A few weeks ago the folks at Sleeklens reached out to me and asked if I would be willing to review one of their products, a set of Photoshop actions called the "Landscape Adventure Collection." Disclaimer: they provided me the actions for free, asking only that I provide my honest opinion in my review. (Dear Sleeklens people: providing my honest opinion is never something you have to worry about.)
Although I agreed to do it, frankly I was skeptical. I've been pitched other similar "labor saving" shortcuts in the past. I've been provided some for free, others I've purchased based on the promise that using it would save my most precious resource (my time). But in the end I've always "dabbled and then deleted." None have ever lived up to the hype. (I'm talking about you, Aurora HDR.)
I expected my Sleeklens experience would go much the same. I'd use it, I'd try to like it, but in the end I'd conclude I could do things manually just as quickly and with more creative control than using the product. That's how it has always gone before, and I fully expected that at the end of this experiment I'd be deleting the actions, only to write a review where I tried hard not to be too cruel.
For this Sleeklens experiment, I started with an image from my January trip to Lofoten, Norway, one I really wanted to like, but one that just didn't have that "oomph" I was looking for:
This is pretty much what every photo looks like straight out of the camera (at least those that are executed well technically). Colorless, lifeless, flat, uninspiring.
So I figured, let's see what how Sleeklens could help me punch up this photo. I fired up good old Photoshop, decided what I needed to do to fix the photo, conjured up the Sleeklens actions, and immediately found a few that sounded interesting.
After using Sleeklens to correct tonality and local contrast, I pulled up the "vivid pastel painting" action, and voila! Instantly I had a much more interesting photo.
I used a couple more actions to recreate the drama in the sky that I saw the day I took the picture, a few to correct the color cast (if you read my other posts you already know a camera's sensor alters colors based on sky conditions: cloudy, sunny, etc), then I did some final contrast adjustments, and I was done. Twenty minutes, tops!
And here is the result:
Of course I focus my website and blog on those interested in fine art photography, not on photographers themselves (there are plenty of websites devoted to photographers), so if you aren't a photographer you may be thinking "you mean you spent twenty minutes finishing that photo?"
My answer would be, "Yes, and that's a darn sight better than the two hours or so I normally spend finishing a photo!" That means the Sleeklens actions did help me save my most precious resource.
Is the product perfect? No. In particular, I found the instruction videos a bit austere. There are over 50 actions here, I could have used a better description of what each of them does. And there are some actions included in the package that I doubt I will ever use.
But my initial concerns about the product turned out to be wrong. This isn't a product that I will dabble and discard. I've already made it a permanent addition to my Photoshop Actions pallet.
The actions can be found at sleeklens.com
If you are an Adobe Lightroom user, Lightroom tutorials can be found at sleeklens.com/lightroom-tutorials/
Lightroom presets at sleeklens.com/product-category/lightroom-presets
My conclusion is that this product is well worth the price, and I do highly recommend it.