I love a good preset. Some people argue that its cheating or somehow wrong to use presets, and I guess if you do rely too much on them then they may make you lazy and prevent you truly learning how to edit properly. However, I like using them because they save me time and that is something I'm always short on. I don't want to spend more time in front of the computer! So when SleekLens contacted me and asked me if I would like to review their suite of presets, I jumped at the chance. Although I already have a bunch of presets, I'm always on the lookout for more. I opted to review the photoshop ones, as when it comes to portrait editing, I use photoshop a lot more than lightroom. The SleekLens actions are very easy to install, they come in an atn file, just double click it and you are done. Then, when you are in photoshop, go to Window->Actions and you should see them there. Most of the actions have annotations in the heading telling you how to use them.
I admit to just jumping in and trying a bunch of the first selection, the All In One presets. I was initially disappointed that when they run they flatten all your layers, so there is no way to layer mask them or reduce the opacity. Then I went and read the instructions a bit more carefully and realised it tells you that they will do that, so that was totally my fault! Those actions were not that useful to me personally, but they were the only ones I discarded, the rest DO create a separate layer to allow you to set the opacity and also layer mask in or out the areas you want to. Lets start with the --BASE-- actions. These I found to be great. There was one image I took a while go where I was trying to create a golden hour feel by backlighting the subject. This action did a fantastic job of complementing that image and I was very impressed. Here is the unedited version..
And here is the one after the sleeklens treatment...
I could probably have toned it down a bit, and the image itself was not one of the best from that shoot, but I was looking for some images just to mess around with for this review. In this edit I also used the skin smoothing actions provided by sleeklens. If you already have a tried and tested technique for skin retouching, you may not need this, but for quick edits I found it pretty useful. It's clearly using a frequency separation method, all you do is paint in with a white brush where you want the smoothing to be, and then mess with the opacity. Very simple to use, and for quick edits for web use I found it quite sufficient, although it won't replace my normal workflow in that particular area, as its quite similar to the one I currently use. It's very easy to fine tune though so you won't get a plastic doll type effect if you use it properly.
There are some nice all in one presets under the CANDY STORE heading that just mess with the tone. Here is the painterly effect one in action in a before and after ( I also played around with the skin smoothing action and dodging and burning a little as well, although this isn't a full edit by any means ).
Painterly effect ( plus some basic retouching done using the SleekLens presets ).
There is a ton of stuff I have not really touched on, it's quite a deep package so it's likely I'll post a follow up review in a couple of months once I've really gotten to grips with everything. For now, I'm pretty impressed and will definitely be using these alongside and in some cases instead of my usual workflow presets. Everything is very well thought out and once you get the hang of one part of it, everything else follows along the same lines ( i.e. paint on where you want the effect to be with a white brush ). Here are the links to the presets if you want to take a look.