A Comprehensive Review Of SleekLens Photoshop Actions:
For Professional Landscape Photographers
I was recently asked by SleekLens to test out one of their products, Landscape Adventures, which is a series of action scripts for Photoshop. They sent out a copy of this product which they sell on their site, here. It took me a bit of time to carefully review, analyze and dissect these Photoshop Actions. If you don’t know what action scripts are I highly advise you to do some digging around to learn about Photoshop actions to understand my dissection of these actions by SleekLens. The actions are in 8 groups of: 1-Exposure 2-Base 3-Tone 4-All In One 5-Enhance 6-Specialty 7-Temperature 8-Web File Preparation. I’m going to give you the rundown on each of these actions from a professional photography editing perspective .
Word of caution: before using these actions, I highly recommend you save a copy of your file before using these as these actions do not employ non-destructive editing, especially for those amateurs that shoot and wok in JPEG.
Here’s a short version
If you’re an amateur, like to take pictures, have zero to little knowledge of photography and editing principals, and if your pictures are not sold, professionally printed, commissioned, or displayed in a gallery/museum, then don’t read any further as the rest of this will be Greek to you with no value. If you are that person and for some odd reason have invested in a powerful professional editing platform like Photoshop, sure you could benefit from SleekLens Actions for your Instagram & Facebook posts.
If you’re a professional, or an intermediate to advanced photographer continue reading.
How Is A Typical Professional Photo Editing Workflow
A typical workflow for myself and other Professional Photographers, starts with importing your shoot in Lightroom and applying basic global fine adjustments. What do I mean by Fine Adjustments? Very conservative with how much you adjust your image. If your image is over exposed with blown-out highlights no amount of exposure correction can bring back data that is not there. If your image is underexposed going wild with exposure slider will only give you noise and artifacts. If your file is in JPEG…forget it! Every bit of information is baked into your 8bit JPEG file. If you’re serious about photography, you should stop shooting and editing in JPEG.
Once the image is Fine-Tuned in Lightroom, the image is taken into Photoshop in 16bit ProPhoto profile and further fine tuned with surgical precision for balancing the image and color correction. What does surgical precision really mean? It means that you are no longer applying Global Adjustments to your image and you’re applying Complex Mask that only affect specific areas of your image to balance.
SleekLens For Professional Landscape Photographers
From this point on, it is mostly intended for Intermediate Level to Professional Photographers that have a certain knowledge and background in photography & editing techniques.
1-Exposure Action Group
I hope your image was properly exposed and any fine-tuning was done in Lightroom before coming to Photoshop as going about it with these actions is unconventional professionally. For everyone else, with little to no knowledge of proper exposure and editing, this group of actions could be beneficial to adjust your exposure. Although these actions are 2 stops of adjustment, I highly advise you not to ever increase your exposure by more than 1 stop. Making adjustments by that amount will degrade your image and produce unwanted noise. Try to focus on exposing your shots properly. For advanced & professional, I don’t see any use in this group.
2-Base Action Group
The first action in this group, runs through the stack with Camera RAW Adjustments that are quite aggressive on the sliders for any professional, then applying a Curves Adjustment and flattening all layers, and with an image that has already been tunes in Lightroom, another RAW adjustment is not necessary. Ideally it should have a STOP in the stack to let you decide on the level adjustment needed rather than a one size fits all approach with aggressive arbitrary adjustments. Most importantly, it should duplicate the layer and let you decide to delete or flatten the layers.
If you’re an amateur and you’re not printing 24″x36″ images to sell for top dollar this would not matter. If your image will never see a professional print shop and it will reside on your Instagram or phone, it would not really matter if your highlights are blown and the RAW file was reprocessed again after Lightroom with arbitrary adjustments.
In my editing workflow, I would never reprocess my RAW File in Photoshop.
The rest of the Actions in this group, they apply filters and give you certain looks that’s cool for you Instagramers. I just look at them as novelty and don’t find them useful professionally for my prints.
3-Tone Action Group
This group again, is cool and I think Instagramers will find it fun to play with, but professionally I don’t find any use for them as I see no use for intentionally changing the tone and color of my prints to colors that are not true to the scene. But for amateurs and Instagramers they would be fun to play with.
AMATEUR TIP: make layer mask for these effects and also adjust your layer opacity to keep them under control.
4-All In One Action Group
For an amateur and hobby photographer— these would be good. But make sure you have a copy of your file saved elsewhere as most of these actions do not employ non-destructive editing practice.
Professional Landscape Photographers—most of the actions in this group have a Camera RAW edit in the stack that makes aggressive arbitrary adjustments. If you made Lightroom Adjustments and also used the Base Action, and now one of these…well congratulations you’ve processed and adjusted your whites, blacks, highlights, shadows, saturation, and so on for the third time. Keep in mind by constantly applying Camera RAW edit over and over with these adjustments you would ultimately go off scale by three fold. If these actions actually preserved everything in layers to fine tune by user would be more acceptable. This level of adjustment is not a typical editing practice among professionals. With my work, as I presume your work as well, the editing process is surgical precision as the end product is on a high grade archival paper professionally printed and color matched, hung on a wall to be scrutinized, rather than being solely displayed on a smart phone and compressed even more by Instagram/Facebook in sRGB 72dpi profile.
5-Enhance Action Group
When I ran the Actions in this group about half of them had camera RAW edit with quite aggressive adjustment to the Basic Panel. There is no STOP in the stack to give you the opportunity to see the RAW adjustments. There is no Analysis or Algorithm but they’re simply Actions with pre-set arbitrary adjustment.
6-Specialty Action Group
In this group of actions the first 2 are Gaussian Blur effect which I see them as more useful in portrait and wedding photographers with that soft focus look. The final 2 Actions in this group are of no use to anyone that works in ProPhoto 16bit profile as they are Filter Gallery Effects. (you can only use Filter Gallery in 8bit profile)
7-Temperature Action Group
They are exactly that, it automates adding Warm and Cool Filter Layers.
8-Web File Preparation Action Group
These 3 actions prepare your files for web use. The first one is specifying your own custom size and the final 2 are pre-set sizes. Although I use my own comprehensive process to process my images for web use, I think most others could benefit from these actions. To improve this, SleekLens to create a new file without resizing the original file. Key to successful Photo Editing is Non-Destructive. Until they add that action to the stack of these, you kids should save a copy before running these 3 actions.
Recipe / Guide for SleekLens Landscape Adventures:
The Action Package, Landscape Adventures, comes with a PDF Guide and 9 “Recipes.” With a lot of those recipes have a sequence of actions to use to achieve certain look they have as examples. Over processing files especially JPEG is a dangerous game. Almost all of those recipes have actions with Camera RAW Edit in the stack multiple times. Your average user would never know that. Making 20, 30, 80%, or 200% adjustment to any attributes of a file make any professional photographer and editor cringe. That’s what you are ultimately doing. Applying Camera RAW adjustments and increasing Whites, Blacks, Shadows, Highlights, Clarity, Saturation multiple times and flattening the layers in between is not an acceptable practice.
If you’re a Hobby Photographer, Instagrammer and want to spice up your posts on Instagram, I would say learn what each action does and don’t go crazy using them blindly. Although you could get away with a lot on a phone screen posting on Instagram as apposed to my professional, color calibrated high-res full gamut display that is not as forgiving.
Professionally speaking, a professional or advanced photographer already has a comprehensive workflow, actions, and complex masks that are not global and aggressive to tune in, balance and correct images. In the professional world, there is no magic setting, there is no magic tool. Every professional uses the same exact tools, to create their images. Yes there are different quality camera and lenses, but core principal behind using any camera is the same. Aperture, Shutter, ISO. Editing your image does not start when you first import the files on your computer, but it starts when you first shoot the scene. If you have not shot your scene correctly, there is no magic pill that could save it.
What sets each professional photographer apart, is not what setting they used or what magical setting they used in Lightroom or Photoshop, but rather it’s their knowledge and skill and their artistic talent to use that knowledge to capture the image.
I will leave you with this:
It is not the brush, nor the paint, nor the canvas but the artist that uses them to create the masterpiece.
I hope this was some help to get your creative mind flowing with interesting shoots.
Happy Shooting and Keep on Clicking