Some weeks back I got contacted by the people at Sleeklens asking me to check out some of their Lightroom presets for landscape photography and write a review. I decided to accept, and have been spending some time to decide how I wanted to do this.
The bundle of presets that I have been testing is called “Through the woods”. It holds a variety of different presets and brushes to help making post processing in Lightroom easier and more effective. There are so many offering presets out there, and I have tested my fair share of rubbish, so I was a bit sceptical, but eager to test it out.
The bundle consists of 51 presets and 30 brushes, and i’m not going to go through all of them in this review. I’m going to pick three images and show you the results after processing with the “Through the Woods” presets and brushes. Then I’m going to summarise and tell you what I think about the preset bundle to conclude.
Saving a terrible exposure
I first wanted to test something that Sleeklens did a lot in their video walkthrough that came with the bundle, namely trying to save a terrible exposure. The image was shot very underexposed to be used in a merge of several exposures to get a final image. Here’s the original exposure:
As you can see it’s very underexposed, and the pink tones in the clouds are all washed away so that you barely can see a hint of them.
After cropping I started of with a preset called “All In One – Calm Sunset”, then “Exposure – Brighten Shadows” and “Polish – Punch It Up”. I used some of brushes to get more punch, clarity and contrast in the sky. Here’s the result:
So a decent image from a really bad exposure. But I would not go as far as to say that it is saved. But if that exposure was the only one I had, I would be content with being able to get as much out of it as I did.
One Click Post Processing
The presets allow stacking, so you can build from the different presets and brushes to get your final result as I did with the last image. But there’s also some presets marked “All In One”, which indicates that they will give you a certain look in just one click. Are you able to get a decent result with one click? I checked this out with one exposure that I found was decent to begin with, but too dark shadows and colours a bit washed out. Here’s the original exposure.
After cropping I clicked the “All In One – Calm Sunset” and this was the result:
Definitely a better result, but looking a bit over processed for my taste. That’s just tweaking though, and in general the result is definitely better than before using the preset.
In debt to get best result
As the last test I wanted to check if the presets and brushes was more effective than my ordinary workflow when trying to get the best result from a “correctly” exposed image. Since I shoot in raw, my images are often more grey and flat than I saw the scene shooting it. So it needs post processing to get the colours and debt back. I do not however like the unreal HDR look, or the way too punched up images, so I try to avoid making the images look over the top. Here’s the starting point for the last image in this review.
After cropping I used the “Auto Tone Color”, “Exposure – Darken Shadows”, “Exposure – Less Highlights”, the darken shadows again, “Color – Deep Blue Skies”, “Tone/Tint – Warm It Up” and the “Polish – Punch It Up”. The punch was a little too much for my taste, so I reduced the vibrance and saturation a bit. I then did spot removal and my first round of sharpening before I started with the brushes. The brushes I used was the “Subtle Sunset Haze” just around the sun and the “Contrast and Clarity” on the clouds. The contrast and clarity was a bit too much for my taste, so I pulled down the levers on that one. Then I set my luminance smoothing to +10 and added a subtle post crop vignette of -2 and did my final tweak of sharpening. Here’s the result:
I think the image turned out fine. I did not however spend less time than I do when I do the same job without presets. But that can be due to the fact that I don’t know the presets strengths and weaknesses that well yet, and I’m used to doing things without presets.
Summary and conclusion
I have tested several of the presets and brushes from the bundle, I have stacked them on top of each other and I have tested to use an “all in one” solution. All in all I can see that these tools can be really useful if you are just getting in to editing in Lightroom, and also if you just want to make som fast post processing of images to say put on your blog or something. It is however important to work a bit to figure out what your style is and if you don’t like the oversaturated images, be a bit careful with using the presets and brushes without reducing the effects somewhat. I’m really happy i got to test the presets, and I’m sure I will be using some of both the presets and the brushes in my future post processing.
If you think the bundle is something for you, head over to Sleeklens and check out “Through the Woods”. If you’re not into landscape photography, but still want to try out some presets, you might find what you’re looking for in their other bundles.
Have a nice weekend everyone!