Those who know me understand that I am a confirmed believer in post production editing. In fact, my images do not see the light of day until I have processed them through whatever post production protocol I choose to employ. There are a couple reasons for this. First, I shoot in RAW format, that is I do not allow my camera to make any processing decisions for me. What I get from the camera is literally a RAW image containing all the data my camera is capable of delivering, but nothing has yet happened to that data. At this point the image is dull and lifeless and not yet ready for public viewing; it remains for me to bring it to whatever state of completion I choose, or to put it another way, to exercise my artistic expertise to realize whatever vision I wish the image to represent. Second, while modern cameras can be configured to process the image for us and produce a credible image it does compress it into JPEG format which is a fraction the size of a RAW image, meaning much information contained in a RAW image is lost as well as control of the end product. Simply stated, compression into JPEG format is a destructive process as opposed to non-destructive processing of the image in say Photoshop, Lightroom, or similar software. For that reason most serious photograpers want a RAW image even though it means time on the computer to process images. If this is of no concern to you and you are happy with JPEG's then read no further. But, if you are interested in editing "tools" then the following may be of interest.
That said, I employ a number of tools (software) to enable me to finish my images. The process of editing is commonly referred to as "workflow". There seems to be as many "workflows" as there are photographers. A great many utilize Lightroom, Photoshop, or others...or a combination of many. I fall into the latter category. Everything I do starts in Lightroom as an organizer...which also has a good processing module among other features. I use this to do basic edits, e.g., exposure and contrast corrections, white balance, perspective corrections, etc. That might be adequate for some, but to me the real magic happens in Photoshop which I use to apply more complex edits, and as a central hub to access third party plug ins, like NIK or onONE software which I use extensively. Some might consider that a lot of bother, but Photoshop allows me to make each adjustment as a non-destructive layer which I can return to at some later time to make needed adjustments, and I can access all my plug-ins to create my desired "look" from that single platform. It took much trial and error to develop my "workflow" and while I won't claim it's the best or only one it does work for me. The downside, (and there's always a downside isn't there?) it takes a lot of time and storage space. To be sure, everything I do could be done without ever leaving Photoshop, but most of us are not that sophisticated in the use if this complicated program and look to "expert" presets (or those created by ouselves in plug-ins) to get the job done. In fact most presets I use today are those I have created myself.
Which brings me to the point of this blog. I was recently given an opportunity to try a somewhat different concept by SLEEKLENS in exchange for my review. SLEEKLENS markets presets for Lightroom and "Actions" for Photoshop that apply desired effects to photos within those particular programs without switching in and out of plug-ins or being an advanced user of Photoshop, which does require a rather steep learning curve. Since I utilize Photoshop as my hub the SLEEKLENS actions were my choice to review.
What is a preset or action? Simply stated a preset is a "look" or "effect" that can be applied to an image with one click of the mouse. An "action" in Photoshop is similar whereby a single click sets off a procedure, or indeed a combination of procedures, to achieve an effect. They are created by ONCE recording a series of steps within Photoshop that can later be used over and over again as many times as one desires...with a single click. The advantage? They reside right in Photoshop with no need to navigate to an outside plug-in...and then navigate back into Photoshop. So what's the big deal? SIMPLICITY & TIME. It requires time to move back and forth in programs, and if you're using an aging computer with multiple external storage devices like I do time becomes an issue. With these "actions" there is no need to leave the Photoshop platform.
The download I received for Landscape editing included over 50 actions that address most commonly executed edits such as Exposure and contrast adjustment, Tonality adjustments, Special Effects, Resizing, actions to create a specific Mood, Enhancements, etc. The actions are delivered in a zip file that when opened easily loads the actions into Photoshop where they appear in the "Actions" window and easily identified under a Sleeklens caption. As many as you want can be applied to an image by simply running the action(s) and adjusting to suit your taste. A couple caveats...you must own Photoshop version 4-6, or CC, (also compatible with Elements 11-16), and have a basic understanding of its use (e.g., layers, masking, brushing, opacity).
There is a bit of a curve in learning what these actions actually do but with practice that should become pretty much automatic. Compared to third party plug-ins I have used there are fewer preset options, but virtually the same effects can be produced via adjusting opacity and/or brushing in desired adjustments. One thing that disturbs me a bit is that once an action is applied the layers are flattened or merged before applying another action. This means one cannot go back and adjust a previous action; that is but a minor annoyance because in practice I seldom go back to re-edit an image. But, on the positive side I find the actions execute quickly, they are convenient to access, they can be easily adjusted to personal taste, and they include all editing options most photographers will need. And the price, $49.00, is far below that of any plug-in of comparable quality I have encountered.
Here is a sample RAW image for editing:
This image is right out of the camera with nothing done to it. Note how dull and lifeless it appears. I would like to add clarity and definition to this image to bring out definition in the sky, rocks, and surf...and improve the color. Additionally I'd like a bit more light on the right hand pinnacle. There is also a white seagull with the sun shining off its feathers right in the middle of the image; it is barely visible. I think a bit of clarity will bring that into sharper visibility. Finally, this photo was taken in mid-afternoon just as the lighting is at its worst. It is harsh and rather flat. I'm going to warm this entire scene to create more of a late afternoon ambience.
This then is the result after applying three or four SLEEKLENS actions. I think I have accomplished all the goals set out above. Contrary to what some perceive as "editing" I have not changed any of the elements of this scene; I have merely brought it more into conformity with what I saw and visualized for this image even to the extent of bringing that little dot of a bird into visibility. And as added benefit the resultant image is less that a quarter the size of my normally edited images with a lot of positive implications to the massive storage space I utilize.
The following are links to SLEEKLENS where more information is available and the "Actions" purchased. Just copy and paste to access the SLEEKLENS website.