I recently received a copy of “Through the Woods” Lightroom Workflow by a company called Sleeklens for review. It is basically a set of 80 Lightroom presets, 42 brush presets and instructions on how to use them. Sleeklens is a Danish company and according to them, their products are results of many landscape photographers coming together and giving their input on what they want in a landscape workflow in Lightroom and Photoshop.
I purchased and used a number of different presets and preset bundles, when I first started learning the ins and outs of Lightroom. At first, they were a great tool in learning how to achieve different looks, but after finding my own visual style, I found that most of the presets created by other photographers did not match my vision, and I stopped using them. However, I do think presets are an invaluable tool because they allow you to save your own adjustments for later use and speed up your workflow. Whenever I create a look or an adjustment brush setting that I like and know I will use later, I create a preset from it.
When I was offered a chance to review Sleeklens’ Through the Woods bundle, I was a bit hesitant, because I wasn’t sure if another preset pack had anything to offer to my workflow. I decided to give it a go, however, because unlike many other presets that give you a finished look with one click, Sleeklens’ solution offers an image editing workflow with stackable presets and preset brushes, and because the style of the sample images on their website looked like something I might go for when editing my own images.
I also wanted to review the Landscape workflow from the point of view of someone who is new to Lightroom and using presets, because I wanted to see what kind of results I would get by following the instructions Sleeklens provides with the product.
The installation of the presets and brushes is very straightforward. Sleeklens has provided great instructions and videos describing the process, and I had no problems installing the presets just by watching the videos.
The basic LR presets include 12 “All in one” presets that give you a new look in one click. As expected, not all of them suit all images, and some of them didn’t seem that pleasing to me on any of the images I tested them with. Of course, like any other preset, you can use these all-in-one presets as starting points and then use the stackable presets or your own adjustments to find a look that you like. There were a few presets, though, which I liked without doing any additional tweaking, and naturally someone else might prefer entirely different ones. See the slideshow below for the original image and a few examples of the presets I found the best.
Stackable presets and brushes
The real value of the Through the Woods Lightroom Workflow bundle, however, lies in the stackable presets. According to Sleeklens, the purpose of the bundle is to help photographers salvage images that have been underexposed are otherwise not the best they could be. Therefore I also deliberately chose images that I had underexposed to protect the highlights or that were otherwise a bit drab.
First I wanted to try the workflow on an image taken at Himeji castle in Japan, which is slightly underexposed because I was shooting almost directly into the sun, but didn’t want to lose highlight detail in the sky.
I first chose “Dance In the Rain” base preset, which increased the exposure, but left the image looking a bit dreamy. Then I added highlights with the “2-Exposure – More Highlights” preset. The sky was looking a bit colorless, so I chose “3-Color – Deep Blue Skies”, which added a graduated filter with blue tone to the top of the image. Finally, I warmed the image with “4-Tone/Tint – Warm It Up”. Below you can see the before and after images.
This looks OK to me, but because I wanted to try the brush presets as well, I decided to take the image a bit further. First I added a radial filter with the preset “Light – Subtle Sunset Haze” to enhance the colors of the sunset. Then I wanted to at a bit of punch to the foreground and the trees, so I selected gradual filter with preset “Basics – Subtle Clarity” to the bottom half of the image. I also changed the white balance of the gradual filter a bit colder because I thought the foreground was getting too yellow.
As you might’ve guessed I liked this preset bundle a lot. I wasn’t expecting to find it very useful because I have developed a good workflow over the years, but it turned out to have a lot of tools that I can incorporate in it and will use in the future. “Deep blue skies” and “Subtle clarity”, for example, became my instant favorites because often they produced great results with a single click. I found it a bit confusing though, that unlike other non-brush presets, the Deep blue skies preset uses a gradual filter, which I would’ve logically grouped with the brush presets. I didn’t figure how it worked and how to adjust it at first, because I was looking at the sliders in the development panel.
There were a couple things that I kind of missed in this workflow bundle, that I would like to see. Firstly, a because lot of these presets are designed to lift shadows and introduce a lot of noise, I would’ve liked to see a few noise reduction presets in the workflow as well. A few basic settings of different strengths would have been enough to speed up that part of the workflow as well. The other set of presets that would also have been great is sharpening. There is one sharpening preset, but it seemed a bit heavy-handed, so a couple of more options would have been nice. Nevertheless, I would recommend this workflow, if you want an easy way to bring out the best in your images or just want to try new ways to style your images. I think this bundle would be especially helpful for those new to Lightroom or post-processing, as it will give you an opportunity to see step by step what sliders and settings each preset changes.
The Through the Woods landscape preset bundle is available for $39 on Sleeklens.com.
Sleeklens has also a lot of other Lightroom preset bundles available. For more information, see their preset store or find them on Pinterest.
Finally, if you’d prefer to let someone else take care of the post-processing of your images, Sleeklens has a service for that as well.
Here are a few before/after comparisons of images I edited with this workflow. I tried editing these images using the presets without making any other modifications to show you what you can get, if you don’t want to do any additional adjustments to the presets or other settings.
Disclaimer: Sleeklens kindly provided the preset bundle for review.