio portrait I’ve used a variety of brushes and no presets. This I’ve used skin softening on the face of the model, the incredibly beautiful Erica Smith. I’ve also used the lip enhancement brush, two of the dark hair brushes and the teeth enhancement brush. I’ve slightly adjusted the colour temperature of the image as well.
For the second image I chose another studio image. As I said before. Most of my work is subtle, but very important, adjustments. This image combines over 12 brushes from the collection. The results are very subtle, I wouldn’t say that this image is complete. From here I would most certainly take it into Photoshop and complete the tasks that Lightroom unfortunately (still?) can’t deliver. I’m not going to enumerate every brush used but I will say that lips, eyes, eyebrows, hair, chest, skin all have been retouched to a certain extent. Judge for yourself.
Overall the presets and brushes I received can be quite useful, particularly to those that aren’t very competent with Adobe Lightroom. For advanced users the cost perhaps isn’t justified although I am sure that you will end up using some of them as I am certain I will myself.
You could perhaps combine different presets and achieve a final image, however, if you choose this option you will lack the degree of control required to produce a high quality image and therefore I would always recommend using these as a great starting point or to gather ideas as to where you want to go with your final image but do take your time to fine tune the image after you use any of these.
Out of 5 stars I would give it 4 stars for a beginner/intermediate Lightroom user and 3 for an Advanced user.