The other day an email popped up in my inbox from a company called Sleeklens.com asking if I would be willing to review their product for them. As I hadn’t heard of them before, I was intrigued. After looking at their website I was more intrigued. After watching a couple of their videos on YouTube I said “sure!”
Sleeklens has a series of presets and brushes for Adobe Lightroom. They also have plugins for Photoshop as well, but I didn’t get a chance to demo the Photoshop plugins, so this review is only based on my experience with Sleeklens for Lightroom. The goal of Sleeklens seems to be to give photographers a tool that allows them to do all the post processing techniques they normally do, but in a fraction of the time by creating these presets and brushes. When you’re dealing with hundreds and sometimes thousands of images from a trip or event or whatever, time is essential. Cutting down on that time, priceless.
The presets and brushes I received is called their “Through the Woods” workflow (check it out here). It’s priced at $39.95 for 51 presets and 31 brushes so the value for this could be amazing. For $40 if it really cut down on my time by even a couple hours a year it would be well worth the price.
The install was very easy. There are pdf tutorials and videos tutorials on their website to walk you through the process, but the complete install literally takes about 5 minutes. Then you’re off to the races.
This is the RAW image I choose to use. At this point no presets, brushes or other alterations were applied.
I watched a few of their how-to videos, and started playing around on my own. The results were quick and impressive. First, I created a virtual copy of the image I was going to be working with. Next, I took and processed one image like I normally do, with the settings I like to maintain. Then I made adjustments to the second image by clicking on a couple of the presets from Sleeklens and adjusting further with a few brushes. Finally, I compared the two images.
Here’s the side-by-side. My image on the left and the Sleeklens image on the right. The sharpness and saturation of the Sleeklens image is much more pronounced.
To be fair, I’m an anal retentive processing junkie, and when I print images for clients most of the time they are printed very large. For this reason, I really comb over all my images to make sure everything looks really good. When I first put the two images up side by side, I must admit the Sleeklens image looked a little better than my processing. When I dove in a little deeper, I was slightly less impressed. Only for the reason that I feel very uncomfortable pushing vibrance, saturation, clarity or other sliders more than 20% and Sleeklens was pushing its presets much further than this.
Again, my image on the left, Sleeklens’s on the right. The clarity was much more enhanced, but maybe to a point where I was seeing a bit more noise than I was comfortable with.
Why do I feel uncomfortable with this? Well, I’ve found that for me, when I push more than 20% I start to get colors that don’t blend well, silhouetting, and gamut warnings when going to print. In all fairness, when I brought the Sleeklens image into Photoshop to finish it off, I didn’t have any out of control gamut warnings and the image did look pretty impressive all around. I have not yet had a chance to print one 5′ long, but I’m hoping to very soon. So, is it possible that my 20% threshold is too conservative? Absolutely. Is it possible that Sleeklens’s thresholds are too aggressive for printing large scale? Absolutely.
I think straight out of the box, these presets and brushes are awesome for images that are going straight to web or for magazine sized prints or smaller. When printing bigger, I think they probably need to be massaged slightly. And of course, all Sleeklens presets can be adjusted, so if I start using a brush or preset that I like but want to lower my thresholds, I can do this. I can tailor each brush or preset to my desires or create my own based off the ones Sleeklens has already created. There’s no doubt that using Sleeklens plugins, presets and brushes will save a ton of time in post processing and they add some really cool effects for your photos.
So what’s the verdict? Well, as someone who is somewhat hesitant to change, leery of anything that seems too good to be true and too stubborn to admit there’s a better way than my own, I’m very intrigued. The price is good, the time saving is massive and the overall functionality of the product is impressive. This is an easy and powerful way for novice and intermediate level photographers to quickly and effectively process their images and take them to new levels. There are even a couple little scooby snacks for the advanced photographer to munch on in there. As for me, I certainly will be keeping this as a tool in my toolbox…
After a few simple tweaks, the Sleeklens image came out really nice.
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