Review - Sleeklens Forever Thine for Lightroom
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Photography Blog by Duncan Holmes

Review - Sleeklens Forever Thine for Lightroom

Here I am with my reviewer's hat on so lots to cover:

Disclaimer, I was given Sleeklens's wedding presets, Forever Thine  to review free of charge.

There are a couple of main aspects to any photographer's workflow following a wedding or any other shoot.

1. The cull. You go through the photos and eliminate the rejects and keep only the strongest photos. For a wedding you might cut out the blinks or the wandering looks or shots that just didn't work. For a fashion or beauty shoot you might be even more brutal in your selection to reduce the selection down to just the few that really convey the story or message you were trying to create.

2. The edits. Now editing can be what really eats into your time. We all adopt little shortcuts to automate some aspects of the editing, whether it be a preset in Lightroom or an Action in Photoshop. There's no magic to these, they do what the program can do anyway, just quicker and with less manual steps. But we're also looking to be able to create repeatable results that give a constant "look" or "style" to the finished wedding.

3. The production. Your final images, once selected and edited are then presented to the customer. Now this might be as a wedding album, a digital gallery, a print on the wall.

Improving workflow is a way to get from 1-3 without compromising the end result you were aiming for.

I started this review of the SleekLens Forever Thine wedding presets and brushes and ended up rattling on forever, lots of words cluttering up the efficient transmission of information. Believe it or not, this is the edited version!

And this is, I feel, perhaps where the product's presets end up when viewed under a lens as a tool to improve a Photographer's workflow. The efficient practical fixes you look for a quick tweak are lost amongst an array of creative presets. And there aren't enough practical steps to the presets for exposure,  sharpening, softening etc. I had a quick look and some of the more practical preset tweaks you might be looking for are of course wrapped in other packages of presets from this supplier (why give it all away in one pack when you can sell  2 or three).

So I guess that mostly leaves us looking at the more creative presets. Presets in Lightroom, like Actions in Photoshop give the image editor a quick shunt towards their final goal.


There are LOOOOTTTTSS of presets out there on the web, all promising a special preset or set of presets that will take your images to the next level and make you the superstar photographer you always wanted to be. A lot of them are just variations on a theme , some more subtle than others. I do have a large number of presets, both borrowed and my own that give my quick fixes to highlights, shadows, exposure and the like and most I have set to degrees of change so that it's not just a one fix for all setting. This saves time as I only then have to worry about subtle changes to get where I want to be. With creative filters, it's a bit like Instagram, there's hundreds to choose from but you might only use 3 or 4 on a regular basis, with another dozen for particular circumstances. And when you're editing a wedding or a photoshoot, you're aiming for a certain consistency of style of look to carry the message or mood you want. This isn't a hard and fast rule, I'll often tweak images in different ways to find the place I want to be or to show a client different possible results.

 

In the examples I've been sprinkling so far I've just been showing some of the creative presets, some more subtle than others and I've skipped a few, because frankly 112 is more than mortal man should ever need to play with, let alone work with. And the naming of these presets means you have to expand your sidebar just to read them, and still be none the wiser about what the end result might be for each. As an example here's my screen set so I can read my normal run of Presets in the side bar.

Now here it is expanded so I can read the names of the Sleeklens selection of presets, with the Black and White, Wedding Love being the winner in terms of length of title.


I understand the need to keep the brand going, but some of these titles take longer to say than it does to edit a picture from start to finish. The extra screen real estate when working on a single screen is a irksome.  And good luck remembering your favourites if you don't go back and delete or move the redundant ones to another folder.

Having said that there are some nice presets in this creative bundle. The bundle even comes with a PDF showing a few examples of photos retouched using the stackable and non stackable presets and what extra tweaks were then added. Some of these examples also reference the adjustment brushes that come bundled with the packs. From my perspective, as a photographer who is fairly familiar with this side of things, they weren't difficult to pick up and apply, but a more step by step guide to how the brushes were used on the examples and where the brushes were used on the image would probably benefit new users and help them appreciate this aspect of the product more. Which brings us to....

The adjustment brushes

Where Sleeklens's product differs from other preset packages is in the adjustment brushes they provide and I think these are genuinely helpful. The adjustment brush has been in Lightrooms latest iterations but with only a few set defaults coming with the program. These brushes allow you to apply localised fixes to soften skin, adjust clarity or saturation and make other tweaks to your image more selectively than the presets which are more an all or nothing. 

Sleeklends's Forever Thine once again brands it's brushes, though the arrangement is a little more helpful here as the brushes are grouped by Color, Face, Light and Wedding. And as you only select them when you need to, you're not invading screen space the way that scrolling through the presets does.

 As you will see some echo those already present in Lightroom, albeit perhaps with a subtle difference in the curves applied. A quick brush to darken a wedding tuxedo or desaturate a detail can be helpful. Though the brush in Lightoom is heavier handed than a similar approach in Photoshop using layers, it's still a useful tool for quick touches that don't require a more refined approach.  And the brushes let you make the changes locally to skin, for example, rather than slapping a coat on the whole image. So if your bride has a little redness to her nose from a cold, then this can be your wee local fix to sort it out. I'd need to do a lot more work on different images to identify where the tool differs from the default brushes and whether these differences are really significant.



In this image, featuring Nicolette, I've used some of the local brushes and adjustments after applying the global one (one of the black and white ones, I forget which). This image had already been edited so I applied the adjustment preset and then some brushes to brighten the hair.

Original EditEdit 1 

Edit 2In this set of 3 images featuring Helen I've shown my original Lightroom edit, and then applied some touches using the Forever Thine presets and brushes.  Here I took the time to wade through the many presets to find two that I (subjectively) liked. Going back to the Instagram analogy, presets are like your Instagram filters in that you might pick your preferred ones because you, personally and subjectively like your image that particular way.

I guess one thing I do like about the Sleeklens approach to their presets is that though they do have the All in One options and 100 odd other presets, they are guiding users to use these as a starting point and not the end point of their workflow in producing a final image. Which should save all but the laziest from falling into a black hole of infinite presets. They've even got some tutorials and forums to help and steer users to thinking how to apply the presets and brushes to suit each image.

Guess what? I'm steering towards a conclusion here:

Sleeklens's Forever Thine collection of presets and brushes can add vastly to your Lightroom kit box, but as to whether you need them or not, that's really down to you  If you like the aesthetic of their creative presets then go for it. If you'd find their adjustment brushes handy, then go for it.

If you're looking to speed up your workflow or tweak your images quickly for the basic touches to put in front of a client, then I'm going to have to say it falls down. And from that perspective I don't see this set as a workflow tool. It might in fact slow you down. Though it could also potentially speed you up if you're wedded to Photoshop for all of your editing tweaks. Switching programs, whether it be from Bridge to Photoshop or Lightroom to Photoshop can be avoided, to a degree. But any time you need layers to provide a more subtle touch you'll have to leave Lightroom behind, no matter how many presets you have.

So pros

-Large collection of creative presets

-A number of adjustment brushes to save you popping over to Photoshop

- Some presets are really nice.

and cons

-Large collection of creative presets-far too many to keep a handle on.

-Lack of gradations in the practical tweaks to exposure or tone. Adding a +1 exposure option is just replicating what's already in Lightroom.

-Naming convention for the presets, way too long.

-The names of many of the presets don't really give you a feel of what the result will be. Too many to remember what does what.


-Some of the practical presets (exzposure etc.) and some of the brushes don't appear to differ greatly from defaults in Lightroom.

So now that I have it I can't deny it's going to be another tool in my Lightroom tool box, but time will tell really if it makes a big difference to my final images.  And would I have spent $39.00 Dollars on it. From a business perspective, I'm not sure I would. There's no appreciable time saving elements to it.. From a having a play in Lightroom and playing with my photos perspective, it's a maybe. It's well done and there's nothing inherently bad about it, it's just not the advertised workflow tool, it's a creative one...ish.


NB: I may come back and edit this review as time progresses.
P.s. I did start editing one of last year's weddings from scratch, but got so distracted by all the creative presets that I forgot which one I'd started with and by the time I got to the 30th image out of 300 I'd lost all consistency across my images. This is because I was playing with a new toy and not necessarily a reflection as to how these presets would work once I narrowed down the field to the ones I might actually use.




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