May 15, 2017
Sleeklens Landscape Adventure Actions Reviewed
Firstly, full disclosure, I don’t use actions or presets in my own editing workflow. So when the nice folk at Sleeklens approached me to review their Landscape Adventure Actions, it was with a minor biast and healthy scepticism that I loaded them up.
Now I tend to review each image individually, tuning the ‘look’ or targeting elements I’m seeking to enhance or tone down. This is very much a manual process for me, now I’m not a action hater, I just don’t believe that an action, created by someone else, as a generalist tool, will hit what I hold in my minds eye.
With that precie done, down to the review ...
First off, installation is super simple. Drop in the Actions folder, restart and bam there they are in the Actions pallette. They have a clear tutorial on their site, as well if you get stuck, or are not confident messing about with Photoshop's folder structure.
A Whole Lotta Actions
Once you open the palate, you're really spoilt for choice.
There’s over 50+ presets in the Landscape Adventure Actions, applicable to any part of the editing workflow; image adjustments (i.e Exposure, Contrast); tonal changes (i.e. autumnal, sunset, sunrise etc) and auto-enchantment options i.e. (dramatic sky, cool shadows, expanded dynamic range).
Given the number of actions Sleeklens' offers it could easily be an overwhelming choice, but it's neatly divided clearly with headers. My only minor grievance would be some of the filters are cryptically entitled, requiring experimentation before knowing what you are triggering… ‘Love me Tender’ anyone?
You can instantly see these are not ‘one-click’ wonders leaving you with a flattened uneditabe file with nulcear-like saturation effects applied.
In the ones I tested, original files are always retained allowing for easy rollback. Individual adjustments from each action were always selectable coming complete with masks for subsequent fine tuning. Nice dialogues prompts present themselves whilst each action runs, directing you to masks or relevant layers enabling you to dial effects up or down. This tailoring control really creates opportunities for more novice editors to use and learn from the suite, or simply leave ‘as is’ if the resulting look is to taste.
And The Effects Themselves?
I set out to do a bit of a Photoshop comparison; editing 1 image in DIY mode, and again using the automated Sleeklens actions to gauge their visual output and impact. For both auto (Sleeklens) and manual (DIY) edits my aim was to;
- reduce the highlights from the glare on the water
- dial up the contrast on the rocks
- punch up the red in the clouds.
In manual DIY mode this was done through luminosity masks and some brush work to fine tune the resulting masks. With Sleeklens, I ran 2 presets; EXPOSURE Reduce Highlights and ALLINONE Calm Sunset.
Overall Sleeklens (A) did a good job, there’s subtly more red in the sky, and it’s got a very honest look, no sign of nuclear-esque heavy post production that you often get with pre-baked actions. There’s more targeted changes in my version, but luminosity masks are always going to be more precise so I’ve no complaints there.
Overall managed to squeeze some more pleasing contrast / drama from the sky I think, in Sleek Lens some of the highlights are wee bit blown still, but as Sleeklens retains the masks, with some more time / fine tuning that could easily be addressed.
Is it worth it?
On balance, I’d say definitely — it’s about a dollar an action! And they’ve clearly been put together with some thought and consideration. Given Photoshop can be a daunting new tool, Sleeklens offers a wide range of actions to experiment with different ‘looks’; useful when your starting out and defining your own tastes. It's also a good gateway to allowing you to enter the layers and see how changes have been made and what your editing tools are available; a great way of learning tools within a complex program like Photoshop and learning how to achieve your post-production aims.
And the bad?
Only 1 (minor) complaint, there seems to be no LAB mode support. This probably won’t effect the generalist or entry-level photographer, just happens to be my editing colour space of choice.
You can read more on Sleeklen's actions here